How to balance natural and synthetic happiness at work

This article was written by Tais Lyager Rasmussen and Woohoo inc’s newest employee Thomas Christensen.

In a previous blog post we explored the concept of synthetic happiness at work and how it can be a powerful tool to relieve the stress of having to achieve. In this post, we will explore more deeply how synthetic happiness or personal happiness might be a sorely needed way of thinking in society today.

To recap the previous article:

  1. Synthetic happiness is what you make when you do not get what you want. This is in contrast to natural happiness that is when you get what you want.
  2. Synthetic happiness is just as real and genuine as natural happiness. Having many choices is great for natural happiness but bad for synthetic happiness because choices hinders the internal validation process that occurs when you are “stuck” with something.
  3. This means that natural happiness, being reliant and influenced primarily on external forces and validation, can safely be called external happiness.
  4. Synthetic happiness in contrast, can be labelled as internal happiness as it is reliant and influenced primarily by internal validation.
  5. We ended on the idea that the relationship between the two could be a driver behind overall happiness.

This article will explore how difficult it can be to navigate in a world skewed towards external happiness.

In today’s society, there have never been more opportunities available than there is now. The possibilities in what career you can pursue, hobbies you can take up, clothe you can wear, TV-shows you can watch and the list goes on. All of these options provide you with the opportunity to design and create whatever life you want. However, this large amount of possibilities ends up becoming a problem as you might experience choice overload. Choice overload is when an individual’s decision-making process is hampered by too many options. When a decision has too many alternatives, it becomes so complex that it is impossible to rationally evaluate every option against each other. When this happens, people become overwhelmed and might chose not to choose at all. This can lead to stress and potential regret from believing that you have chosen the wrong option.

When we combine the idea of internal happiness with choice overload, you get a society where individuals’ decision-making processes are being sabotaged by the number of options they have. This results in potential stress and regret but it is also a terrible foundation for internal happiness. As proposed earlier, choice is good for external happiness but bad for internal happiness.

How do you train yourself to appreciate internal happiness in a world geared towards highlighting external happiness? How can you make yourself be happy where you are right now, when everywhere you look you are expected to grow, to surpass, to go somewhere and buy something; in short use the endless possibilities there exist.

Social media is generally a wonderful thing, but it can be easy to look at other peoples’ adventures and consider them missed opportunities for you. It is natural and intrinsic to human nature to compare ourselves to other people, but what is really happening is that you are comparing yourself to a highly stylized ideal presented through a media of your choice, not an actual person.

This is also true in work situations where the idea of growth is ingrained in the way we think of ourselves in the workspace. In a performance culture, you are compared to other people and the benchmarks of other people. Your own contributions are rarely seen in comparison to yourself, they are most likely seen in comparison to your coworkers or company benchmarks. This could rob you of the ability to be satisfied with your own work.

With all of that in mind, here are 4 tips for living in an environment skewed towards external happiness

1. When contributing to a shared project at work, or anywhere else, you should not continuously compare your efforts with other contributors. Instead, you should focus on the work you have contributed with and compare with your own previous work.

2. A small dosage of nostalgia is advantageous. Try to key significant memories to items, this adds value to them, and makes you less likely to feel the need to replace them.

3. Try always placing yourself in a situation where you do not have the possibility to change your choices. This will initiate the internal validation process and act as a catalyst for internal happiness.

4. Be critical of the notion that happiness is getting what you want. The world might be geared for external happiness but at the end of the day happiness is a perceived experience, and whether it comes from getting what you want or enjoying what you get, it is still reliant on each individual’s own perception. The difference is that learning to like what you get is much more stable than getting what you want, as it does not rely on external forces for validation.

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