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Happiness by experience or evaluation?

I am happy because... I live in a nice, big house I get paid a good amount of money I am married and have children I have a good job and lots of great qualifications I have the time to get to the gym 4 times a week

OR - I am happy because... I laughed a lot with my husband and children today I really helped two people at work and it felt great I ate a delicious meal for lunch I felt so good moving my body at a dance class I was calm and relaxed all day from getting a good night's sleep

These two lists describe the difference between the happiness that comes from us evaluating our life and the happiness that comes from experiencing our life. The happiness that comes from evaluation is often based on what we think we "should" be doing or "should" have achieved in life. Happiness by evaluation relates to our bigger and broader goals. It can also often relate to standards or measures of "success" that are often imposed by society or what most people are striving for.

Happiness by experience on the other hand, describes day-to-day happiness that is derived from doing things that we enjoy or that make us feel good. Happiness by experience also comes from where we are focusing our attention on a day-to-day basis - are we focusing on the good things or on the bad? Do we feel good most of the time from thinking thoughts and focusing on things that make us feel positive or do we feel bad from thinking thoughts and focusing on things that worry us?

Many people that I give therapy to - particularly those that are managing unhelpful perfectionism - will tell me that they are "happy" because of those things in the first list i.e. they are happy by evaluation. However, they still feel unfulfilled and unhappy day-to-day and cannot understand why. It is often because the high standards that they are aiming for do not necessarily equate to day-to-day enjoyment or fulfilment. They are "successful" and yet "unhappy". They have what most people want and yet not what they truly need to feel satisfied and content day-to-day.

These two lists also show the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for life choices - are you doing something because you think others will value you more for doing this thing (extrinsic motivation) or because you value it and enjoy doing it yourself (intrinsic motivation)? Are you doing something because you think you "should" do it or because you know it will day-to-day bring you happiness and joy?

Often when treating unhelpful perfectionism - I encourage my clients to re-define "success" - to ask themselves what it is that will truly make them happy day-to-day...because often when focusing too much on the goals, we can lose sight of the fact that life is actually made up of the journey that we take to get to those goals. Yes absolutely, having goals and setting intentions are very important but at the same time, we have to enjoy the day-to-day process of getting there. Yes I want to go on that exciting hike through the forest - and yes I don't want to run completely off course and get eaten by bears - but I also really want to enjoy every moment before I get to the end-point that I have set myself. There is no point in taking that hike if I hate every moment of my journey to getting to the end point of the trail.

"That’s why it is important to enjoy the journey not just the destination. In this world, we will never arrive at a place where everything is perfect and we have no more challenges. As admirable as setting goals and reaching them may be, you can’t get so focused on accomplishing your goals that you make the mistake of not enjoying where you are right now." - Joel Osteen

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