What can we learn from the happiest man in the world?
Matthew Ricard, a monk and mediator, teaches that happiness is more than the experience of pleasure, It's a state of mind that can be cultivated through intentional perspective shifts and behavioral changes. Studies have shown that about 25 percent of our potential for happiness is defined by our genes – but that means 75 percent is up to us!
Happiness is an internal state, not a response to external circumstances. People who win the lottery only experience a brief spike in happiness before returning to their baseline. Psychologists Philip Brickman and Dan Campbell call this the hedonic treadmill.
Most adults live lives defined by dissatisfaction or dissapointment. Dissatisfaction is caused the pursuit of pleasure confused with happiness. Disappointment comes from the discovery that pleasure does not bring lasting happiness.
Matthew Ricard suggests that disappointment and dissatisfaction end when we realize that negative experiences come not from what happens to us but how we think about what happened to us. For example if a person experiences the end of a friendship they will experience unhappiness but it isn't caused by the loss of the relationship, it's caused by the person's fears about loneliness and social status.
A key to overcoming dissatisfaction and disappointment is discovering our thought patterns and the stories we tell ourselves about happiness that define the way we perceive experiences.