The science of choices and hapiness

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There are moments in our lives when we find ourselves at a crossroads. The choices we make in those moments can define the rest of our days. Of course, when faced with the unknown, most of us prefer to turn around and go back.

It’s been a week since I descended onto this path. I feel like a fresher: afraid, fragile and stressful. Why? I bypassed an offer for such a great job. Maybe the salary at where I’m going could never compete with that job. A RMIT lecturer worked there too. That should tell you how interesting that job is. That compelled me to explore more. Why? It’s the choice I made after carefully considered the pro and cons. Why am I still haunted about my decision? Why do I still want more of something I can’t have any more?

Coincidentally, I got time to watch some TED presentations, and among the most favoured ones are these:

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Dan Gilbert: Why are we happy?

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choices.

I am biased against these talks at first because it’s natural human psychological behaviour to feel that way when things go against your expectations but I think they are right. Happiness is not something you will have eternally, it goes up and down with what you call “morale” or “emotion”. Your life goals have nothing to do with happiness, when you achieve it, the happiness is there but it won’t linger for long. It will be defeated with other matters like what you will eat for dinner and how will you survive the day. It’s your instinct to pursuit what make us happy but it’s your consciousness that decides which happy thing to have when there are many choices.

And that’s what tormented me.

I have more choice that other people. And a real choice, it’s not about choosing between rice or noodles for dinner, it’s about where I’m going for the next three years, it’s between taking an opportunity to achieve a life-long dream or living a nice life, which is also my target-to-be after I have my dream achieved.

It’s a choice I have to live with.

It’s natural that I get this feeling, being miserable for the choice I didn’t made, to find so many negative things that goes with my choice only after I’ve done it. Well, there is a bias working around here. Should I have take the other option, maybe I will find something negative about it too, especially when I doesn’t have as many data to evaluate it at the time, and there’s no way I can get more now.

Life is so crude, it make you push yourself, make choices that deep inside you just don’t want to make. But it’s a war of consciousness and desire. It’s what you will get along the way and in the end that matters. Sum them up and see which you like better. It’s easy to make a choice, you know you’ll do it any way, but it’s the preceding process of choice and the succeeding process of living the choice that’s hard mentally. But as another TED presentation have said, to be success you need to persist through CRAP, which is criticism, rejection, assholes and pressure, of which three comes from yourself.

  • Don’t criticize yourself about your choice, you know it’s hard to make and you’ll do exactly the same should things happened again.
  • Don’t reject yourself, no matter what you do, as long as you are striving, you’ll achieve something. It may be big or small, but you know you did your best provided you can’t turn back time.
  • Don’t pressure yourself,  you know humans doesn’t live well with stress, so there’s just no reason to be so pessimistic about the future. You don’t know what you’ll get, you can’t control it so blaming yourself doesn’t make things any better.

It’s so true that having choices and freedom may torment people, but the cure is also there, you can control your happiness, live positively, believe in yourself. It’s against common sense, people just won’t see why you are doing it, you are expected to be better. But hey, it’s your life not theirs!

In the end, I’m still glad life gave me so many choices, so many opportunities, so many ways I can live to my heart’s true desire :D. This is not the last time I have to make a choice. This path will lead to more choices. I hope the next time I have to choose, I will be glad I made the right choice, be a grown up and control my own life 🙂