Nancy Gibbs wrote an interesting essay in the November 23, 2009 issue of Time Magazine. The essay, entitled The Happiness Paradox, is well worth the read as well as serious thought and reflection. The essay discusses results found by highly credible organizations that conduct surveys, 365 days a year, year in and year out, that measure and document the mood and general sense of well-being of those of us who live in America.
Not surprisingly, the general sense of well-being hit its lowest points in 1973, 1982, 1992 and 2001, all recession years. So why, the author asks, “is it that at least some aspects of the Great Recession of 2009 appear to have made people feel better? By this past summer, overall well-being was higher than it was in the summer of 2008, before the Apocalypse. In fact, the latest report finds America’s cheeriness at an all-time high.”
The answer, at least in the mind of Nancy Gibbs writing for Time Magazine, has to do with Expectation Inflation, “a phenomenon that can be as corrosive to our spirits as price inflation is to our savings. While optimism is the all-American anesthetic, at some point Expectation Inflation was bound to take its toll.”
Other thought-provoking points in the essay include:
- I’m struck by how many people tell pollsters that the voluntary downshifting and downsizing of the past year have come as a kind of relief.
- Money can buy only comfort, not contentment; happiness correlates much more closely with our causes and connections than with our net worth.
- Americans may have less money – but about a million more people volunteered their time to a cause. Which makes me wonder: Is it a coincidence that eight of the 10 happiest states in the country also rank in the top 10 for volunteering?
- Happiness ricochets off other people, returning to us stronger by virtue of being released. It gets bigger when we don’t care if it gets smaller.
Some obvious questions, at least for me and probably for you, as a result of serious thought about this essay are as follows:
- What about my personal and professional Expectation Inflation?
- Consciously or subconsciously, am I allowing the economy, the expectations of others or the insidious pressure to keep up with or surpass others, particularly regarding money, size and the “stuff” I buy and own, to inflate to the level of being unbalanced and unhealthy in my life and in the lives of those close to me?
- Personal, professional and organizational growth is obviously very good… if pursued for the right reasons. Am I pursuing growth for the right reasons?
Self-centered, ego-driven, over-the-top manifestations of just how much “stuff” we are capable of buying and owning is unhealthy from dozens of different perspectives. Inappropriate and unchecked Expectation Inflation will ultimately take its toll, sooner or later, not only on the perpetrator, but also most likely on those within the inner circle of such a person.
A timely essay and worthy tip for true and lasting success… within the context of your personal and professional vision and mission… monitor and consciously Control Your Expectation Inflation!