Happiness vs Satisfaction
By – Jason Yule
Today I want to discuss this concept of happiness vs satisfaction. Is it just me or does it seem like in society today people are become more and more unhappy? It’s rare that I run into a stranger in public that wears a smile as big as I do. Why is that? Is life truly so hard for people that we aren’t happy anymore? Listening to people complain, it sure seems as so. This is just my personal opinion but I think we, as a society, have a misconception between being happy and being satisfied. More directly, I think people are confused about what it means to be happy.
Let’s start by defining the two:
Happiness is defined as “the state of being happy,” where happy is defined as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.”
Satisfaction is defined as “fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs.”
Do you see the difference there? While they are similar, and positively correlated with each other, they are NOT the same! Happiness has to do with mindset whereas satisfaction has to do with results. “Are you HAPPY with your career” is a much different question than “are you SATISFIED with your career.”
Let’s start with satisfaction. See, I believe our society’s general “unhappiness” is actually just dissatisfaction that has been mislabeled. You hear it all the time – I’ll be HAPPY when I get a raise, I’ll be HAPPY when I get a promotion, I’ll be HAPPY when I’m skinny, etc. But does it ever come true? What happens when you finally get the raise? You’re never actually happy because you instantly start looking towards the next raise, the next goal. For that reason it’s impractical to assign happiness to a result. What happens if you do everything in your power to get the raise but your manager gives it to his or her friend, even though you were rightfully more qualified? Can you be frustrated? Sure. But unhappy? You can stew for a short period, but at the end of the day it was out of your control. Nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome. What you are is unsatisfied. That dissatisfaction should make you even more motivated and even hungrier to prove your manager made the wrong choice. But you shouldn’t be unhappy.
I can hear you thinking to yourself, “Well why can’t I be unhappy? I was wrongly passed over. I get to be upset.” Well, the reason you can’t allow yourself to be upset is because happy is a mindset. It’s your perception of what you have versus what you believe you should have. If you’re a math geek like me, it looks like this:
Happiness = Reality – Expectation
If you’re happy, it means that you value what you have more than what you think you should have. If you’re unhappy, it means you think you should have more than you do have. If you’re content, it means what you have is exactly what you think you should have.
Think about it for a second – there are people who live in 3rd world countries that are extremely exuberant when it rains for an extended period of time or when a herd of wild animals wander to them. Why? Well because they finally get to eat or drink. But when these two things happen to us? We’re probably unhappy – we expect it to be nice and sunny, we expect our commute to work to be free of wild animals. In each scenario we had the same reality but different happiness. The key variable is expectation.
So that begs the question, how do we improve our happiness? Glad you asked! From a strictly mathematical standpoint, in order to change an outcome (happiness in this case,) you need to change one or both of the inputs (reality and expectation). When it comes to improving our reality, it brings us full circle to satisfaction from before – I’m incredibly hungry to improve my reality. I work harder than most, and do whatever it takes to keep progressing. I’m nowhere near satisfied with where I currently am. When it comes to expectation, it’s all about perception. Ask yourself what you actually do deserve. Honestly, it’s nothing. Do you deserve freedom because you were lucky enough to be born in America, while people in Communist countries don’t deserve it? That doesn’t make much sense. We need to re-wire our brain to think differently. Being born in America gave me the opportunity to take advantage of freedom. I have opportunities that other people don’t. For that I’m extremely happy. But I don’t deserve freedom any more than the next person.
So did you see what I did there? I increased my happiness by comparing my reality to what I could have. Like I previously said, it’s all mindset. Instead of saying “I have to go to work” try saying “I get to go to work.” You get to pick up your kids from school, you get to go workout, and you get to take your dog out. Once you shift your perception, it’s a lot easier to find happiness. I know people without limbs, people without parents, and people who’ve lost friends and family way too early, and they are truly happy people. Why is that? Because they know it could be a lot worse, and are thankful for what they do have. They have mastered their mindset.