The line below represents the graph of a typical happy person. Note that the “X” is in the same location as the genetic individual we presented above. But also note the cluster of dots which are drawn-in. These represent the goals this happy person has set for him or herself.
“A Happy Person”
EASY MODERATE HARD
Here you see a picture of success. The happy person seems to have selected goals that are within his or her ability to achieve. Thus, time after time, they’ve been able to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Only rarely, as the dots indicate, have they set goals beyond their ability level. Perhaps the reason they’ve set such realistically achievable goals is because they have such an honest and objective picture of themselves — or perhaps, as we’ve suggested, happy people have more modest ambitions. Whichever the case, however, happy people appear to get what they want because they want what they can truly get.
The graph of the unhappy person is just the opposite. As seen in the graph below, even though the ability-level is just the same, the dots which represent the unhappy person’s goals are all way beyond their ability to achieve.
“An Unhappy Person”
EASY MODERATE HARD
Here is the sad picture of failure. A picture of a person who fails to achieve most of the goals they set for xxx. They took to heart the popular cultural message that it was best to “aim high” and ended-up empty handed. They staked their happiness on getting into medical school when they were only an average college student. They dreamed of a professional sports career when they barely made the college football team. They imagined themselves on a Broadway stage when they landed a lead in the high school play. And the saddest thing of all is that they had the very same ability as our happy person. Their sadness came in the improbable goals they set for themselves.
Why do unhappy people set such impossible goals for themselves? The research shows many reasons. Unhappy people tend to over-exaggerate their abilities. They tend to envision grandiose possibilities for themselves as the only exit to their unhappiness. And they tend to see happiness strictly in terms of elaborate success and fame.