We make many decisions based on how we think we’ll feel in the future, but often those predictions are wrong. Studies are showing we can’t accurately predict how we’ll feel and so it may be best to just stop trying.
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Over at Psychology Today, cognitive scientist Art Markman explains how when we attempt to predict how happy (or unhappy) we’ll be in the future, we’re generally pretty off the mark. Our incorrect predictions are known as forecasting errors, and they happen every day. Reactions after the 2008 US presidential election demonstrated how supporters of both McCain and Obama falsely predicted how unhappy or happy they’d feel after finding out their candidate lost or won (respectively). In another example, professors who were concerned about a tenure decision ended up at about the same level of happiness regardless of how the decision turned out. This really speaks to how resilient we can be when things don’t go our way and how deluded we are about what might make us happy. Markman sums it up nicely:
[I] t is probably best to remember that there are lots of factors that affect how happy you will be in the future, and that no single event will have that big an influence on that happiness.
Your future happiness depends less on the present than you might think [Psychology Today]