How to reduce stress and build happiness

If you are in an Olympic final and miss out on a gold medal by 3 100’s of a second and are standing on the blocks with a silver medal – how do we typically feel? In most circumstances we feel disappointed don’t we? We wanted to win gold.

However, if we beat 4th place to win a Bronze medal by 3 100’s of a second, how do we typically feel? We feel relieved. Excited. We are just happy to have won a medal.

We have two different measuring systems. One measures up or forward and the other measures down or backward. The key to happiness is based on how we measure our progress and achievements. If we measure forward, chances are – nothing will ever be good enough. If we measure backward, we will have a sense of accomplishment because all of our progress is seen as success.

If we measure our achievements forward to the future – this is considered the negative zone. All of our achievements will be seen as failure leading to a life of disappointment, frustration and defeat. Why? Because our future is always moving. It is getting bigger. As we take each step toward our future aspirations, our aspirations grow in size. There is always a permanent difference between where we are now and where we want to be. We live in this hedonic treadmill. What used to make us happy doesn’t make us happy any longer. First we want the house and then we want the pool. We say we would be happy earning a salary of $80,000 yet when we get to that level, we want more money. If we measure our achievements, our progress against our future aspirations  – nothing will ever be good enough. We will always come up short.

However, if we measured our progress backwards from where we started, all of our progress is seen as success – we are actually moving forward. If we are going to build self -esteem, confidence and motivation leading to overall life happiness, we must measure our progress from where we were yesterday in comparison to today. The only person you can realistically compare yourself to is who you were yesterday. Yes, we absolutely must focus on our future aspirations and where we want to be and what we want to achieve because that is what gets us out of bed each day and it provides a source of motivation and inspiration. It helps us set our goals.  However, if we measure our progress in relation to it, nothing will ever be good enough. We need to have something to aspire to and we need to be able to maintain motivation, self-esteem and confidence by measuring our progress backwards from where we started.

Strategies for building emotional fitness

If our goal is to lose 12 kilos and we get on the scales and have only lost 300 grams (measuring forwards to the future aspiration of 12 kgs) – we will be be disappointed, frustrated and feel like a failure despite all of our efforts.

However, if we know our goal is to lose 12 kilos and each day we measure backwards to yesterday and we track our progress and actually look at what we achieved and measure our progress that way, all of our progress will be seen as success. We are actually moving forward.  For example, did 30 minute work out, took dog for a walk, drank 2 litres of water, had 6 small meals which were all healthy choices. This will provide fuel for feeling good and help us to keep moving forward.

As Dan Sullivan says, all happiness is based on measurement and how we individually use our brains to differentiate the present from the past and the future. In order to build happiness and have high self-esteem and confidence we need to measure our progress backwards. Start today!