In part 1, we explained that positive emotions are not permanent and the emotional pendulum swings back and forth. In part 2, we explained that by expanding your comfort zone, you make your happiness lasting and resistant to adverse circumstances. Here in part 3, we are going to explain how to create lifelong happiness.
How often do you feel a kind of emptiness and sadness when an amazing trip is over, or an exciting project is completed? That is the emotional pendulum. While you are planning that new trip or project, your pendulum moves towards the “euphoria” side. The pendulum reaches a peak of positive emotions when you achieve your goal. The enjoyment doesn’t last long, though. A while later, you get used to it, relax, and experience the emotional gap.
The emotional gap is when everything exciting has already gone, you don’t know what to do next, and eventually, you start feeling sadness. The pendulum swings back towards “anguish” when, for example, you go back to work after an exciting vacation. It seems to be the end of your happiness.
Is it? Obviously not. What can you do to avoid the emotional gap and stay happy?
To swing away from the “anguish” side of the pendulum, you need to aim at a new goal. Start planning the next vacation trip or engage in a new work project. By doing this, you push the pendulum towards “euphoria” again. Our brain is constructed in a way that we feel positive emotions when we are just planning and looking forward to a happy future event. It won’t stop the emotional swings, but you can at least shorten the gap and move forward quicker with positive emotions.
To create lifelong happiness, you need to soften the swings of the emotional pendulum. Planning and looking forward to a bigger goal and achieving smaller accomplishments in the meantime can make those swings back feel unnoticeable. For example, when you are waiting for a promotion, you don’t dread coming to work on Monday mornings as much. Since you have a bigger goal in mind, you are excited to start a new week and develop a further sense of progress.
To create lifelong happiness, you can start by making a life plan. Large-scale dreams and aspirations help to sustain your happiness and make you resistant to temporary negative emotions.
Use these prompts to pin down your dreams and aspirations:
Dream bigger than life: what impact do you want to make on your society or the whole civilization? What experience, knowledge, and achievements you want to share with future generations?
Dream of life: what is the purpose of your life? What do you want to achieve till the moment of your death?
Dream of a life period: what goal do you want to reach? What tasks to accomplish till a particular age? [Till 25, till 30, till 35, till 40, till 50 - it’s up to you to determine the duration of the meaningful periods of your life.]
*Think of what would be the most vivid, meaningful, and exciting versions for the following:
Dream of a year
Dream of a season
Dream of a month
Dream of a week
Dream of a day
By drafting these milestones, you can acquire more self-awareness of how you want to live your life.
If you look at prompts #1 and #2, those are large-scale dreams. Completing these is not an easy task, and you might not accomplish it all at once. You might need years to formulate them. Yet the practice of thinking about them can trigger a search for higher meaning and purpose in life.
By drafting your large-scale dreams, you can opt for better directions of self-development and make your happiness lifelong. Fulfillment of large-scale dreams requires the help of others and results in good for others. As you extend your purpose into the community, you can inspire others to live a more meaningful life and to learn how to make their happiness lasting and sustainable.
So, go ahead. Dream, plan, strive, achieve and be lifelong happy!