Do you make meaningful decisions or decisions that make you happy?

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Louise Hay
@louisehay
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We have to make hundreds of decisions every day. Many of these small. What do we have for breakfast? What clothes will we wear? What brand of milk to buy? Other decisions are more meaningful and can change the course of our life.

When we have to make meaningful decisions, we usually project ourselves into the future to try to see how they will affect us. And because we live in a "tyranny of happiness," we tend to wonder if that decision will make us happy. However, making important decisions based on our projection of happiness can be a double-edged sword.



Our perception of happiness changes over time

Psychological research suggests that our conception of happiness and what makes us happy changes systematically over the course of life. Our meaning of happiness is dynamic, perhaps far more so than we are willing to acknowledge. What makes us happy today may not make us happy tomorrow because our priorities and life prospects change. So making decisions based solely on what we think will make us happy can take us down a path that isn't satisfying in the long run.

Jennifer Aaker, a social psychologist at Stanford School of Business, believes that decisions driven by the desire to be happy can generate a sense of joy and pleasure, but this is usually fleeting. Therefore, he proposes that we ask ourselves another question when making decisions: what is most meaningful to us?

How to distinguish what makes us happy from what is meaningful?

You can lead a relatively happy life without it being particularly meaningful, in the same way that a meaningful life doesn't always guarantee happiness.

To understand the difference between what makes us happy and what is meaningful in our life, we can think of parenting or motherhood. Fathers and mothers often have meaningful lives, but that doesn't mean they are always happy as parenting can be very challenging and is not without worries and conflicts.



The choices we make when we aspire to happiness are different from the choices we make when we aspire to something meaningful. In fact, sometimes making meaningful decisions isn't easy because they come at a high cost or we have to give up certain things for a broader purpose.

A person who wants to develop a professional career, for example, will have to make some sacrifices throughout his life to achieve the set goals. This will mean making decisions based on a set of meaningful values ​​and aspirations, rather than just considering what will make her happy in the short to medium term.

The positive consequences of the decisions we make guided by the desire to achieve something meaningful, as opposed to happiness, tend to last longer because they do not consist in giving the ego what it wants at that moment, but in having a broader perspective. over time and a deeper understanding of our identity that guides us to make decisions in harmony with who we are and what we want to be.

How to make meaningful decisions?

1. Look to the future

Usually before embarking on a path, we try to look into the future to analyze the impact of the different options and make the best decision. But meaningful decisions can connect us to the future in a different way.

A study conducted at Harvard Business School revealed that people make decisions that may seem adverse at first glance, to use their time more productively and have unique new experiences that allow them to enrich their "experiential curriculum". Therefore, when we decide we should not only ask ourselves what makes us happy, but also what is meaningful to us.


2. Look back

Meaningful decisions are not made only by looking to the future but also by looking to the past, remembering the special moments that gave meaning to our life to find a common thread that gives it meaning.


In fact, a study conducted at the Wharton School showed that we tend to avoid situations that may threaten a special memory, even if the situation is pleasant. For example, we can forgo a positive experience if it threatens to erase a memory that is meaningful to us. Therefore, when choosing, we must also make sure we look back.


3. Look at the small details

In a general sense, we can group experiences into two broad categories: the extraordinary, which go beyond the scope of everyday life, and the ordinary, which make up everyday life and which we often neglect. Many times decisions focused on happiness lead to "extraordinary" experiences, but the truth is that life experiences can become more meaningful.

A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed that while extraordinary experiences are valuable in the early years of life, ordinary and life experiences become increasingly important with age and contribute to a sense of identity and well-being. This is why it is important not to be dazzled by the promise of extraordinary experiences and to learn to make the most of the satisfaction that everyday experiences give.


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