The point is that you have a baseline level of happiness and it won’t be altered too much by events that happen in your life. Let’s start with a nice example. A study by Affleck Tennen in Coping: The Psychology of What Works showed that identical and fraternal twins are born with a set point for a level of happiness that is inherited by parents. We are likely to return to this baseline level of happiness after good and bad events. This can be seen with an article by Forbes that states, “Lottery winners return to their previous level of happiness after five years. Increases in income just don’t seem to make people happier — and most negative life experiences likewise have only a small impact on long-term satisfaction.” This means that you aren’t likely to ruin your life with taking risks.
Reasons to take risks
So, if research shows that you aren’t likely to greatly reduce your happiness level then why not take a few more risks. Millionaires , on average, describe themselves as happy as blue collar workers. You shouldn’t worry about making less money then, because you aren’t likely to be much less happier. There is a possibility you will be happier though. If you dislike your job then you will increase your level of happiness because you will have changed your circumstances. You can have the job you really want.
You can also take more risks in your life. You might fail, but it won’t affect you forever. There will be disappointment for a little while, but research shows that you will return to a normal happiness level. Think about something that you did five years ago, such as something stupid that you regretted at the time. I can’t remember anything as far as five years ago, but I remember making a fool of myself in front of a girl that I liked at the time. At the time it was a big deal for me and I beat myself up over it. Today I have trouble remembering what the big deal was. I messed up, but it wasn’t the end of the world by any means. I returned to my base level of happiness after a week or two. I cannot think of any mistake I have made that has affected my happiness up until now. The embarrassment you feel today will be a memory in months to come. The mistake you make will be forgotten in weeks or months. If you lose money on a gamble, you will earn it back over time. Time heals all wounds.
Why try if you aren’t going to be happier?
This is where I disagree with the research. I do think that some things effect our baseline happiness. These are our daily activities that we enjoy. I might not remember mistakes, but do I remember achievements? You bet. How hard I worked to get good grades in high school still make me smile because I helped myself prepare for college. I remember every bit of my trip to London, and I am happy that the trip happened. I think that some achievements can improve our happiness. A bad job will lower our happiness because it is a reoccurring bad event, so you can’t forget it. Cultivate relationships and experiences because these will make you happier. Quitting your job might make you lose some money, but you will find a job you want sooner or later. You will be happy. Make mistakes because the bad ones will be forgotten. Make mistakes because they will lead to achievements to remember with a smile on your face.
It is the things that we continually do that make a big impact on our happiness level. You have to try to do things that will make you happy every day. Don’t worry about becoming unhappy. It doesn’t last.
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