Kinda Make Your Own Happy
Pete Best is not famous, but he is happy. Pete used to be in a band but was replaced early on. As it happens, the band had some success without him. Pete was the drummer. He was replaced by a dude called Ringo.
So, you get the rest.
In an interview in the 90’s, Pete said he was quite happy playing in bands and being a studio drummer with decades of fun times hanging out with other musos and generally doing what he wanted - without the burden of fame.
"I'm happier than I would have been with the Beatles”, he said.
Yeah, right. Suuure you are, Pete.
We’ve all done this. Convince yourself that a missed opportunity for perceived happiness was actually a blessing because we’re happier without it. It’s not a lie. It’s called impact bias or what TED Talker and Harvard Psychologist Dan Gilbert labelled ‘synthetic happiness’.
If real happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, synthetic happiness is what we make when we don't get what we wanted. We might think that synthetic happiness is inferior. If the end result for either is happiness, why the preference?
Stop for a sec and imagine an economy where everyone believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it? As Dan Gilbert says, ‘a shopping mall full of Zen monks is not going to be particularly profitable, because they don't want stuff enough’.
It was also put me - a radio advertising creative director - out of a job.
But, synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as the kind of happiness you stumble upon when you get exactly what you were aiming for. They tested this with something called the Free Choice Paradigm. I’m going into science-y stuff but only briefly. You present people with six objects - famous paintings - and ask them to rank them in order of most liked to least. Then you tell them they can choose one print to take home, but not their favourite.
Later, the subjects are asked to re-rank the famous paintings again in order of most liked to least. The overwhelming result of this free choice paradigm is that the one they took home GOES HIGHER.
Essentially, we think "The one I got is really better than I thought! That's the synthesis of happiness.
So what’s it all mean? We make our own happy. We each have within us the capacity to synthesise - to create - the very thing we are constantly craving. If it were a zen meme, it would be reduced to 'when you’re content with what you have, everything else becomes needless.'
Unless it’s something a radio ad is selling you. You’ll need that shit if you want to be truly happy.
Here's a link to Dan's cool - but longish - TED Talk