In a business you want more; month on month, year on year. Profits, customers and growth. Endless hours of scrupulous analysis goes into obsessing with what’s holding the company back and how you fix it. You choose a plan of action, and you grind. Relentlessly labouring away to resolve the issue. Soon the day comes where it all pays off, breathe a sigh of relief, the stress is over. Time to solve the next problem. We repeat. This business mindset is great, for a business at least. The problem that I have comes when society takes this into our day to day life
Try and remember the last thing you wanted, that you had to work really hard for to achieve, and try and remember how long that feeling of happiness lasted before it faded into nothing. You took it for granted, but that’s not your fault. If you google “Hedonic Treadmill” you’ll find a theory that says we have a “tendency to quickly resume a feeling of normality despite major positive or negative changes”. In other words, we get used to things quite quickly and suddenly what we longed for, for such a time becomes no longer valuable to us. Thats right, you’re hardwired to be less content after a while. What was once a prized possession soon finds pride of place in a dark corner of your attic.
You hear phrases like “Never satisfied”, “Always want more” and I think these are completely poisonous to us. Society has glamourised this mentality, as if it’s one of prestige. A mindset that is possessed by a driven individual, sure he or she may not be happy, but that’s because they’re going to places. As if that’s justification enough to be an unhappy person.
The world around us has this obsession with progress like never before. With the world advancing so quickly; we have adapted this collective fear of stagnation. This corporate mentality has snuck its way into the individual and in doing so has almost boycotted our ability and even desire to be happy. Those of whom are content with their place in life are often paired with the ideas that they are lazy and have no ambition. What sort of place are we living in when happiness has a negative connotation?
There’s a fine line between being driven by progress and being consumed by it and it’s all too easy to fall into the latter. I myself had initially gotten into the gym because I was unhappy with how I looked. Months pass and the much slimmer me received a whirlwind of compliments, but just as the hedonic treadmill said, I was still unhappy. One evening flicking through my progress pictures, I had completely forgotten what I had used to look like. The hunched over and chunky kid looking down the camera lens was me, and then it clicked. I’d lost track of where I started and how far I’d come ; those hours upon hours of work in the gym, the dedication to healthy eating. The muscle ache, the ill-tasting protein shakes, all of it completely forgotten. I was too busy standing in the present looking toward my goals to realise just how happy I should be with myself.
After that everything changed. I realised how much I loved going to the gym, to invest time in myself, how much I loved eating healthy, because I felt great. It wasn’t just a routine anymore to try and achieve happiness. I realised you find happiness in the process. Waking up every morning with a smile on my face, the mirror showing me a shape I am proud of because I remember exactly where I started. Now I don’t have to worry about losing this momentum of progress, because Im happy. I love doing everything that I do, Im not chasing a goal, an ideal, Im just doing what I love, and I won’t ever stop and nor will the progress.
So next time you hear “Eyes on the prize” or some other self-justifying phrase of unhappiness propaganda. Ignore it. Always take time to think back to where you started, realise how far you’ve come.
Love the work, be happy, make progress.