All of us, from a very early age, are told how to live our lives. We’re given stories about what the perfect life looks like and some of those stories work for some people some of the time but not all of us all of the time.
There’s no checklist that each of us should tick off in order to live a perfect life.
1. Be Rich
One of the myths is that being rich will make you happy.
It’s certainly true that being poor makes you miserable. Once you get to about £30-40,000 a year certainly £50,000 at most, you’ve probably reached the peak of happiness by income.
And actually, more money after that point might not just make you no happier but actually might make you more miserable.
It’s addictive. You get sucked in and you need more and more and more to be happy.
So the best approach is not to say: “more please” but just to say: “just enough”.
2. Have A High-Status Job
Another myth is that you need a successful career to be happy.
You certainly need some status in your life but again, you can become addicted and get too much. It’s interesting that the jobs we’re told to aspire to, being a banker, being a lawyer, actually don’t make people that happy.
Certainly no happier than being a hairdresser or a florist where some of the evidence suggests that people working in those jobs are actually happier.
Now, it might be that happier people go into those jobs in the first place but there are important dimensions and attributes of those jobs that lend themselves to being happy.
You’re working with people that you like being with, you can see the fruits of your labor, all of these things are good characteristics of a good job insofar as it makes you feel good and not just how much you earn and how much status you have in it.
3. Fall In Love
One of the things that we need to achieve in order to lead the perfect life is to fall in love by finding ‘the one’. What nonsense.
First of all, ‘the one’ doesn’t exist.
There are many ‘the ones’ There are many people that would be perfectly suitable for you. Once you’ve found them, the idea that you should be in love with them, passionate love with them, forever, is actually dysfunctional.
Passionate love, in any normally functioning relationship, dies after a year or two and that turns to companionate love and that’s healthy because it enables you to then move on and do things in life, maybe have children, pursue projects.
Passion ought to die in functional relationships. It’s a massive story that you should still be in passionate love with someone after a decade or two. You should be in love with them, but in a slightly different way.
4. Get Married
One of the stories that we’re told from a very early age is that we need to get married. It’s the checklist of things that you need to achieve in order to grow up.
Well again, marriage can make some people happy, some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.
5. Have Kids
One of the things that a fully-fledged grown-up does is have children, right? That’s what people are expected to do.
And it’s true that many people want children, of course, many people have children, but some people don’t want them.
One of the things that are expected of us when we have children is that our children will make us happy, not just some of the time but all of the time.
The evidence tells us, quite clearly I think, that children do bring us moments of joy, they can also feel quite purposeful but they bring long periods of stress, anxiety, and worry that wouldn’t have happened had you not had them.
And that’s fine, that’s what children do.
The myth of these stories is that everybody needs to lead the same life. It leads us to judge other people that live their lives differently from us and we shouldn’t. Each of us needs to find our own route to happiness. There’s no one-size-fits-all narrative.