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Happiness, 1.19 (V) Week 1 Video 10 - Prioritize but don't pursue Happiness

[MUSIC] In the last few videos, I presented some findings on how we devalue happiness and why we do it. Specifically, I showed you that we devalue happiness by succumbing to the fundamental happiness paradox. And I also discussed three reasons why we devalue happiness. Namely, harboring negative beliefs about happiness, for example that happiness is fleeting, failing to define happiness in concrete terms, and medium maximization. In this video, I want to talk about how to avoid the tendency to devalue happiness. In other words, I want to talk to you about the first habit of the highly happy, the habit that can help us overcome the first deadly happiness sin. The first habit of the highly happy is, prioritize but don't pursue happiness. What exactly does it mean to prioritize, but not pursue happiness? What it means is to consciously make the choice of giving happiness the higher priority over other goals in your life. You do this by reminding yourself on a regular basis. And particularly before you make important decisions about what you ultimately want out of life. If you're like most people, what you ultimately want in life, the reason why you do anything and everything that you do is so that you can lead a happier, more fulfilling and a more meaningful life. If you remind yourself of this before you make your decisions, it turns out that you won't be as susceptible to the fundamental happiness paradox. That is, you won't sacrifice happiness for the sake of other goals as much. Now three of my colleagues, Kelly Goldsmith from Northwestern University, David Gal from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Lauren Cheatham, a PhD student at Stanford University, and I have conducted several studies in which we tested what happens when people remind themselves to make happiness enhancing decisions on a regular basis. In one study, which was conducted on employees from seven different Fortune 500 companies. We divided the employees into two groups. One group received an email every day for a whole week. The email gently reminded them to make happiness enhancing decisions. The second group did not receive any such email. Then we asked both groups of employees to tell us how happy they were at the end of the week. As you can see from the graph, what we found was that at the end of the week, those who received the daily email reminding them to make happiness enhancing decisions, were far happier than those who did not receive any emails. We found similar results in three other studies that we conducted. These results suggest that reminding yourself to make happiness enhancing decisions can significantly boost your happiness levels. Does this mean that the more we remind ourselves to make happiness enhancing decisions the happier we'll be? Not really. Although reminding yourself to make happiness enhancing decisions is a good thing, you shouldn't actively monitor or chase happiness, because when you do it's actually likely to lower your happiness levels. Why? Because when you pursue happiness too intently, you're likely to monitor how you are feeling with how happy you want to feel. And since we generally feel less happy then we would ideally like to feel, we end up feeling unhappy about not being as happy as we want to feel. That's what this paper by Mauss and his co-authors and several others also shows. By the way, there's also research by Kelly McGonigal on a similar idea that the only thing worse than feeling stressed out about something is feeling stressed out about being stressed out. That actually makes you less productive than just accepting the stress. So, it's best to remind yourself to make happiness enhancing decisions, but then not monitor happiness levels constantly. That's the idea of prioritizing but not pursuing happiness. This idea of prioritizing but not pursuing happiness is similar to the idea of prioritizing but not pursuing sleep. When you obsess about getting a good night's sleep, you're less likely to fall asleep. In fact, constantly asking yourself whether you're about to fall asleep and telling yourself, there, I almost fell asleep right there, is perhaps the best way to stay awake. So, just like the best way to fall asleep is to follow a lifestyle or adopt a lifestyle that makes it more likely for you to get a good night's sleep. For example take a warm shower or drink a warm cup of milk. Definitely don't get into an argument with your wife or your husband about which TV channel to watch. The best way to be happy is to make decisions that increase your chances of being happy. So, as we have just seen, the first habit, the antidote to the first sin, is very simple. Prioritize, but don't pursue happiness. That is, remind yourself on a regular basis to make happiness enhancing decisions, but don't chase happiness. But how exactly do you acquire this habit? One thing that's obviously important is to know what happiness means to you. Because unless you know what happiness means to you, you can't really give it a higher priority. This just makes common sense. So in other words, you first need to define happiness. Now, as you probably know, happiness can mean different things to different people. Here are five definitions of happiness that I want you to consider. First, happiness can be defined as sensory pleasure. Everybody knows what this means. It means happiness is having party time. Eating good food, drinking fine wine, enjoying wonderful massages, going on these really awesome vacations etc. Second, it can be defined as hubristic pride. In this definition, happiness equals being superior to other people. So you feel happy when you get the best job, or nab the trophy husband or wife, and you feel that you're superior to others. Third, it can be defined as authentic pride. In this definition, happiness equals progressing towards mastery at something. You compare yourself to how you were earlier, and you feel happy when you're doing better than you were. Fourth, it can be defined as love or connection. You feel happy when you sense a love or connection with someone like your friend or your grandmother or your pet. Or even with an activity actually, like playing the drums or guitar or with an event like a beautiful sunset. Finally, happiness can be equated to something that I mentioned in a previous video, the feeling of abundance. The feeling that you have everything that you need, and that life is perfect with its imperfections. In this state of abundance, you feel that the challenges that you face make life more interesting and not threatening. Now that I've told you about five different definitions of happiness, let me tell you how I would define happiness if I were you. I wouldn't equate happiness to either sensory pleasure or to hubristic pride. This is because as you can imagine it's difficult to sustain happiness if you equate it to sensory pleasure or to hubristic pride. We all know that pleasure can't last, and as the saying goes. Pride comes before a fall, meaning pride can't last either. So I will equate happiness to one of the three other types feelings. Authentic pride, love/connection, or abundance. And of these three, if I had to pick one, I would choose abundance. Why? Because as we will see in some future videos not only has it got the best potential to last for a long time, it also has some other positive properties. In the next video I'm going to ask you to come up with your own definition of happiness. But before we get there. Let me quickly summarize what we discussed in this video. We discussed the first habit of the highly happy, which is prioritize, but don't pursue happiness. This means reminding yourself on a regular basis to make happiness enhancing decisions, but then not obsess about how happy you are. We also discussed the importance of defining happiness. Because to prioritize happiness, it's important to know what happiness means to you. And finally, we discuss the various ways in which happiness can be defined, and how it's better to define happiness as authentic pride, or love, or abundance. Rather than as sensory pleasure or hubristic pride. And with that, let's move on to the first exercise in the next video which is defining and incorporating happiness. See you soon. [MUSIC]



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[MUSIC] In the last few videos, I presented some findings on how we devalue happiness and why we do it. Specifically, I showed you that we devalue happiness by succumbing to the fundamental happiness paradox. And I also discussed three reasons why we devalue happiness. Namely, harboring negative beliefs about happiness, for example that happiness is fleeting, failing to define happiness in concrete terms, and medium maximization. In this video, I want to talk about how to avoid the tendency to devalue happiness. In other words, I want to talk to you about the first habit of the highly happy, the habit that can help us overcome the first deadly happiness sin. The first habit of the highly happy is, prioritize but don't pursue happiness. What exactly does it mean to prioritize, but not pursue happiness? What it means is to consciously make the choice of giving happiness the higher priority over other goals in your life. You do this by reminding yourself on a regular basis. And particularly before you make important decisions about what you ultimately want out of life. If you're like most people, what you ultimately want in life, the reason why you do anything and everything that you do is so that you can lead a happier, more fulfilling and a more meaningful life. If you remind yourself of this before you make your decisions, it turns out that you won't be as susceptible to the fundamental happiness paradox. That is, you won't sacrifice happiness for the sake of other goals as much. Now three of my colleagues, Kelly Goldsmith from Northwestern University, David Gal from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Lauren Cheatham, a PhD student at Stanford University, and I have conducted several studies in which we tested what happens when people remind themselves to make happiness enhancing decisions on a regular basis. In one study, which was conducted on employees from seven different Fortune 500 companies. We divided the employees into two groups. One group received an email every day for a whole week. The email gently reminded them to make happiness enhancing decisions. The second group did not receive any such email. Then we asked both groups of employees to tell us how happy they were at the end of the week. As you can see from the graph, what we found was that at the end of the week, those who received the daily email reminding them to make happiness enhancing decisions, were far happier than those who did not receive any emails. We found similar results in three other studies that we conducted. These results suggest that reminding yourself to make happiness enhancing decisions can significantly boost your happiness levels. Does this mean that the more we remind ourselves to make happiness enhancing decisions the happier we'll be? Not really. Although reminding yourself to make happiness enhancing decisions is a good thing, you shouldn't actively monitor or chase happiness, because when you do it's actually likely to lower your happiness levels. Why? Because when you pursue happiness too intently, you're likely to monitor how you are feeling with how happy you want to feel. And since we generally feel less happy then we would ideally like to feel, we end up feeling unhappy about not being as happy as we want to feel. That's what this paper by Mauss and his co-authors and several others also shows. By the way, there's also research by Kelly McGonigal on a similar idea that the only thing worse than feeling stressed out about something is feeling stressed out about being stressed out. That actually makes you less productive than just accepting the stress. So, it's best to remind yourself to make happiness enhancing decisions, but then not monitor happiness levels constantly. That's the idea of prioritizing but not pursuing happiness. This idea of prioritizing but not pursuing happiness is similar to the idea of prioritizing but not pursuing sleep. When you obsess about getting a good night's sleep, you're less likely to fall asleep. In fact, constantly asking yourself whether you're about to fall asleep and telling yourself, there, I almost fell asleep right there, is perhaps the best way to stay awake. So, just like the best way to fall asleep is to follow a lifestyle or adopt a lifestyle that makes it more likely for you to get a good night's sleep. For example take a warm shower or drink a warm cup of milk. Definitely don't get into an argument with your wife or your husband about which TV channel to watch. The best way to be happy is to make decisions that increase your chances of being happy. So, as we have just seen, the first habit, the antidote to the first sin, is very simple. Prioritize, but don't pursue happiness. That is, remind yourself on a regular basis to make happiness enhancing decisions, but don't chase happiness. But how exactly do you acquire this habit? One thing that's obviously important is to know what happiness means to you. Because unless you know what happiness means to you, you can't really give it a higher priority. This just makes common sense. So in other words, you first need to define happiness. Now, as you probably know, happiness can mean different things to different people. Here are five definitions of happiness that I want you to consider. First, happiness can be defined as sensory pleasure. Everybody knows what this means. It means happiness is having party time. Eating good food, drinking fine wine, enjoying wonderful massages, going on these really awesome vacations etc. Second, it can be defined as hubristic pride. In this definition, happiness equals being superior to other people. So you feel happy when you get the best job, or nab the trophy husband or wife, and you feel that you're superior to others. Third, it can be defined as authentic pride. In this definition, happiness equals progressing towards mastery at something. You compare yourself to how you were earlier, and you feel happy when you're doing better than you were. Fourth, it can be defined as love or connection. You feel happy when you sense a love or connection with someone like your friend or your grandmother or your pet. Or even with an activity actually, like playing the drums or guitar or with an event like a beautiful sunset. Finally, happiness can be equated to something that I mentioned in a previous video, the feeling of abundance. The feeling that you have everything that you need, and that life is perfect with its imperfections. In this state of abundance, you feel that the challenges that you face make life more interesting and not threatening. Now that I've told you about five different definitions of happiness, let me tell you how I would define happiness if I were you. I wouldn't equate happiness to either sensory pleasure or to hubristic pride. This is because as you can imagine it's difficult to sustain happiness if you equate it to sensory pleasure or to hubristic pride. We all know that pleasure can't last, and as the saying goes. Pride comes before a fall, meaning pride can't last either. So I will equate happiness to one of the three other types feelings. Authentic pride, love/connection, or abundance. And of these three, if I had to pick one, I would choose abundance. Why? Because as we will see in some future videos not only has it got the best potential to last for a long time, it also has some other positive properties. In the next video I'm going to ask you to come up with your own definition of happiness. But before we get there. Let me quickly summarize what we discussed in this video. We discussed the first habit of the highly happy, which is prioritize, but don't pursue happiness. This means reminding yourself on a regular basis to make happiness enhancing decisions, but then not obsess about how happy you are. We also discussed the importance of defining happiness. Because to prioritize happiness, it's important to know what happiness means to you. And finally, we discuss the various ways in which happiness can be defined, and how it's better to define happiness as authentic pride, or love, or abundance. Rather than as sensory pleasure or hubristic pride. And with that, let's move on to the first exercise in the next video which is defining and incorporating happiness. See you soon. [MUSIC]


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