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You Will Never Be Satisfied. Here’s Why.You will never be satisfied. You have never been satisfied.

You will never be satisfied. You have never been satisfied. And if you think I’m exaggerating, you’re wrong.

A bit of an intense subtitle but don’t worry I’ll explain!

The fact that humans are never truly satisfied is not a new idea at all. Just take a look at Abd Al-Rahman III, a caliph of Córdoba in Spain in the 10th century who viewed his life like this:

I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14

But what exactly is it that makes humans so dissatisfied? It boils down to a few points.

It’s In Our Blood

No really, it is! Well, to put it more precisely, it’s in our genes. Even though we like to think we’re superior to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we’re really not that different from an evolutionary standpoint.

From a strictly anatomical perspective, we’ve been around for 200,000 years. Then about 12,000 years ago, when we began our “ascent to planetary dominance.”

As Yuval Harari writes in his fantastic book, Homo Sapiens, it’s our ability to believe in the imaginary that sets us apart. We believe in the made-up structure of government, and that’s why chaos doesn’t riddle every neighborhood. But that’s an entirely different article.

Let’s focus on why it would be good for our ancestors to not be satisfied. Imagine you come across a delicious fruit tree. There are lots of low-hanging fruits but you don’t know when you might come across food with high sugar contents again. So would you want to be satisfied with just taking the low-hanging fruits or would you want to be be dissatisfied enough to try harder? I hope you picked the latter!

The Grass Isn’t Greener On The Other Side

Onto the second point! Let’s first do a quick little experiment. Have you ever been in this situation or a similar one? I have so much work to do and that makes me unhappy. But that’s okay because this is going to help me finish college and once I start working, I’ll be happy. Great, now I have a job. But that means I can’t spend as much time with my family. That’s okay, I’ll be happy when I retire….

We create these arbitrary timelines where once we pass a certain point, it’s all rainbows and sunshine and satisfaction. Unfortunately, the only things these ideas do is make us even less satisfied with our current situation. Going back to talking about our hunter-gatherer ancestors and our genes, it’s important to talk about why dissatisfaction may have actually served them well. Instead of this “the grass is always greener on the other side” mindset, our ancestors were mostly focused on the present. There was no looming future of university, or a job to look forward to or fantasize about. If they were able to find plenty of food one day, they were satisfied. If they didn’t have enough food for that day, they weren’t satisfied. Makes sense, right? But we no longer have that mindset even though our genes still want to make us feel dissatisfied until we’ve reached our goals. The problem is those goals keep getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER.

A Constant Pursuit Of Betterment

Tying in to the last point, as soon as we become entirely satisfied with ourselves, innovation and our quest for a better future will come to an abrupt halt. If everyone’s satisfied with their current situation and the situation of the world, what’s the point in doing anything? That’s another reason we are constantly dissatisfied. It’s kind of like a productivity mechanism.

A world with dissatisfaction: “I’m not the best writer. How can I fix that? By reading more! I’m gonna read 1 book every two weeks from now on!” Yay improvement! A world with total satisfaction: “I’m not the best writer. But I’m totally satisfied with that. Ok back to binging Netflix now!” Oof. Don’t get me wrong, constant dissatisfaction with yourself or your actions is absolutely unhealthy. But as the famous saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The same applies with some mild feelings of dissatisfaction.

Wasn’t It So Great Back Then? Wasn’t it so great back in the 90’s when everything was simpler? Or better yet, the 2000’s were amazing, right? How come way fewer people say the 2010’s were awesome? Trust me, plenty of bad things happened in the 90’s and 2000’s too and if you think about it for a second, you’ll remember that all of human history is riddled with sad, unfortunate events. So why is it that we always tend to remember the past more positively than it really was? This happens because of something called the Pollyanna Principle which says that those with a healthy mental health (who aren’t suffering from depression, for example) remember positive memories more prominently and even turn neutral events into more positive ones. And how does this play into satisfaction? Well, if you’re always thinking about how great it was back in the day and proceed to compare this to how you’re doing right now, there’s gonna be a discrepancy. It’s not a fair comparison since you perceive current events not as positively as past ones. And what does that lead to? Dissatisfaction!

You Just Get Used To It There’s a phenomenon called hedonic adaption which means no matter what amazing or terrible event we experience, we will always return to a stable level of happiness. This might seem depressing–the fact that you’ll never permanently bum up your level of happiness–but it’s also amazing to think about it from the other side. Wouldn’t it be terrible if feelings of sadness lasted forever? It’s true when people say all bad things are temporary but so are good ones. Coming back to satisfaction, this means you will likely stay at a constant level of satisfaction over time. But that doesn’t mean you’ve hit your peak satisfaction level quite yet. So here are some ways we can fix that!

How Do We Fix It?

Be Satisfied With Dissatisfaction Like I mentioned above, once you reach a certain point, your level of happiness and satisfaction will not increase a huge amount. And you need to learn that that’s okay! Once you accept that fact, you’ll eliminate a source of dissatisfaction right away!

Dissatisfaction With Yourself Or Your Actions? Differentiate between being dissatisfied with yourself and with your actions. Too often, we associate our self-worth with what we’ve done. But remember that you are not only defined by your actions but by your reactions to situations. You may have made a stupid decision and you can be dissatisfied with that but make sure you know that doesn’t define you as a human being!

Don’t Look Too Far Ahead It is critical to plan ahead. Going blindly through life with no plans is a bad idea, but looking too far ahead is also terrible. Think of it like this. You’re sitting on the edge of a cliff and it’s beautiful. You can scoot a little closer to the edge and get an even more beautiful view. But scoot too far and you fall to your death. Another way to think about this is through this quote by the inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant: There are curves in the road because if you were shown how long a stretch you actually have left, you’d never drive yourself there. These curves only show a little bit of the road at a time so you can just focus on that piece. So make sure to “focus on that piece”!

Focus On What You’ve Earned This might sound cheesy but you will only be satisfied when you are your best self. And guess what? Your best self will keep evolving as you become better and better and gain new skills and experiences. You can choose to see life as just a long cat-and-mouse game or you can open your eyes, appreciate the fact that the cat hasn’t caught up with you yet, and keep running!

Action Items Now you didn’t think I’d leave you with just some inspiration did you? Inspiration’s great but I’m gonna give you some action items to truly make your satisfaction go 📈

  1. Take note of when you feel most satisfied! This might seem like a lot of work but I’ve made a template where you can just cross off days when you feel satisfied and don’t cross anything off when you don’t. For days when you feel satisfied, write a one word description as to why. Keep it simple so it becomes a habit; stick to the 2-minute rule. After a few months, check out what makes you most satisfied!

  2. Whenever you feel you’re about to say or think something like “wasn’t it great when…” stop! Count to 10 and then think about what you’re grateful for at this very moment.

  3. Time block your day. Now I know this seems like just a productivity tip but for the majority of people, hitting your goals makes you feel more satisfied. Time blocking ensures that you actually have the time to reach your goals since the issue is that most of us just have goals but not action plans for how to reach them. So check out this video and this article to get started!

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