Why We’re Never Going to Be Satisfied With Life - Deepstash

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Why Are We Perpetually Restless And Unsatisfied?

There’s a simple reason for that: as expressed by researchers for the Review of General Psychology, If satisfaction and pleasure were permanent, there might be little incentive to continue seeking further benefits or advances.”

In other words, feeling contented wasn’t good for the species.

Our ancestors worked harder and strove further because they evolved to be perpetually perturbed, and so we remain today.

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The 4 Components of Dissatisfaction

Or, the 4 psychological factors that make satisfaction temporary.

  1. Boredom
  2. Negativity Bias
  3. Rumination
  4. Hedonic Adaptation

Taken together, these 4 components add up to a lot of dissatisfaction in life, even if our circumstances are truly great.

As the author of one study explains, as “new goals continually capture one’s attention, one constantly strives to be happy without realizing that in the long run such efforts are futile.”

Humans may be wired to pursue happiness, but we’re not too well equipped to experience it.

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Dissatisfaction Factor #1: Boredom

The lengths people will go to avoid boredom are shocking. Literally.

A 2014 study published in Science observed participants who were asked to sit in a room and think for fifteen minutes. The room was empty except for a device that allowed participants to mildly but painfully electrocute themselves.

“Why would anyone want to do that?” you might ask.

The study demonstrated that people dislike being alone with their thoughts so much, they’ll prefer to do anything else, even if that activity is negative.

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Dissatisfaction Factor #2: Negativity Bias

It’s been defined as “a phenomenon in which negative events are more salient and demand attention more powerfully than neutral or positive events.”

Such pessimism begins very early in life. Babies begin to show signs of negativity bias starting at just 7 months of age, suggesting this tendency is inborn.

As the author of one study concluded, “It appears to be a basic, pervasive fact of psychology that bad is stronger than good.” Good things are nice, but bad things can kill you. That’s why we pay attention to the bad stuff first and remember it better.

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Dissatisfaction Factor #3: Rumination

If you’ve ever chewed on something that you did, or that someone did to you, over and over again, then you’ve experienced rumination, which is our tendency to keep thinking about bad experiences.

This “passive comparison of one’s current situation with some unachieved standard,” can manifest in self-critical thoughts such as, “Why can’t I handle things better?”

As one study notes, “By reflecting on what went wrong and how to rectify it, people may be able to discover sources of error or alternative strategies, ultimately leading to not repeating mistakes and possibly doing better in the future.”

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Dissatisfaction Factor #4: Hedonic Adaptation

Hedonic adaptation is the tendency to quickly return to a baseline level of satisfaction no matter what happens to us in life and may be the cruelest of all 4 factors.

Hedonic adaptation is Mother Nature’s bait-and-switch. All sorts of life events we think would make us happier actually don’t—or at least, not for long.

As David Myers writes in The Pursuit Of Happiness, “Every desirable experience—passionate love, a spiritual high, the pleasure of a new possession, the exhilaration of success—is transitory.”

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Dissatisfaction Is Energy

Dissatisfaction is responsible for our species’ advancements, and if you never felt it, you’d be at a serious disadvantage. Discontent is not a reason to give up on success. Rather, it’s a reason to introduce the opportunity for frequent and meaningful victories into our lives.

Every day is a chance to live according to our values, which Nir Eyal defines as “attributes of the person we want to be”. Living out our values means spending our time purposefully on the things that we decide are important.

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How We Can Live Out Our Values

We can live out our values—very concretely—if we build our values into our calendar. That “simply” means scheduling time for what matters most. By turning our values into time, we make sure we have time for traction.

At the end of the day, we can look at what we intended to do, compare it to what we ended up doing, and celebrate our victory when we stayed on track.

If you (still) find yourself feeling unhappy with life, that doesn’t mean you’ve been defeated.

The takeaway here is that if you’re unhappy, you’re normal.

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CURATED BY

xarikleia

“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison

The 18th century poet Samuel Johnson said, “My life is one long escape from myself.” Sounds “‘mad, bad and sad”? The truth is, we’re not wired to feel content or satisfied. Ever. Here’s the surprising psychology of why dissatisfaction is hardwired and why that’s a good thing.

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