appiness is a convoluted, mess of a word today. What does it even mean! How do we even achieve it? Happiness is different things to different people and it’s nearly impossible to truly define.
Surprisingly, what isn’t hard is identifying what makes us unhappy. The things that upset us or make us mad or ruin our day. We remember these things. We can point to these things easily and say, I hate it when that happens.
Quintus Ennius, a Roman poet and writer, once said, “Nimium boni est, cui nihil est mali.” This roughly translates to, “The good is mostly in the absence of the bad.“What a novel concept. We hardly ever think about things this way, but what if we did? Many of us are typically in a pretty good state of mind. Whether we’re happy or not is debatable, but we’re certainly not unhappy either.
So then isn’t it valuable to avoid being unhappy? Would that not help us have better days and more enjoyable nights?
Happiness is best dealt with as a negative concept… the “pursuit of happiness” is not equivalent to the avoidance of unhappiness.Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
This is key. Chasing happiness versus avoiding unhappiness are two different things. The chasing seems to be much harder to do. The alternative is not to make yourself feel better, but avoid feeling shitty all together. Here’s how you can accomplish exactly that.
1. Document when you’re unhappy.
Track your unhappiness. It sounds crazy, but if you start keeping track of when you’re at the lowest of lows, you will start to uncover the trends and patterns that are causing them. Some of these I’m sure you can identify of the top of your head, like sitting in traffic or not getting enough sleep. Others may take some work to uncover.
Either way, once you understand what makes you unhappy, you can start to change it.
2. Create contingencies to avoid those situations.
Based on your notes, you now have a good idea of what triggers your unhappy state more often than not. Now comes the fun part. You need to design solutions that will help you best avoid these situations as much as possible. Find ways to circumvent the instigators you discovered.
For example, maybe you get hangry if you miss a meal? Keep a few granola bars in your bag, for emergencies.
Maybe you hate traffic? Find out if you can work remotely, work different hours, or in more extreme situations, bite the bullet and move closer to work.
Maybe your day is unproductive the moment you turn on the TV? Place a strict limit on when and what you watch or just get rid of your TV entirely.
You get the idea. Whatever the cause, there are ways to at least ease it, if not eliminate it entirely. It may take some effort, especially when it comes to breaking bad habits, but it’s certainly worthwhile.
If you’re unhappy, you should change what you’re doing.Marc Andreessen
Throw happiness out the window. Stop trying to chase it, it’s too difficult to understand, let alone achieve in any tangible sense.
Instead, pay attention to what makes you unhappy. Build ways to avoid those situations, and you’ll find yourself in a much better mood.