Wouldn’t it be great to have everything you wanted? A nice big house with its own swimming pool, a sports car or two parked on the drive, a job you love that pays well and plenty of time off work to visit your summer house in Capri or your favourite island in the Maldives. If you had all that then you would defiantly be happy right! Wrong!
You see stuff doesn’t make people happy. Ask people who have won the lottery and don’t need to work another day in their life, many lottery winners find that friendships become damaged, sometimes beyond repair and relationships become impossible. In 1978 in the ‘Journal of Personality and Social Psychology’ researched lottery winners and compared them to non-lottery winners and people who had suffered from accidents that left them paralysed. The lottery winners were not much happier than the non-lottery winners and the people who were injured were only slightly less happy, the study showed that people have a set point of happiness that people return to following a life altering event. Sure, it would be nice to have everything you ever wanted and this would make you temporarily happy, at least until the novelty wears off, but a wealth of evidenced suggest that material stuff doesn’t make people happy or even happier in the long term.
The media have us believe that some people have perfect lives, you only need to watch an advertisement for dog food on the TV, it’s a warm summers day and a golden retriever is running in slow-motion through a field. The owner is extremely attractive and has a huge smile on her face as she strokes and pats the dog. Back at the beautiful house she places a bowl of dog food on the floor that looks good enough for human consumption and you catch a glimpse of the Aga in the background. Now let’s look at what is often the reality. Its pouring with rain but the dog needs a walk, following an argument with your partner you draw the short straw and you find yourself dripping wet through in the park, you pull a poo bag out of your pocket to pick up the massive turd that seemed to endlessly exit your dogs arse, after carrying the bag around for the rest of the walk you eventually find a bin which is overflowing with dog poo to place the now slightly ripped bag. You open the car and the wet dog jumps in and decides it needs to shake, spraying gallons of water over you and the interior of your car. When you get to the house you open the car and the goes running in leaving a pile of wet hairs in the car and a trail of muddy footprint though the house. Whilst still soaking wet you open a can of dog food but the can opener jams due to a dent in the can. The food doesn’t pour from the can like it does on the advert, nor does it come out in one perfect tower of meatiness. Instead you find yourself trying to scoop out the dog food with an fork whist the dog salivate all over the kitchen units and before the bowl touches the floor the dog tucks in almost knocking the bowl out of your hands. Ok maybe that’s a bit extreme but so are the TV adverts that constantly try to sell us the perfect life.
One of the problems is that no matter how much stuff you have there is always someone who has more. Striving for a perfect life isn’t a bad thing and it is true that the human desire for the latest iPhone helps economies grow, this provides employment where people can flourish and this can lead to happiness, but the latest iPhone itself will not improve long term happiness because a new one is due out very soon which promises to be much better than the last one. So why did I buy that new car and why am I waiting for the new iPhone before I upgrade and if the car and iPhone won’t make me happy what will? The answer to this question is simple yet complex because we are all individuals but all the evidence seems to point to one thing, emotional intelligence! That is recognizing a feeling and knowing what to do with it.
The capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
"emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success"
To be continued...