At the start of the year people make new goals for themselves, often those are about improving one’s life. This year instead of focusing on happiness as a goal you should consider thinking longer-term and think about satisfaction. Recent research points out that happiness itself is something that can be attained once one is out of poverty (fortunately this is most people in the developed world), so what people find lacking is a larger longer-term goal: and this is satisfaction.
The key here is memory. Satisfaction is retrospective. Happiness occurs in real time. In Kahneman’s work, he found that people tell themselves a story about their lives, which may or may not add up to a pleasing tale. Yet, our day-to-day experiences yield positive feelings that may not advance that longer story, necessarily. Memory is enduring. Feelings pass. Many of our happiest moments aren’t preserved—they’re not all caught on camera but just happen. And then they’re gone.
Take going on vacation, for example. According to the psychologist, a person who knows they can go on a trip and have a good time but that their memories will be erased, and that they can’t take any photos, might choose not to go after all. The reason for this is that we do things in anticipation of creating satisfying memories to reflect on later. We’re somewhat less interested in actually having a good time.