Why are There so Many Unhappy Millionaires?

Why is Satisfaction so Short Lived?

“Satisfaction” is the name given to the type of happiness that is most commonly studied by positive psychologists. It also fits with what some philosophers call “desire theories,” which focus on the happiness that comes from “getting what you want.” Other words used to describe this happiness include “contentment,” “fulfilment,” and also the scientific term “subjective well-being.”

Satisfaction arises when you enjoy circumstances and conditions that are deemed favorable. For example, “I like my life” (life satisfaction) and “I enjoy my work” (job satisfaction). Satisfaction is the result of the thought I am happy because . . .For example, I am happy because my shares have increased in value, my new shoes look so sexy, and I have just been given chocolate. That said, satisfaction is derived not just from “getting things,” but also from finding meaning in certain activities, in having a purpose, in loving relationships, and in values and ethics.

Above all, satisfaction comes from the sense that our ego is learning and growing. This is particularly gratifying and meaningful to many of us. Also, one positive effect of satisfaction is that it activates an upward spiral of increased gratitude, heightened receptivity, and further satisfaction. Another wonderful way to spend an hour of your life, then, is to create a list of all of the most meaningful moments, events, and relationships in your life. I guarantee you will feel like your whole life just got better if you do this.

Like pleasure, satisfaction also has some shortfalls. Firstly, it is the by-product of a “cause and effect” dance. No cause, no effect. No bell, no drool. This type of happiness cannot exist except in reaction to something. Secondly, the effects of satisfaction are notoriously short-lived. Satisfaction usually has a short half-life because you adapt so quickly to favorable circumstances. For example, gratitude for your raise at work is fast eaten up by more business-as-usual and more career planning.5

Thirdly, satisfaction exists in duality with dissatisfaction. Things that used to satisfy you in the past may no longer satisfy you now. For instance, no one should have to put up with an iPod that has only enough memory for 40,000 songs and 200 hours of video. Satisfaction is all too often bullied into submission by dissatisfaction and its two friends, called “expectations” and “comparison.” It’s very hard to feel happy when these three fellows have just barged into your mind.

Fourthly, and finally, the problem with satisfaction is that it is wholly dependent on your mind and on the world-neither of which are particularly safe places to live. When you are not in your right mind, for instance, you may overlook everything that you could appreciate. Not all millionaires smile a lot. Also, when your life doesn’t look the way you want, and when not all the boxes are checked, your satisfaction may nose-dive, and you may try to convince yourself that you are a victim of the world.


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