Today I was listening to “The Happiness Hypothesis“, by Jonathan Haidt. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it is one of the best books I have found so far on the subject of happiness, combining scientific evidence with spiritual teachings and a good dollop of humour to come up with suggestions for finding happiness that really ring true.
One of the most interesting ideas that he puts forward is that there may be more happiness to be found in moving towards one’s goals than in actually achieving them. The completion of a life’s ambition is, you would think, fantastic. But then what?
There is often a feeling of anticlimax, or “now what?”. And/or a sense that your life was supposed to be transformed by the accomplishment of the goal, but in fact life afterwards is disappointingly similar to life before, but lacking even the eager anticipation of achievement.
I would say that in my experience this is true. My happiest days on the ocean are when I am making good progress towards my goal, counting down the miles to the next significant landmark (seamark?).
Today, though, wasn’t quite like that. I would say that it definitely helps when the progress is perceptible – unlike today. Occasional rain showers killed the wind, leaving me becalmed. I slogged along under sullen grey skies. The miles passed painfully slowly. I kept myself entertained with daydreams about my arrival, my first meal, my first shower, my first night in a proper bed. And reminded myself that I was, in fact, lucky to be going so slowly, giving me longer to savour the prospect of landfall.
I’m just not quite sure that I managed to convince myself.
A thought: If it makes a person happier to move towards a goal than to achieve it, I wonder if it makes sense to set such a ridiculously enormous goal that you’re unlikely ever to achieve it in your lifetime, but include lots of milestones along the way as excuses for interim celebrations?
Episode 46 of our Roz Roams podcast is live. Satellite phone coverage in the Indian Ocean is notoriously poor, so dear old Vic has the worst job in the world trying to edit together a podcast from phone calls that are as on-again-off-again as a celebrity romance. Thanks, Vic, for doing such a great job!
Would everybody please put in a good word with Neptune (or your divinity of choice) to ask for some nice helpful winds for me? I’ve done all the boat maintenance and cleaning that needs to be done, so I’m about done with the calm stuff now.
Quote for the day: “The awareness of the ambiguity of one’s highest achievements (as well as one’s deepest failures) is a definite symptom of maturity.” (Paul Tillich)
Sponsored Miles: Grateful thanks to John Griffin, Bruce Gervais, Michael Rupp, Bonnie Sterngold, Brian Smith, Tamara Fogg, Julian Gall, Hans Verwey, Karen Morss, Jennifer Bester, Kamas Industries, Steve Maskell and Doug Grandt.