The Real Rewards of Risk
Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, simply put, are curious.
Curiosity is largely about exploration—often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser. In fact, a recent study suggests that people invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks. Thus, from time to time, it’s worth seeking out an experience that is novel, complicated, uncertain, or even upsetting. The happiest people opt for both doing what feels good and taking a risk. They know they can benefit, at various times, from both.
The End of Perfectionism
Happy people tend to be less conscientious about their performance. To them, sacrificing some degree of achievement seems to be a small price to pay for not having to sweat the small stuff.
This is not to say you should take a laissez-faire attitude to all your responsibilities. Paying attention to detail is helpful. But too much focus on minutiae can be exhausting and paralyzing. The happiest among us accept that striving for perfection – and a perfectly smooth interaction with everyone at all times – is a loser’s bet.
The Upside of Negative Feelings
Happy, flourishing people don’t hide from negative emotions. They acknowledge that life is full of disappointments and confront them head on, often using feelings of anger effectively to stick up the themselves or those of guilt as a motivation to change their own behavior. This mental shifting between pleasure and pain, the ability to modify behavior to match a situation’s demand, is known as psychological flexibility.
The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as ell autonomy, mastery and belonging.
If you want to envision a happy person’s stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has – and another foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning.
Source: Psychology Today, July/August 2013, pp. 51-57