The Relationship Between Effort And Happiness

There are probably as many visions of the perfect life as there are people on this planet. As human beings, we plan our future. With varying degrees of consciousness. Whether we plan consciously or unconsciously, we easily forget one thing. How well are we actually able to predict, what will make us happy in the future. What we think we want now is often completely different from what would actually return to us the best experience long-term. What follows is a clarification of the requirements of our psyche to flourish over a lifetime and a strategy for personal development.  

Coding as a challenge
Your career may lead you to experience flow long-term

Is Happiness The Goal?

When we struggle to find happiness, we rarely ask whether happiness is the right goal. In our search for a future state of inner happiness, we easily forget one fundamental aspect of reality. That it is always now. Why do we hope for a better future, when it is always now? What are the cognitive consequences of this false thinking? Therefore we can only get what we ever wanted now. Therefore the question turns into: what is keeping us from our desired state now. And is that state happiness in the conventional sense? Like a pleasant feeling or a beautiful sight? 

I would argue it is none of these. In order to achieve a state where we feel content with our overall life requires us to construct a path of constant improvement in one way or another. Our psyche is designed to grow and learn. It is not meant to remain static. We need mental resistance as much as our bodies need physical resistance in order to stay healthy and strong. 

Some people do that naturally, but most people don't. It requires effort, just like physical exercise requires effort. Especially if it is consciously designed to yield long term improvements. How do we design a life that covers our need for personal development?

Grow Yourself And Happiness May Follow

What we need is a trajectory to our life that presents us with challenges on a regular basis. A career could be the source of new challenges. Unfortunately, most jobs are not designed to provide new tasks that are more challenging on a regular basis. Tasks become routines and workers get bored but remain in the job because they need the salary. 

It is in our own interest to keep an eye on how challenging our work feels to us. If it becomes too easy, we stagnate and it is a sign that we are ready for the next step. Taking on new tasks that are a little more difficult will allow us to remain in the flow-state more often. Which in itself is a great strategy that produces in us feelings of achievement and happiness. 
Grabbing this concept and turning it into a strategy to design our whole lives trajectory around, will lead to the best long term outcome. 

Change Requires Effort

There are many potential paths available to achieve this goal. Designing a life path that supports personal development is achievable by anyone. But anyone who is serious about it has to expect that it will feel really difficult at times. The feeling of effort is like that physical feeling of heavy resistance training. Only the person who learns to like the feeling of burning muscles while training will realize is full potential and become a great athlete. Only the person who learns to like the feeling of effortful activities will realize his full personal potential. 
If we recognize that we haven't done challenging things in a while, it is a good indicator that we need to stretch ourselves and search for new activities that will enable us to grow. This could be in our jobs or in side-projects, in our family lives, or in the community we live in. Let the preception of effort be one of the guiding factors in major career or life decisions. Effort is the resistance required for personal development.

As we spent most of our time working, the best bet is to focus on that area first and foremost. Searching for new ways to challenge oneself in the working environment ensures that we remain engaged with our work over the years. A really long-term perspective is required here. With some decisions, it will be important to think decades ahead. Will a certain trajectory serve you not only in the immediate future but also in one and ten years down the road?

I hope you gained an understanding of how effort and happiness go hand in hand. Rather than following our intuitive, reflexive behavior to avoid effort, we should seek it out and use it to guide us in our big decisions.