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Only one thing stops you from being happier, by Eric Barker

Stashed in: Influence!, Be yourself., Authenticity, Personality, @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Stories, Kaizen, Feedback, Psychology!, Remind Me, Lessons are repeated until they are learned., Autumn

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Eric Barker writes:

Many people resist being happier because it doesn’t line up with the type of person they think they are.

Via Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology:

Using other data obtained in their studies, the researchers argued that these effects occurred because people are motivated to sustain a consistent view of themselves. Those with higher self-esteem— people who like and value themselves— see happiness as a state consistent with who they are, and thus they savor their good feelings. Those with lower self-esteem— people who neither like nor value themselves— analogously see unhappiness as a state consistent with who they are, and thus they dampen their good feelings.

If this interpretation is correct, then consistency is a more potent influence on feelings than is hedonism, a conclusion with interesting implications. I have always thought that some people are unhappy because they do not know how to be otherwise. It is pointless to tell someone to cheer up if he or she does not know how to do so. But perhaps another reason that some people are unhappy is that they are motivated to be unhappy— or at least not happy— in order to preserve the view they hold of themselves.

This is fascinating. I’ve posted many times about how context affects us — and how it does so far more often than we care to admit.

So if we’re constantly pushed and pulled by external factors, how do we maintain a personality?

In Robert Cialdini’s classic book “Influence” he explains that the desire for consistency is one of the most powerful factors that motivates us. Our brain struggles to maintain the story of who we think we are, either by affecting our decision-making or by rationalizing our choices after the fact.

Read the rest of Eric's article to learn why consistency is such a powerful motive:

What's the main lesson? Be yourself. Not the person you think you should be, but the person you are.

This is sad, but my experience has been that any sense of happiness is the prelude to disaster (sometimes within minutes)...

Because when you're happy you let your guard down?

"Be yourself" is of course great advice, but so vague and in-actionable, even in the context of this story. I realize that before I can be myself, I have to question what I want for myself. Let's say I'm experiencing a happy feeling. To truely be myself in that moment, I have to stop and become aware of my happiness, then I have to make decisions. Decide whether or not to question the source of the happiness  i.e. "did this happiness come from something I want to reinforce?" Certainly I won't derive the most utility from this course because asking the question itself assumes I can control or influence moments other than the one I am in. 

I want to bring this to a point now. That point is, for me, when I think of "being myself" I choose to fully experience and be aware of my feelings and thoughts. 

Adam, have you thought about this? Anyone else?

In the context of what Eric Barker's talking about, the actionable item is to let go of who you think you're supposed to be, and embrace who you truly are.

Brené Brown has a talk about this:

What's key is learning to listen to your instincts so doing so becomes less deliberate and more intuitive with practice.

You figure out who you are by doing stuff and paying attention to whether or not you like it.  When you feel good, you're being yourself.  When you feel that queasy feeling, you're not.

Chris, your characterization sounds like a continual feedback loops of experiments and improvement.

It's the only way!

It certainly is a good way. There are other, harder ways to learn.

Please share, obi-wan!

The hard ways to learn involve repeating the same behavior and expecting new results.

Lessons repeat until they are learned. That's the way of the universe.

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