HAPPY PEOPLE GET WHAT THEY WANT,
BECAUSE THEY WANT WHAT THEY CAN GET
Another reason lowered ambitions may contribute to happiness is simply because they are more likely to be achieved.
When it comes to happiness, it’s an easy idea to understand. Say your a salesperson. If your goal is to do 10% more sales than you did last year, chances are better that you might achieve this, than it will if your goal is to double your sales. Obviously, doubling your sales will be far more thrilling than increasing them by 10% — but which outcome is more probable? Assuming the 10% figure is realistic, while the “doubling of sales” is almost impossible: which is the better goal to select? As far as happiness goes, the lesser goal is a better bet. It can meet with success. The higher goal, on the other hand, may be setting you up for a bitter disappointment — mainly because it’s unachievable.
Everyone would agree that some goals are harder to reach than others. For the sake of argument, lets graphically represent them in the line below…
EASY MODERATE HARD
Imagine this line represents a continuum of goals one might possibly set for oneself, ranging from the easiest to achieve on one end, and gradually building in difficulty to the most challenging and difficult goals to achieve at the other. In every possible pursuit in life, one’s goals could be arrayed on this line. For demonstration purposes, however, let’s take just one area of possible goal setting: an academic career.
At the easy end of the line might be graduating from high school. At the moderate level could be doing successfully in college. In the middle to hard range might be admission to a graduate program. And at the difficult end would be the achievement of an advanced professional degree.
Sports achievement might be another way to look at the line. At the easy level, would be just making the roster of the high school team. In the moderate zone: being a high school standout and getting a college scholarship. Higher still would be becoming a college “star” and selected into professional sports. And the highest level, naturally, would be “super-stardom” at the multimillion dollar pinnacle on a world-class team.
Certainly, as we move across the line, things become a bit tougher to achieve. But why not set our goals at the top?
The most fundamental reason is because, in all probability, we’ll fail!
In the real world, there are many limits to success.
Academically, the number of actual admissions to advanced degree programs are quite limited. Only the top 10% of college students (as a rough average) have the opportunity to continue any higher than a 4-year degree.
In sports, less than 2% of all college athletes make it into professional sports.
In business, although there are hundreds of corporate executives who’d like to be the company C.E.O., there’s only one slot open at any given time.
Most lawyers dream of serving on the Supreme Court, but of the tens of thousands of current local and state judges, and the many hundred of thousands of practicing lawyers, there are only nine Supreme Court appointees — and they serve for a lifetime.
Financially, although we’d all like to be millionaires, there’s not enough actual wealth in the world to allow each of us to be one.