It’s How We Feel That Matters
Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics at Harvard University has been studying the effects of scarcity, and the results are something that we all need to consider. It seems that the perceived lack of something, is likely to have adverse effects on other areas of our lives, and in ways, you wouldn’t want or expect. What we think about a situation affects how we respond to it, and this has everything to do with our future success and happiness. We may think that our responses are temporary and relatively innocuous, but in reality, our lives may depend on them.
This study, and others like it, reveal that what we think manifests itself in a myriad of ways ranging from health and weight loss issues to relationship issues, for better or worse.
As I’ve often said, life happens in your mind.
Mullainathan is a behavioural economist, and as such, has not just been studying scarcity, but rather, the feeling of scarcity. When faced with a perceived scarcity of resources, it can consume us, causing us to focus only on what worries us, to the exclusion of everything else. It seems natural and sensible enough that, when detecting a threat to our wellbeing, we direct all our efforts toward removing the threat. The problem is that we all too often react to a situation as threatening when the reality is we are making a mountain out of a molehill. As the title of Richard Carlson’s book suggests, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff”.
In Cara Feinberg‘s article in Harvard Magazine, she quotes the authors of the study saying that “Simply raising monetary concerns for the poor, erodes cognitive performance even more than being seriously sleep deprived.” Bottom line: The wrong response to a challenge causes us to function poorly potentially making things worse. The right response can allow us to perform at our peaks, overcome, and move on to bigger and better things.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
The first challenge then is to decide what is really worth worrying about. The longer I live and the more I learn, the more I think the answer to this question is “Nothing.”
- Most of what we worry about never comes to fruition.
- Worrying does not solve problems.
But changing how we react to negative circumstance, threats, or situations of perceived scarcity, requires a strategy. How can we improve on how we react, in order to experience more happiness, more of the time?
The good news is that there are many well-proven approaches that can help you live a happier life.
We can start by following the suggestions found in this Simple Formula for Happiness.
Marc and Angel at Marc and Angel Life Hacks offer these suggestions to help you get on track.
Recognize that changing how you think about the circumstances is your choice, and this choice will determine your future level of happiness.
Next time adversity strikes, think about what you’re thinking about. Make a conscious choice to control your response, and move your life in the direction you choose.
And don’t forget to have some fun today!