Having codified it three years ago, I amply proved the central premise of relevantcomplexity.com:
“But then, subtly and imperceptibly, sometimes even the things we once enjoyed the most, tail off into familiarity, boredom and ennui.”
I got bored of it.
Thanks goodness for Sonja Lyubomorsky… in the ‘How of Happiness‘ (which is also a website here) she sets out compelling evidence for two things which have really helped me this winter:
1) Hedonic Adaptation: pretty much anything which happens in your life – house move, significant gain or loss, any purchase from car to Concorde – you will have adapted to within three months; and then very importantly…
2) Happiness Set Point: you always return, inexorably, to your genetically determined default happiness setting; as proven by identical and non-identical twin studies. If you’re a miserable so and so, you likely always will be; if you’re a ray of sunlight, the same. Identical twins separated – with completely different life circumstances – have almost identical happiness levels. Non-identical twins living near identical lives, have widely divergent default happiness levels.
This sounds like a recipe for Stoicism (of which more anon). But the good news is you can better your Happiness Set Point – not by getting a better job, car or house… but by tricking yourself. The only way to beat your Happiness Set Point is to catch yourself out!
This explains (and links) my experience with Relevant Complexity and Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow”. My Happiness Set Point is a comparatively gloomy one. I was (initially) enjoying Relevant Complexity because of the variety and novelty. Then Hedonic Adaptation kicked in, “flow” went away – and inexorably and inevitably like a Newton’s Cradle I returned to my default ‘same old same old’ Happiness Set Point and lost enthusiasm for Relevant Complexity.
But now I’m back! The secret? Dice…
As Sonja Lyubomirsky sets out, the key is to trick yourself. So now I have dice and lists. When I’m pottering in the kitchen: the dice decide whether I’ll listen to a podcast, an audio book, the news in Italian, classical music, 80s hits, footie or talk radio. And each time I get bored; simple – roll again.
Similarly in a morning instead of fighting the randomness of which bus arrives first (and it’s never the one I want) I’m just hopping on. Make some progress, watch the world go by and change where there are more options. Embracing – even imposing – randomness seems to brighten up both me and my day. And it has certainly got me back doing the Relevant Complexity thing again.
But I’m not kidding myself… I’ve got three months before I have to come up with something new; you can’t cheat Hedonic Adaptation and your Happiness Set Point for long!
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