Why you don’t really know when you were at your happiest

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently. She was advocating the practice of sitting quietly and asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. The idea is that when you find that moment, you should plan your life to go forward in that direction.

While this is a nice idea in principle, I think it’s fundamentally flawed because we can’t reliably determine when we were at our happiest.

At any given moment, our thoughts and decisions are coloured by what is going on, or what has recently gone on around us. This uncontrollable mental filter changes the way we think, so with such grand questions it’s highly likely we will come to different answers on different days.

 

The only way to reliably determine when we are/were at our happiest is to engage third parties for triangulation. Yes, we can come to a decision on our own, but would independent observers reach the same decision?

Keeping a journal or blog can help, but our interpretation of what we have written can again be coloured by recent events.

An independent viewpoint is key. The difficult part is finding the observer who has known you long enough, and well enough, to be objective and honest.