The Fundamental Happiness Paradox
There is a phenomenon that most of us will probably recognize, which Raghunathan calls the Fundamental Happiness Paradox: we want to achieve happiness, but often pursue things that clearly don’t lead to it. Raghunathan elaborates:
On the one hand people think happiness is very, very important to them, so therefore you would think that they ought to be making decisions are consistent with that, but when we observe their decisions, a good 50-60 percent of the time they are sacrificing happiness for the sake of other things as they go about their daily lives, in little small ways, and even in big ways.
The problem is that we pursue happiness through various means, such as money, status, esteem, or health, but we sometimes overly fixate on these means rather than the ends. As a society we do recognize this on some level—think of all the movies and television shows that end with the protagonists realizing what’s really important to them. Yet, it tells you something if we keep having to remind ourselves about this constantly and repetitively in our cultural stories. Psychology has already explained why we eat the last few Cheetos in a bowl, and in the future may help explain this mystery of why we don’t pursue our happiness as directly as we could.