“Dissatisfied people change the world”
I have seen this quote in many different forms, though I couldn’t find any one person to attribute it to. The idea behind it is very powerful; It means that those who are unhappy with their situation in life or with the state of the world will inevitably be driven to innovate and change it. If it’s the former, it may drive someone to get a new job, break up with a significant other, or even move. If the latter, it may drive someone to become a social or political activist in order to create change.
There are people I have spoken to that believe that you have to create the discomfort in order to get anywhere in life. That you should always be a little uncomfortable or unhappy so that you keep moving forward. Others believe that if you’re happy with where you are, you should enjoy it until you get to the point where you aren’t satisfied and then move toward change.
Ultimately it depends on what your priorities in life are. There are people who associate the continuous forward motion and accumulation of wealth with happiness, while others can be happy with little debt and a vacation now and then.
Does money buy happiness?
In terms of money, the science says that people’s day to day happiness increases with income up to an annual salary of about $75,000. After that, their happiness doesn’t really increase, but their life satisfaction could. I think this effect is more due to comparison to other people’s wealth and using it as a metric for success.
So why $75,000? I’ll ask you to do a little exercise. Imagine your ideal financial life, in detail. Imagine the house you have, the vacations you take, the things you have in your home, the hobbies you have, the food you cook, and everything else you do during your daily activities, with no financial limits. For the vast majority of people, if you added up all the imaginary money they spend, it works out to an annual household salary of $150,000. Now if you break that in half for you and your significant other, you get the $75,000. Most people who want to be ‘rich’ don’t realize that their idea of rich isn’t that far away.
What about setting up uncomfortable situations in order to move forward?
“Courage is not the absence of fear,but the triumph over it” – Nelson Mandela
Courage, bravery, strength – if we can overcome our fears to accomplish a task, it feels good. But how much discomfort is required to overcome our fears? Many of us spend a lot of time building a community of safely, routine, and stability. This is because we did the exact same things as nomadic tribes thousands of years ago. We were born into our tribe, grew with them, and helped them survive for the good of all by doing our assigned duties.
It’s funny how meeting new people or stepping out of routine can cause people fear and discomfort, even though these are extremely safe activities in our world. The reason we feel this discomfort is that in our nomadic history, we would rarely meet new people from outside our tribe, and if we did it was very likely that they were dangerous to us and our community. This trait helped us survive thousands of years ago when the world was a much more dangerous place, but it is often a hindrance in today’s much safer world.
So if we can put ourselves in a seemingly uncomfortable situation (even though its safe in reality), let ourselves feel the fear, and follow through, we can feel satisfied and move toward improving situations in our lives. There is merit to continuously stepping out of your comfort zone, but only to a point.
It’s all about risk vs. reward. If we risk to much we can lose what we’ve already accumulated. If we risk too little, we will never see any significant forward motion. It’s a balance, and we don’t want to tip the scales too far in either direction.
So what ultimately gives us satisfaction?
In general, studies show that 85% of people are happy with their day to day life, and I think it’s because most of us want simple things: Someone to share our life with, some financial stability, work (or hobbies) we enjoy, and some occasional recognition for our achievements. We find that the amount of forward motion is relatively risk free. We want to see our kids grow up healthy, happy, and successful. We want to explore the world with those we love. We want to build skills and reach milestones.
If we want more, if we want to take up a grander challenge, a road less travelled, the path is much more unstable, and the failures are more prevalent. Most people will travel down the difficult road until they have ‘enough,’ even if it wasn’t what they wanted in the first place. But if we keep a grander goal in mind, and keep stepping out of our comfort zone, we can get to where we want to be, and the hardships along the way are definitely worth it.