We Can't Get No...duh duh duh...Satisfaction
Happiness is like a stock price--increasing it above its current level depends on beating expectations. And yet, each time you beat expectations, it makes it that much harder to beat the numbers the next time out.
I remember when I was still in college, I often said to myself that I would be happy if I had a laptop and a cell phone. Yep, I thought, once I have those two things, I'll have it made. I'll be able to write and talk from wherever I want.
Flash forward 15 years, and I have that laptop and cell phone. In fact, I have three laptops scattered around the house, a high-speed wireless network, a minivan with a DVD player, and enough children's toys to supply a small African nation.
And there is no doubt that I am happy. But am I happier than I was 15 years ago?
Having can't buy happiness. Once we get beyond meeting our basic needs, the additional luxuries may provide a temporary boost, but our expectations inevitably rachet up to make what you only dreamed of yesterday what you take for granted today.
A year after their big win, lottery winners are no happier than they were when they were poor. Unless of course they are millionaire US Senators.
It just doesn't seem fair.
Of course, maybe there's a reason behind our dissatisfaction.
Remember, the goal of evolution is to perpetuate the species, not make individual members happy.
Dissatisfaction drives us onwards.
In the middle ages, the Chinese decided that civilization had advanced enough, thank you, and that things were just fine. Despite a technological lead that could be measured in centuries, they stagnated, and China was forced to open up by the gunboats of the British Empire during the Opium Wars.
If happiness were an evolutionary advantage, we would all be euphoric. Instead, the level of human happiness seems relatively constant.
Just as the relentless drive to beat the numbers pushes our economy forward, our relentless drive towards an unattainable and illusory goal pushes our civilization forward.
So when you feel dissatisfied with your life, you can feel satisfaction that your dissatisfaction is helping to make the world a better place.