Why We Have More Opportunity Than Our Parents Yet Are Less Happy
Person A said, “If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.” Person B corrected Person A and said, “You made a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” Good morning. Today I will be talking about why we have more opportunity than our parents but are less happy.
Everyone has annual checklists of new resolutions. Learn a new language. Or two. Or three. Skydive. Change jobs. Go back to school. Learn to play an instrument. Write a novel. Take up a new sport. Get buff. We have the time and means and education to pursue things our parents and their parents before them could never have even dreamed of. Isn’t this everyone’s dream?
Yet we’re a notoriously unfulfilled generation. Neurotic, directionless, struggling with feelings of inadequacy, still rebelling against our parents, still trying to find ourselves, constantly struggling with existential angst…Why?
Why do we have so much already, with still many opportunities to accumulate more, yet find ourselves somehow less personally fulfilled than our parents were at our ages? My parents had a fraction of the education I had. Why are our parents and grandparents so much happier and less regretful, even though they grew up with so much more responsibility and so many fewer toys?
The answer is synthetic happiness. What synthetic happiness means is that when we don’t get what we want and we resign ourselves to the fact that we’ll never get what we want, our minds adapt and we end up being as happy with the unwanted result as we would have been with the originally desired result. It’s important to realize that these people aren’t simply lying to themselves to make themselves feel better about the disappointing development. These people have actually become as happy with the unwanted result as they would have been with the result they originally wanted. But the problem is, synthetic...