There is a constant push to get “the thing” that will make us happy. The emotions, however, are never long lasting, so we hope that the next thing will do the trick. This misperception is true when craving material items and its true with our feelings towards engagement in work, family, and life in general. So if attainment does not result in enduring happiness, what does?
On Jerry Seinfeld’s show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Julia Louis-Dreyfus discussed her philosophy of happiness and how she finds fulfillment.
Here’s something that my mom said to me and I think its true in terms of happiness. You have to always have something to look forward to. And it can be a very minor thing and it can be a major thing, but always you have to have something you’re looking forward to next.
What Julia is referring to is called Horizon Engagement Anticipation Theory. As discussed in the article Don’t “Binge Watch” Your Workplace Culture, this is the idea that people are most engaged when they have something to look forward to. It speaks to our need for visible reference points on the horizon and having a path to get there.
It may sound cliché, but Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “life is about the journey, not the destination” could not be more accurate. We spend much more of our time trying to get somewhere versus actually being there. And, for the ambitious among us, once we arrive at our destination, we are already eager to plod ahead to the next challenge.
Want to increase your happiness? Choose a horizon and focus your actions in that direction. The horizon may keep moving, but a meaningful goal is worth the extra effort and the enhancement to your mental well-being.