Stats by the CDC show that even with a growing job sector and a better GDP, the rate of antidepressant use has surged by 400% over the past decade. The recession is long gone, but many Americans are still unhappy, either work-related or related to life satisfaction.
It brings to mind the Anthony Bourdain suicide obsession story. Celebrity chef, best selling fiction and non-fiction author, travel documentarian, explorer of the human condition and family man, took his own life. Crazy story right? It’s surreal. But this kind of story is more common than you would think. Here’s a depressing stat: in 2016 alone, the CDC reports that nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives. And more than a million people contemplate suicide every year.
Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, both Nobel Prize winners published a report in 2010, which concluded that emotional well-being rises with income. But, no further progress occurs beyond an annual income of $75,000. Hence, here is what we know: happiness is not determined by income.
So, what then?
We all have a tendency to either look back or look forward, and it’s one of the reasons for the high rate of unhappiness.
We look to the past, thinking: what if we had done something better? We are always thinking and analyzing future possibilities, or reminiscing about the past, when it was all great. We think about future happiness, when we finally achieve something we want. How can we multitask to get there faster? It causes us to be both ineffective and unhappy.
I recently watched an interview on entrepreneur.com of John Suh, founder of LegalZoom, a company valued at $2 billion, employing close to 1,000 people. He was asked, “What advice would you give your teenage self in order to succeed?”.
Now, with that question, there is a possibility for tremendous reminiscing, and our brain might go through some mathematical iterations and probabilities, like some serious what-ifs. In any case, his reply was fascinating: “I like where I am today. So, I would not give myself any advice. Like, make the mistakes, learn and be where you are right now cause I like today”. Sure, there might be a thousand things he could have done to spike sales at one point or an important legal advice that cost a pretty penny, but he chose one of a thousand ways that paid big.
Here is something I learned from experience: the most important checklist to goal achievement is the cultivation of happy, positive thoughts. It’s not an obsession with the past or the future.
While there is a place for obsessing over a goal and following through with persistence, the problem becomes greater than money when we finally achieve the goal and find out we are not truly happy because, along the way, we have not learned how to be truly happy.
I love this quote by Martha Washington: “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.”
Happiness is in the little things.
Life is lost in small bits. The secret to a truly happy life is: wherever you are, be there.
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