Research has proven time and time again that happier people are healthier, more relaxed, more likely to connect and do something for others. Behavior that causes us pleasure is likely to prevail. Happy people are more likely to procreate, giving them that evolutionary advantage. Again, all good things.
But why should happier people obtain an advantage? From a systems perspective, is that a good thing?
I have a theory, and I'm not sure whether it is a spiritual, sociological or otherwise scientific one (I'll take your expert advice on that!)
I think happiness sets LIMITS.
We live in a crazy culture - ripping out, burning up and consuming our resources at a rate many times faster than our planet can sustain. We run around like an elephant in the china shop, pretending that unlimited growth on a finite planet is, somehow, going to be possible. That someone - maybe Elon Musk - is going to work out how.
The painful truth is: It's probably not going to happen. Our limitlessness is going to take us out - individually and collectively, sooner or later. Actually, probably sooner than you think.
But there is an antidote, and I believe it was given to us for a reason. That 'just right' mix of chemicals that is happiness curbs our otherwise pretty limitless drive to be, do, produce, consume, obtain MORE, which is currently wreaking havoc on our planet. It can stop us in our tracks.
Happiness sets limits.
When we are truly happy, we do not want to obtain, possess or search for anything more. All we want is for others to happy too - that, admittedly, without limitations.
I'm inclined to say that a lot of our planet's current predicament is due to the absence of true happiness.
So what has gone wrong? - We have collectively forgotten how to create happiness - and instead associated it with all sorts of material belongings. Dopamine, the 'surprise reward' molecule has taken over and is running the show. Somehow we have formed neural pathways that associated the perception of gain with happiness - and somehow, as a society, we have proliferated and continued to reinforce that.
The dubiosity of that is not new: As most self-development coaches will tell you: If you think that material gains = dopamine = happiness, you're selling yourself short. It's a pretty short-lived high and will leave you craving nothing more than the next hit. True happiness - obtained in balanced manner and through a balanced mix of chemicals, including those stimulated by human connection, contribution, physical exercise, personal growth, calm, certainty and variety - are much more lasting and thus will deliver more lasting happiness.
There's a lot of really good work and good tools out there who will help you question your quest for materialism and help you get a more balanced mix by helping you focus on your mindset and meaning. Because happiness is available to you in an instant, at all times - regardless of circumstance.
That insight alone is transformational, ground breaking and fantastic - and worth getting help with.
But what are the coaches getting wrong? - Well, more often than not they forget that the 'how' matters. They overlook that we're living on a finite planet. A lot of coaches will tell you you can have anything you want, and they will help you achieve it, no matter what it is. Because it's all about the client - you. They'll advise balance, but they'll be willing to settle for dopamine, at least in the interim.
The only thing is: it's actually not about you. It's about all of us, and the living ecosystems around us that keep us alive. Call it nature, gaia, planet, spirit - call it what you like - the thing is: You can't exist without it.
So the how matters. HOW you obtain happiness matters. And HOW LONG you can maintain it for, so that it can act as a limit on you.
Why I need you (and everyone else) to be happy is so that you can stop. Stop consuming, stop pursuing anything other than other people's happiness. Because if you don't, my kids won't have a planet left to live on.
Better get on with it.