People are often told that they can be anything they want to be, but what if you simply don’t know what it is you want? We all have wishes and ambitions for how our lives could look one day says Brian C Jensen. However, many people find themselves unhappy because their current life doesn’t measure up to the life they think they should have. This gap between where you are now and where you think your life should be is called the “lifestyle discrepancy.” Previous research has found that when there’s a large gap between your ideal lifestyle and your actual lifestyle, it will make you feel dissatisfied with both aspects of your life.
People often ask me, “What’s the one thing that holds most people back from happiness?” The answer blew me away at first: the majority of people won’t be happy until they feel like they’ve gotten what they deserve. But as I thought more about it, I realized how profound this actually is — and how many of our problems boil down to this very mindset. So if we really want to achieve more happiness in our lives, we need to figure out why we think this way and then work on changing it. Here’s exactly what you need to know.
The Studies on the Desire for Achievement, Meritocracy, and Self-Worth One study of 829 German high school students found that “people with a need for achievement were indeed less happy than others.” Another study conducted by Canadian researchers in 2004 concluded that “the desire for financial success is negatively associated with life satisfaction,” specifically in individuals who are less financially stable explains Brian C Jensen. And another research project in 2007 looked at nearly 200 stock traders in London and determined that they “were not generally happier at work than they were outside of it” — despite their high earnings. So again, what gives? Why does this happen? The answer is simple: We want to feel like we’ve earned things, so when we achieve great things; we feel a sense of pride and accomplishment — which is a good thing. But when we can’t achieve what we want or don’t feel like we deserve the things that have been achieved by others around us, it creates an emotional disconnect that makes us unhappy. We find ourselves in this state most commonly with our relationships: When things are going well in your life but you don’t feel like your partner deserves their success or they seem to be getting more recognition or praise for their accomplishments than you are, you may begin to develop feelings of resentment towards them…which leads to tension in the relationship and unhappiness on both sides.
The Solution If You Want More Happiness
The first step is recognizing if this cycle is happening in your life. And if it is, the second step is to change how you feel about this process.
Here’s what to do:
- Remember that feeling like you’ve earned things isn’t necessarily bad — sometimes earning things can be very rewarding and fulfilling.
- Realize that happiness should never come from “getting more than someone else” or achieving something just because you feel like you deserves it more than others.
- Figure out the key reasons why you want to achieve more in your life…and then realize that there are better reasons than simply wanting success to make yourself feel better about yourself says Brian C Jensen.
- Accept that most people deserve the things that they’ve achieved in life, and remember how lucky you are to have what you do.
- And most importantly, focus on developing a mindset of gratitude by practicing appreciation for the good things in your life rather than constantly focusing on trying to achieve more.
If you can learn to stop obsessing about achievement and meritocracy…and instead focus on being grateful for what you already have while working hard to improve yourself without feeling like it’s something that you need to earn more of through achievement or experience…then happiness will follow.
Studies show that people with a need for achievement are actually less happy than others explains Brian C Jensen. As counterintuitive as it sounds, this is because our minds feel like we’re not earning things and we resent others more when we work hard and achieve great things. The solution: remember why you want to achieve things in your life and accept that most people deserve the things they’ve achieved. Focus on gratitude instead of achievement; by practicing appreciation of what you already have while working towards improvement — without feeling like you need to earn anything through experience or merit — will make you happier.