A couple of weeks back, I was easing my way into the day, enjoying the peace and quiet before the rest of the house began to stir.
Gathering my thoughts and skimming through that day’s edition of the newspaper on my phone, as I like to do, I was sifting through all the usual blah blah blah that the media pushes, when I stumbled into an article that nearly made me choke on my morning coffee.
According to this particular article, researchers at University College London found that the key to happiness lies in settling for mediocrity.
Read that again: the key to happiness lies in settling for mediocrity.
Mediocrity. The key to happiness? I know! Crazy, right?
Essentially, the research tested groups of people in different ways to find out what induced a happy state and what did not.
Through the tests, the researchers found that – and brace yourself for this – happiness followed ‘when the outcome of a situation was better than expected’.
And, not content simply to make that paradigm-shifting discovery, the researchers even developed an algorithm and an iPhone app to prove the point!
OK, maybe I was being more than a little sarcastic using the term ‘paradigm-shifting’ to describe the research findings. And, while I may have been left a little incredulous that someone would actually report something so un-newsworthy, it was not the finding itself that made me almost choke on my morning coffee.
No, what made me nearly choke on my drink was the recommendation that followed. The recommendation that, in order to be happy, you should set the bar of expectation nice and low.
Nice. And. Low.
Think on that for a moment: if you want to be happy you need to lower your expectations.
Regrouping from my near-choking experience, I read on.
And, from what I read it seems that, if you are going to meet friends for a meal, for example, you should pick a low grade joint rather than your top-end favourite restaurant. You see, according to the research, your expectations of what your experience of the top-end favourite restaurant will be like will be so high that disappointment is inevitable.
Basically, if you stand six feet tall, don’t reach for the stars, reach for something that is a maximum of six feet off the ground, and you can’t lose.
But here’s the thing with that approach: you can lose.
You can lose everything.
Imagine Thomas Edison thinking to himself “Well, Sir Humphry Davy couldn’t get it to work, and it didn’t really play out for Warren de la Rue. So, as much as I’d like to have a crack at making a lightbulb, I think I’ll just stick with this candle. It’s not ideal, but it’ll do.”.
What if Tim Berners-Lee had thought “I guess it could be kind of cool if there was something like a world wide web, and news could be real-time and everything, everywhere could be connected. But, heck, you get yesterday’s news in the newspaper, and the postal system isn’t such a bad way to keep in touch.”?
Would Edison have died a happy man, or a man who wondered “What would have happened if…”?
Or would Berners-Lee, every time he picked up a newspaper, have thought “This is just how news should be!”? I’m guessing not.
And what if you convinced yourself that the world didn’t really need the best version of you?
What if, maybe, the interpretation of your real life that you find yourself trapped inside isn’t really that bad, after all?
What if you convinced yourself that, instead of reaching for the stars, you should pick from the low hanging fruit?
What if you walked away from the future you dare to dream that, one day, may be your reality, just in case you couldn’t pull it off?
If you did those things, would you die happy, believing you had lived the life you were made for and soared into the fullness of your potential? Or would you take a sense of regret, of missed opportunity, of “what if?” and “if only” into eternity with you?
You are meant for more, not less.
You are meant to soar with eagles, not wade through the quagmire of mundane existence.
You are meant to raise the bar of expectation to new, yet to be discovered, heights, not drag it to the depths of what has always been.
You are a sojourner, not made to settle, or accept mediocrity as your companion.
For you, happiness – real happiness – does not lie in the achievable, it lies in the unachievable.
For you, happiness is not to be found in the outcome – the destination – but in the adventure towards that place on the horizon where the world is as it should be.
Don’t be duped into existence, never lower your expectations and always reject mediocrity – life is an adventure to be lived, not an algorithm or an iPhone app.