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The Impact Bias: How to be Happy When Everything Goes Wrong

https://jamesclear.com/impact-bias

jamesclear.com

The Impact Bias: How to be Happy When Everything Goes Wrong
In the summer of 2010, Rachelle Friedman was preparing for one of the best periods of her life. She was recently engaged, surrounded by her best friends, and enjoying her bachelorette party. Friedman and her friends were spending the day at the pool when one of them playfully pushed her into the shallow end of the water.

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Extreme events and happiness

Extreme positive and extreme negative events don't actually influence our long-term levels of happiness nearly as much as we think they would. But we have a strong tendency to ove...

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The Impact Bias

It's present when we tend to overestimate the length or intensity of happiness that major events will create. The Impact Bias is one example of affective forecasting, which is a social psych...

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Affective forecasting

It refers to how we predict our future emotions and how certain life events will affect them.

We’re generally pretty bad at it—and that impacts our productivity, our goal setting, and our overall happiness

We're bad at predicting our feelings

The main barriers to accurate affective forecasting:

  • Impact Bias: Your tendency to overestimate the intensity and duration of future emotions. 
  • Projection Bias: However you feel in the present, you tend to project that onto the future. 
  • Focalism: When picturing an event in the future, you tend to focus only on that event, to the exclusion of everything else that may happen.

“Our ability to look into the future and think about what will make us most happy is the way that we get to a present that pleases us.”

“Our ability to look into the future and think about what will make us most happy is the way that we get to a present that pleases us.”

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Mistakes in predicting our future feelings

Mistakes in predicting our future feelings

We are not very good at guessing how we'll feel in the future. In predicting how we will feel in the future, we commonly use the past experience as a guide.

But our brain favours the extreme and most recent events. We tend to focus on the main features of an event and less on the journey to get there. This means that we won't always make the best decisions about our lives.

Overestimating our future emotions

We overestimate the strength of our emotions in the future.

Studies show that people overestimated their happiness at winning and their disappointment at losing because they forgot all the other things that would happen in a day that would influence their mood.

Feelings are not long-lasting

A lottery winner, for instance, won't spend every day celebrating their win. Nor will someone with a disabling accident spend all their time in shock.

When imagining either situation, we like to think that the feelings will be long-lasting. We forget that we will adapt and that the feeling will eventually wear off.

Human nature is more than biology

Human nature is more than biology

The level of happiness is part of our genetic makeup - we have a set level and cannot rise above or fall below it.

Some scientists envision the day that we can manipulate our happiness genes with precise nanoscale technologies. These mood bots will travel inside us to a part of the brain and manually turn on genes to up or down our happiness set point. But, scientists assure us that we are more than biology and that a mood bot will not guarantee happy and satisfying lives.

Quantifying happiness

Happiness has always been difficult to quantify because it is subjective, depending on if you have a short- or a long-term outlook on life. Recently, researchers have started to distinguish between two types of happiness: 

  • Hedonic happiness that provides a mental high;
  • Eudaimonic happiness, a sense of well-being which involves a life well-lived.

The staples of happiness

People will always be happy when they see their children prosper when they feel loved, secure, and well-fed.

But, this formula for happiness is so obvious that most people dismiss it. They would rather look for a secret ingredient. The answer is that there is no secret.