Do you ever get caught up in a ‘Potential for Happiness Hierarchy’? This is a little experience ranking game our ego plays where we only get a ‘hit’ of happiness from situations it deems ‘important’. Our ego can be a snob in that it will deem certain experiences ‘beneath’ you in terms of delight potential. Our ‘Potential for Happiness Hierarchy’ is as unique as we are and can give us a fascinating insight into how we want to be seen in the world aka the ‘persona’ or mask we wear to make us acceptable in our own minds (of course we couldn’t just get the thumbs up by being utterly and unadulteratedly our true selves…).
For example, doing an outstanding presentation at work may rank a 10, whereas having a fun game with the kids may only rank a 1. The flip side of this is that our ego also invites us to feel very unhappy when we don’t shine in ‘important’ situations.
Double, Triple, Quadruple Standards
The other stinger of living with a ‘Potential for Happiness Hierarchy’ is that it holds us to different standards of conduct in different situations. It’s as if our ego decides it’s only worth bringing our ‘A’ game to situations where there are people we want to impress eg. work, community service etc. Conversely, our egos can reckon we are somehow off duty in more mundane situations which can lead to sad scenarios such as a ‘pillar of the community’ being a tyrant in their own home.
So if we live by an unconscious ‘Potential for Happiness Hierarchy’ what are we giving up? Do we become Happiness Junkies who can only get a ‘fix’ by getting more and more and more of our chosen hardcore happiness drugs? Only going for top shelf happiness comprised of promotions, accolades and public adoration? Would we become immune to simple acts of kindness, smiles and the smell of freshly mown lawns?
Bring on your ‘Best self’
I don’t know about you but I love the concept that we have a ‘best self’. When I am embodying my ‘best self’ it’s effortless to be patient, generous, kind and calm. Being fun, supportive and compassionate is a breeze. I have clarity and a balanced perspective on situations and can embrace the ‘grey’ in life without getting lost in the fog of nuances and different points of view.
I would love to live as my ‘best self’ all the time – but I don’t. Is this a choice i.e. do I lack necessary willpower? Or is decent into my ‘lesser self’ an opportunity to learn about my blind spots i.e. the parts of my self that bind up energy carrying unresolved resentments, rejections and regrets? If I resolve these blind spots is that energy then freed up to used for an even more loving ‘best self’? Sounds good to me!
Not this old chestnut again
When I have the privilege of working with someone in the longer term we invariably reach a point where they express frustration that they struggle once more with something they have struggled with in the past – a ‘we’ve sorted this – why am I feeling like this again?’ moment. This is a test where we can choose to stand alongside ourselves and say ‘this is hard – take a deep breath – you are gonna be ok’ or stand over ourselves and say ‘you are useless – you are never gonna to break this pattern so you may as well give up’.
If you choose to stand alongside yourself you realise that the lesson has very little to do with the actual situation you are relating to – it’s far more about how you relate to yourself. Are you able to be gentle and compassionate with yourself when you are struggling? Do you trust your judgement and intuition? Do you unconditionally love yourself?
Judgement Free Zone
Buying into a ‘Potential for Happiness Hierarchy’ is a symptom of not unconditionally loving yourself – you will only give yourself permission to feel happy if you ‘perform’ well enough to gain the approval of ‘significant’ people. What a rip off – by doing so you are giving away your power by prioritising ‘external feedback’ rather than ‘internal feel feedback’.
By letting go of your ‘Potential for Happiness Hierarchy’ we can also let go of judging other people and ourselves – what a relief! We are also open to so many more opportunities to sip, slurp and guzzle happiness – delicious stuff!
Very interesting article Suze! I’ve never really thought of a Potential for Happiness Hierarchy before; but applying it to situations with people in my life has, in the time it took to read this, led to some clarifying insight about them.
I’ll admit I’m not always my best in all situations either, but for me it’s more about whether I have (or it’s worth) the energy because I’m the typical sleep-deprived entrepreneur building a business and wrestling with a To Do list a mile long.