How Happy Will You Be in the Future?


 Author:  John D. Thomas 14 August 2017 Copyright 2017

Have you ever wondered how happy you will be in the future? Let’s say a year from now. Or how about in ten years?  It’s a fascinating question.

Research into this question has revealed some intriguing results. It turns out that correctly predicting how happy you will be at some point in the future is difficult to do. Cognitive scientist Art Markman has discovered an interesting phenomenon. Research clearly indicates that when you try to forecast your future state of happiness, you will usually be wrong!   

Predicting your future level of happiness is particularly challenging when your forecast is based on the outcome of a major event on the horizon.  These major events can be things like the receipt of a promotion, landing a new job, marrying someone, buying a new home, or purchasing a new car.  Nearly everyone associates a positive outcome of major events with increased levels of personal happiness.  However, if these future events do not turn out as you hope, it is logical to anticipate that your level of happiness will be significantly diminished. But what actually happens is quite surprising.   

The evidence from clinical research shows that big positive and negative events really don't have an enormous impact on a person's level of  happiness.  A 1998 study documented in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed some fascinating insight. The study examined college professors being evaluated for tenure.  The professors believed they would be unhappy if they were denied tenure. In fact, several months after the tenure decision was made, the professors who were denied tenure ended up being no less happy than those who received tenure.  The results of the 1998 study have been replicated many times in subsequent studies of people in relation to major events in their life. The evidence is clear, the level of happiness you will experience in the future is not dependent on major events going your way.    



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Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong.  (Dr. Gilbert is the author of the book, "Stumbling on Happiness.")  He challenges the idea that you'll be miserable if you don’t get what you want.  In contrast, what he discovered is that nearly everyone has a "psychological immune system."  This psychological immune system lets you feel happy even when things don’t go as you had planned.   For example, he points to a study examining a group of people who had won the lottery.  One year after winning the lottery, the winners experienced about the same level of personal happiness as they had prior to winning.    

The truth is that what you tell yourself about the events in your life has a far greater impact on your level of happiness than the event itself.  If you look for the positive and the good, you'll find it.  Likewise, if you constantly focus on the negative and the bad, that's also what you'll find.  If you want to live a happier life, make a conscious effort to focus on the positive and the good.  It's a wonderful, transformative decision you can do for yourself right now.  And it will make all the difference!     


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