Psychology has begun to accept that what we think will make us happy, and what actually will make us happy, are usually two completely different things. How come? Are we so stupid? No. The problem is created mainly by our lack of conscious insight into our unconscious world.
Daniel Gilbert is professor in Psychology at Harvard, and in his excellent book Stumbling on Happiness, he explains how the single biggest obstacle to our happiness is our natural inability to think accurately about the future. The problem arises from the way in which we incompletely perceive, experience and interpret the world.
Even worse, this perception is further distorted by what we believe, as compared with the “reality” of what is actually happening. Once decided, we tend to stick with our particular kind of perception and, as a result, by far the greater part of our experience of reality is a fiction. Gilbert goes as far as to accuse our brains of being “talented forgers,” fabricating a convincing “living story” made up of nothing but memories and distorted perceptions.
As if this were not enough, Gilbert is quite adamant that we are also very poor at estimating, from our imaginings of the future, what will make us feel happy there. On the basis of these psychologically demonstrated facts, what hope is there of achieving happiness from goal-seeking?
Perhaps we might also benefit from making an effort to better acquaint ourselves with our innermost, unconscious aspirations. How to do that? Well there are many possible approaches. In an earlier article I introduced you to Sir Ken Robison and his ideas on finding your “element.” Another approach is to begin a routine of regular meditation; or simply paying more attention more to what truly makes you feel good or are drawn to, and keeping a journal; or a dream journal. Patterns will emerge.