One of the most popular TED talks is Dan Gilbert’s The Surprising Science of Happiness, in which he talks about how our expectations of a situation can alter the way we feel about it. I highly recommend checking out the TED talk–it’s worth the 20 minutes because it draws some surprising conclusions. The first is that we can actually synthesize our own happiness. He lists a number of people that have lost it all, and comments on how much happier they are now without what they had. This leads to one of the most stunning conclusions of all: “The reversible condition is not conducive to the synthesis of happiness.”
Naturally, a situation where you lose everything is not great, but you learn to live with it. If there were a return road from that, if there were choices, options, escape strategies, it would open up the doors to possibilities and in so doing, open up the doors to lots of misery. Think about it for a minute, the last time you had to make a major choice, have you wondered what if? Did that what if ever make you happy?
What if isn’t the best way to live your life. In a reversible situation, we can waste so much energy considering the different choices we could have made, and in the end end up unhappy with the situation we have. If we can accept the situation we’re in right now, accept the irreversible nature of it, then maybe we can be happier–maybe we can synthesize some happiness and feel better about life.
Synthesizing happiness then becomes about making the best of a bad situation–a lesson I need to remind myself daily.