Are you sure that will make you happy? Whether it’s a new car, a promotion, or an upgrade on your current property, you might be surprised to learn that a recent acquisition isn’t always the secret to true bliss. As humans, it turns out that we are exceptionally bad at predicting how much we will want or like something in the future and what we think will make us ecstatic may not hit the mark. This is called miswanting, and it could be ruining your happiness.
What is miswanting?
So, what is miswanting? Surely, we know if we want something or not? Well, yes and no. The term miswanting references to a very human tendency to incorrectly the intensity and duration of both good and bad feelings in the future. Coined in 2004 by Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson, the concept of miswanting suggests that we tend to overestimate just how much joy a future purchase or achievement will bring us. Let’s take a look at how it works:
College of your dreams?
You’ve worked hard in school and got into the university of your dreams. Great! Good for you! For a short time, you feel all the emotions surrounded with your achievement. And so you should. But after a while, as you attend your university, you don’t continue to wake up each day and say, “YAY! I’m finally here!” No! Instead, your brain shifts to your next big dream, and the feeling of happiness fades.
The same applies to that new car. The day has finally arrived, and you have purchased your new vehicle. It’s slick. It’s fast. It’s totally you. Driving it out of the showroom, you feel on top of the world. Could this be happiness? Yes! But let’s say a week passes. Then a month. How are you feeling now? Our guess, still happy with your purchase but not as excited, right? Now, what about a year from now? A new model is out, and yours is looking not-so-cool. How are you feeling? Perhaps even a little disappointed that your new car isn’t so new anymore?
You earned it! Congrats, you just got that well-deserved promotion. After a few celebratory drinks, you’re feeling on top. You rock! Time to get to work and show them what you’re made of. You work hard in your new role and love exploring the new challenges presented to you. It’s exciting. It’s engaging. Then, all of a sudden (or gradually), it’s not. Your happiness has faded and in its place is a longing for something more.
All these are examples of miswanting, that overestimation of the feelings we will receive once we:
- Get that new car
- Buy a new house
- Get into college
- Make partner in your company
- Achieve a promotion
- Eat that bar of chocolate
- Get skinny
- And the list goes on and on
How to want the right way and unlock your true happiness?
So, is true happiness always just out of reach? And are all our wants unworthy? NO! But the thing is, we all look at happiness the wrong way. We’re miswanting. And here’s what you can do about it.
By engaging in mindfulness techniques, such as gratitude practices and savoring activities, we are more fully able to engage with the world around us and experience it as it is – both the highs and the lows. Using mindfulness allows us to be in the moment and focus on all that means. How happy we are right now and how great we feel. These memories are what form our long-term connection with the world around us and can make us feel happier for longer.
Worries about the future or even concerns that you shouldn’t feel “too happy” otherwise something bad will happen, spoil your ability to engage in an experience. Often, we find ourselves too bogged down with stress and worry that we fail to engage in the here and now. That’s why it’s time to shed those shackles of worry and start learning to relax. Does that mean there’s nothing to worry about in the world? No, of course, there is. But actively worrying about it isn’t doing to do any good. So let those worries drift away. Need some help? Check out seven great tips right here.
Focus on experiences
Think material possessions or status will make you happy? They won’t, not in the long term. We’re not saying that these things aren’t important, because they are. But when it comes to your happiness meter, this isn’t the time to focus on whether you have the latest kit or are the chief executive. So, what is important then? EXPERIENCES. When you look back on life, it will be the experiences you had that matter. Those little moments for the basis, not only of today’s happiness but a lifetime of it. That’s why, today, it’s vital you focus on the journey, not just the destination.