Equipped With Happiness


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Be Happier By Consulting The Impossible

impossiblecartoonWhen making decisions, people naturally tend to limit themselves to options they deem “possible.” This seems like a logical approach, since focusing on impractical ideas uses up time and energy that could be spent on formulating a feasible plan. But sometimes, considering impossible, best-case-scenarios can lead to decisions that are actually more satisfying.

Occasionally, this satisfaction comes from discovering that the “impossible” is actually doable.

In order to avoid wasting effort, we often limit ourselves to ideas we are certain will work. This means we quickly label riskier options as impossible, never giving them a second thought. But some of these uncertain paths may be more possible than we think, and pursuing them can lead us to happiness.

Identifying those kinds of situations requires changing the way we initially categorize our ideas. Instead of trying to find the most practical options first, we should try to find the most appealing ones. Once we find an idea we like, we can begin to evaluate the steps necessary to make it a reality. Examining these steps in detail, after we are already fond of the idea in question, can make something that seemed impossible into a completely viable option. And that option could be just what we needed.

Even if our favorite idea does turn out to be impractical, contemplating the idea is still beneficial.

Decisions can be a little overwhelming at times. Thinking of a perfect outcome, no matter how impossible it is, can be a good starting point in the decision-making process. A brief fantasy about the best-case-scenario can help end the feeling of mental paralysis that often seems to accompany difficult decisions.

Not only that, sometimes working backwards from an impossible idea leads to an alternative that is still pretty great. It may be that a few simple sacrifices can be made to bring the idea into the realm of possibilities. If not, the original idea can still provide a direction for future ideas. By identifying factors that made the original idea appealing, new options that offer similar benefits can be developed. This process may illuminate opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred to us.

Considering impossible ideas also helps us understand ourselves better. When we think in terms of “possible,” we depend on a predetermined evaluation of our capabilities. This leaves little room for growth. But, when we think in terms of “ideal”, we gain insight about what truly makes us happy. This allows us to make efforts to grow in ways that maximize our happiness and to make decisions that bring us greater satisfaction.

It is important to remember that impossible is not the same thing as useless, and uncertain is not the same thing as impossible. If we consider the “impossible” when making decisions, we increase our likelihood of finding opportunities to be happy.

 


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Be Happier By Celebrating Small Victories

victorycartoonThere is no denying that accomplishing a major long-term goal feels fantastic. But, unless you’re superhuman, that kind of thing doesn’t usually happen on a daily basis. What happens more frequently are small successes which, if we stop to acknowledge them, can actually be great sources of happiness.

However, sometimes recognizing little, daily victories can be harder than it seems. In some cases, this is because we’re simply not in the habit of noticing them.  Other times, it’s because we deliberately downplay them, which happens for a couple of reasons:

1.  Having a big goal, such as getting a promotion or losing a significant amount of weight, can lead to a fear of getting excited too soon, and being let down later. We think that if we allow ourselves to do a little victory dance when our boss gives us a compliment or the number on the scale goes down, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We worry that the compliment was only a one-time thing, and remind ourselves that our weight loss could easily plateau the next day.

The best thing to say to these concerns is, “So what?!” If our success doesn’t last, we will still be disappointed, whether or not we let ourselves be happy about it first. So we might as well get some joy in the meantime. A more effective safeguard against disappointment might be to just make sure we don’t kid ourselves ( i.e., “The boss complimented me … I bet I will be vice president of this company by lunch!”). Not only that, it is always possible our success will continue and we actually won’t be disappointed. So, why not get even more mileage out of a big achievement by celebrating along the way?

2. Another thing that can stand in the way of enjoying small victories is the feeling that we aren’t pushing ourselves hard enough if we celebrate anything short of complete success.  Those little milestones might seem so far below our ultimate goal that we think we don’t deserve congratulations. We also might fear losing motivation by building a small accomplishment up too much (e.g., “Hmm, I guess 5 pounds is a lot of weight. Now I can EAT ALL THE COOKIES!!!!”).

Those kinds of thoughts are actually fairly unproductive. Even if an accomplishment is way smaller than whatever we ultimately plan to achieve, giving ourselves an internal high-five can be the encouragement we need to keep working hard. If we never stop to admire our progress, it’s much easier to burn out. Building up an accomplishment is good for our confidence, and it is in our power to prevent any potentially negative effects (e.g., “Five pounds is a lot of weight, good job self! I guess turning down those cookies is worth it!”).

Once we commit to letting ourselves enjoy small victories, we just have to figure out where to find them. A lot of the time, these victories do come in the form of progress toward a long-term goal. They might also come from achieving small goals, like finishing up some repairs around the house or making a successful attempt at a new recipe. Small victories can even come from unexpected successes that aren’t related to any predetermined goal. Maybe you managed to bring all the groceries inside in one trip, or maybe you caught a dish that fell off the table before it hit the ground.

Whatever form they take, little victories happen all the time. Go ahead and cheer for yourself the next time you climb a flight of stairs without keeling over. No accomplishment is too small to smile about!