Being Happy vs. Feeling Happy

I was thinking about people who eat fatty or sugary foods or indulge in drugs or who steal or who act solely on impulse in general. They’re doing it because it feels good at the time or they think it will get them what they want. And in the short term it does – a burst of adrenaline or endorphins or whatever they think will make them happy at that moment. But that isn’t sustainable and they have to keep doing those things to get the feeling back or to prolong it.

Other people, and I like to think I’m in this group, have an internal happiness that is naturally sustained. For these people, what they gain from doing the negative behaviors are small in comparison to what they already have. So there’s less real value gained, especially compared to the consequences.

Why do these groups of people differ? I think it’s because one group has, at some point, taken a step back from their day-to-day lives. They’ve had the opportunity to stand outside themselves and see things a little differently. And often they tend to see things from a higher vantage point where they can get a view of the bigger picture.

In your daily life you see yourself through your own lens. When you make a choice you always know the reasons and think that they’re good reasons.

Others are rarely privy to your reasoning. They see your behaviors without the knowledge that you have come up with a good reason for it. And many times their observation is more accurate than yours.

Many times these reasons are just rationalizations for making the decisions you have made. This is called cognitive dissonance and it’s caused when you have two conflicting ideas. On the one hand, you think of yourself as being nice and generous. On the other you’ve just done something that is mean or selfish.

In fact, many times we choose first and come up with reasons later. When you’re faced this conflicting view of yourself, you come up with a reason why you would have done it. These are tough to shake off. No one likes to think they’re selfish, rude, mean, thoughtless or evil, but sometimes that’s what it is when you take away rationalizations.

You have to take that step back to see your real self sometimes. And those who are truly happy with themselves are happy with who they are in the world. These people look at themselves from the outside fairly often and adjust their behavior to match what they want. In effect they shape who they really are to match who they think they are.

About Beau Woods

Beau Woods is a cyber safety innovation fellow with the Atlantic Council, a leader with the I Am The Cavalry grassroots initiative, and founder/CEO of Stratigos Security. His focus is the intersection of cybersecurity and the human condition, primarily around cyber safety, ensuring connected technology that can impact life and safety is worthy of our trust. Over the past several years in this capacity, he has consulted with automakers, medical device manufacturers, healthcare providers, cybersecurity researchers, US federal agencies and legislative staff, and the White House.

Posted on August 20, 2009, in Meandering Mind and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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