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Happiness and Turning 40

I took a two month blog hiatus to turn 40 which I did exactly one week ago. Over the years, I found that many INFPs I’ve met in their 40’s and 50’s are some of the happiest people I know. So am I happier now than I was last week?

Happiness and Control

Happiness is directly proportional to the control we feel we have in fulfilling our needs.

For example, I know a few INFPs wanting new jobs. Their current one is terrible and getting worse by the hour. They’ve had good jobs turn bad before. What they did before was quit, take some time off, then sent out a zillion resumes and got rehired quickly after. They have great qualifications, but in this economy they feel stuck.

They’re more unhappy because they feel stuck. They’d be less unhappy with a bad job situation if they felt they could quit at any time and get another job immediately. If we feel we have no control in getting a job, a relationship, a fulfilling life and that something external like the economy or fate controls our ability to meet our needs, then we are unhappy.

Quick Overview of our six Critical needs: Certainty, Uncertainty, Love/Connection, Critical Significance, Growth, and Contribution.

In my early 20’s, my biggest need was Love and Connection. All I wanted was a girlfriend. I also felt I had no control over that. It seemed the only way I would ever find a significant other would be for the universe would send someone my way who would recognize something special in me. I wasn’t good at dating or meeting girls. It was up to fate. All my other accomplishments didn’t make me happier because the one thing in my life that I needed at that time, I felt I had no control over.

Happiness is about the feeling of control not the feeling of accomplishment. A few years later, I met someone. It wasn’t officially becoming boyfriend and girlfriend that made me happy. I was happy long before she became my girlfriend. It was meeting her and both of us knowing we had potential together. Having a girlfriend was no longer in control of the whims of the universe. The beyond-my-control part of the equation was out of the way because “fate” brought someone my way. Having a potential girlfriend wasn’t what made me happy. Knowing that I was the only one who could screw up from there on made me happy.

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Happiness means burning bridges

Watch the video.

If you don’t have the 21 minutes to watch the video, here’s the important parts:

Two kinds of happiness – There are two kinds of happiness: natural happiness and synthetic happiness. Natural happiness is happiness we get when get what we want. Synthetic happiness is synthesized happiness. It’s happiness we make when we don’t get what we want.

Natural happiness is not better – Synthetic happiness produces a measurable, testable change. People are not just making it up when they say they’re happy despite not getting what they want.

Before choosing, choices promote natural happiness – When you don’t have to choose, having a lot of choices makes you naturally happy.

After choosing, choices inhibit the creation of synthetic happiness – When we have the ability to change our minds, we become less happy because we aren’t sure if we made the right decision. The video talks about a Harvard psychological experiment that demonstrates this.

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Embrace the life you never planned

If things had worked out the way I wanted, I would have been Spider-Man by now. Unfortunately, radioactive spiders are to hard come by. Who knew?

Whether you’re 14 or 40, you’ve probably figured out that things don’t always go they way we want. I didn’t get the cool bike I wanted for Christmas when I was eight. I didn’t date the pretty poetess from drama class when I was sixteen. I wanted to have my first novel written by twenty-six. I wanted to be retired by now. Things didn’t work out, but this doesn’t mean I will stop wanting.

It’s good to want things. Buddhism says wanting leads to suffering. Duh. Wanting also brought the world vaccinatons and the microchip. The good can’t exist without the bad. Helen Keller said it best, “The world is full of suffering, but it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

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