We live in a society that is based on more. We’re told to strive for more, buy more, do more and be more.
As the noted historian, Yuval Noah Harari, wrote in his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow: “The most common reaction of the human mind to achievement is not satisfaction, but craving for more”.
More can be good, but once you get past the basics of life (food, shelter and safety) having more doesn’t usually make us happier.
We all have a set point for happiness. Think of it like a scale. Just as everybody weighs a certain amount, every person has a happiness level they typically operate at. That set point remains relatively constant.
There are things that will temporarily adjust it. For example, a new job, winning the lottery, or buying a new car will temporarily make a person happier. Sadly, these are only short-term activators. They don’t last.
People often equate money and success with happiness, but that’s a fallacy.
Sonia Lyubomirsky and her colleague’s research shows that genetics accounts for about 50% of your happiness quota (i.e. your happiness setting at birth, predisposition and personality traits); 10% is due to circumstances; and the remaining 40% to variants that you can determine. That is, intentional activity that you undertake.
The researchers defined intentional as: “Discrete actions or practices in which people can choose to engage”. These are activities that require some form of effort.
Having a fulfilling life isn’t just about what we do, it’s about what we choose not to do.
In a world that celebrates ‘more’, there are times when you need to say no to the ‘more’. Why? Because pursuing ‘more’ will unnecessarily complicate your life, with little return.
A case in point.
I often work from my home and have a well-functioning home office, but as the business has expanded it is getting a little small. My solution one day – To build up and create space for a purpose-built office. Once I sat back and thought about this option I realised that the build phase would be incredibly disruptive. Sure, at the end I’d have a great office, but would the pain be worth the return and did I really need it?
The short answer – no, and so what I did instead was create more space by clearing out and re-designing the room.
Central to this decision is a question that my husband, Craig and I often ask ourselves – ‘Will this overly complicate our life?’ And if the answer is ‘yes’, we don’t do it.
Life is complex enough as it is without unnecessary complications getting thrown into the equation.
That doesn’t mean you shy away from challenge. It does mean you deliberately assess the impact a decision may have on you and those around you.
It’s the challenges in life that often bring out our best and are the hurdle we need to overcome to get to where we want to get to. But unnecessary complications are just noise that help you lose focus. They distract you and suck the energy from you.
Ditching the complications means you need to:
- Consider the likely outcome from decisions you are making
- Be prepared to take full accountability for your decision and to say ‘no’ to ‘more’
- Think about the impact a decision will have on yourself and others
- Be willing to walk away from the drama of life that is caused by unhealthy relationships
- Be happy to run your own race and drop comparisons with other
I love this quote from Oprah Winfrey: “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough”.
So next time you are facing a choice, ask yourself: If I do this, will it overly complicate my life?
You may find it changes the choice you make.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, todayTM.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].