"Where to retire?"* "How much to retire with?"* "What to do during retirement?"* I get this authentic happiness newsletter every month - many others here have seen their site -- and this month's seemed relevant.* *Here are a few excerpts (as I don't know how to link to it from my mailbox.)*
Authentic Happiness research is based upon work by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.
(Is Like Trying to Predict the Weather)
Ben Dean, Ph.D.
"...interesting research in the area of “affective forecasting” by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, and others suggests that most of us are surprisingly inaccurate when it comes to predicting how we will experience future events.
Affective forecasting refers to our ability to predict (or forecast) the emotional impact of a future event. . . . how much will we enjoy our extra free time? How great will it feel when we finally lose those 20 pounds? And how long will those feelings last?
Affective forecasting is an extraordinarily important component of professional and personal decision making. Almost every major decision you have ever made was based, in part, on how you thought it would make you feel in the future.
Given that we routinely factor in the future emotional consequences of events when making decisions, it is reasonable to expect that frequent practice would improve our forecasting abilities. As it turns out, this is not the case. People consistently make systematic errors in affective forecasting. . . . Some examples...
. . . academics pursuing tenure believe that life will be much, much better if they achieve this goal. They will have the freedom to study the things that most interest them, and they will have job security in an insecure world. However, Daniel Gilbert and colleagues (1998) found that contrary to their predictions, former assistant professors who were passed over for tenure were ultimately no less happy than their tenured colleagues.
Have you ever returned from a glorious vacation in a tropical climate only to question your sanity? Why endure winter after winter when you could be living in Fiji? (Or at least California?) As it turns out, where we live is not as important as most real estate agents would have us believe! Californians are no happier than Midwesterners (Schkade & Kahneman 1998).
What (does) make a difference...are friendships. Indeed, nurturing and fostering social relationships may be one of the most powerful things we can do to boost our own happiness levels.
When are we going to learn that money doesn’t buy happiness? Even the effects of winning the ultimate unlikely jackpot--the lottery--are fleeting (Brickman, Coaes, &Janoff-Bulmna, 1978). The first $40,000, of course, does buy happiness. Moving from zero--a street person with no resources--to $25,000, for example has a huge impact on life satisfaction. But after a certain point, there is virtually no effect. Perhaps the most convincing evidence that money doesn’t buy happiness comes not from a psychologist but from the economist Richard Easterlin. His large-scale surveys of nations and individuals indicate that as people grow richer they do NOT grow happier (provided that they did not start off below the poverty line). You can download some of Easterlin’s articles yourself on his website: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~easterl/
Why Are We Poor Affective Forecasters?
The research of Daniel Gilbert and others suggests that we humans tend to make a systematic error in judgment which he calls impact bias. Impact bias is our tendency to predict that future events will have a more intense and longer lasting impact on our emotions than they actually do.
Most people have what Gilbert calls a psychological immune system that protects us from protracted misery. After something unpleasant happens, such as being bypassed for a desired promotion, we begin to consider the silver linings in the cloud. Perhaps that promotion would have meant more late evenings at work and less time with the family.
We have tunnel vision.
When we try to forecast our emotional reaction to an event, we tend to zero in on the event itself and forget about all the background noise in our lives. For example, when considering what it would be like to win a million dollars, we zero in on the glorious day that we receive the check. What we do not take into account are the myriad life events that fill up our time and dampen the impact of the event.
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. . . True discontent comes from holding onto the same goals that never made us happy in the first place. In other words, true discontent may come from the expectation that MORE money, a bigger house, or more recognition at work will make us happy in the future when our current lives are rich with evidence to the contrary.