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Why we fail at predicting what will make us happy

Try to predict what will make you happy...and probably you will be wrong

Try to predict what will make you happy...and probably you will be wrong

Brain trap #3 or why we are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy

Did you know that we humans are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy?

And that both positive and negative events in our life have much less impact – less intensity and less duration – on our happiness than we expect?

Brain trap #3: Wrong prediction of what will make us happy

Seriously. It is incredible how much we can be off when assuming what will be the best decision for our happiness.

Ask us if we wish to have more choices or less choices – and we will always say “more choices”. To some extent more choices is a good thing, but too much choices is exact opposite from happiness.

Ask us if we will be happy if something bad happens to us – and we will say “hell, no”… yet some of the most life changing positive experiences for many people come as a consequence of a difficult experience.

Turns out that us humans are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy.
We make our decisions about the future based on our past experiences, and on our present priorities and ways of thinking, and then by the time that future happens, it ends up being much different than we predicted.

Explore more examples of it in Dan Gilbert’s TED talk.

As with any trap on our way to happiness, there is hope to tackle this trap too.

How to avoid the trap of wrong predictions?

• understand why these predictions are wrong – pay attention to your own predictions, check out Dan Gilbert’s TED talk and take a bit of time to reflect
journal on previous experiences, reflect on how those made you feel and what predictions worked out – although it won’t give you full information, it can still help to learn from previous experiences)
• talk to others who passed the same path you are thinking about taking and see which parts of it worked out better or worse for them
learn about positive psychology and which things in general have a tendency to make us happier and less happy
• develop self-awareness – know own values, trigger points, preferences, emotions etc. that are likely to show up in new situations and know what makes you happy
But even just having an awareness that we do not always have the right answers, and that usually whichever path we take, that path will take us to a pretty satisfying place is a good thing to know.

It makes us pressure ourselves less about decisions – because, in the end, with most of the decisions, it is less important what you decide: the true power lies in how you implement that decision and how you make it work for you in the best way for your happiness.

How about you?

How are your approaching decisions and predicting what will make you happy?
How can you take these tips and make your decisions and predictions even better?
Do share in comments – but also to start a conversation in our Positive Psychology Tribe virtual community for meaningful conversations.

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