Which "Satisfaction Trap" Has You STUCK?
A couple of weeks ago a friend sent me this article by Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks.
Brooks writes about our never-ending search for happiness and why constantly looking for satisfaction can leave us feeling so, well, unsatisfied. (By the way, I totally recommend reading it! It’s a long one but sooo worth it.)
Brooks calls it “The Satisfaction Trap,” and reading the article got me thinking about all of the different areas of our lives where we can fall into “satisfaction traps” and how they hold us back and keep us from feeling joy, gratitude, and deep fulfillment.
When new members come to the 100% Human community, I ask them to share a little bit with me about where they’re feeling stuck. And in spite of the fact that this circle of humans is super diverse (and from all corners of the world!), I see so many of the same challenges coming up over and over.
Sometimes the problem is that when we find a sticky point in our lives, we try so hard to solve it that we end up going down the wrong path, one that takes us even farther away from our goals.
I want to help people break those patterns by really thinking about how they measure satisfaction in their lives.
Here are the top 4 traps I see and how to avoid them:
Trap #1: Money
It’s easy to believe that all of our problems would be solved if we just had more money.
And listen, I would never downplay how stressful and scary it is when you’re struggling financially. I've been there. The first several years into building my business, my finances were tight.
I couldn’t afford to put Caleb in any extracurriculars. I didn’t have any extra money for things like a day at the amusement park. Shoot, I wasn’t even buying vitamins because they felt like a luxury in my budget!
What freed me from the trap, though, didn’t have anything to do with a change in my income.
One day I was feeling really overwhelmed by the fact that my business wasn’t where I hoped it would be at that point. And in the middle of that struggle, I remembered why I started my business in the first place.
Part of it was to pursue my purpose. But an even bigger part was that I needed to be my own boss so that I had the flexibility to be present for Caleb. I was the only parent he had, so when he needed me to show up, I didn’t want there to be a single question—for him or for me—if I could be there. It’s no secret that corporate American isn’t always friendly to single parents, so starting my own business was my way of creating a career where I was in the driver’s seat.
When I reminded myself of this goal, it's helped me reframe the dreadful self-talk that was super loud in my head. I stopped asking myself “How can I make more money so that Caleb has everything he wants?” Instead, I asked myself, “Does Caleb have everything he needs? Does he have a mom who can give him quality time? Does he feel loved and supported? Is his home warm and peaceful? Am I actually hitting my original goal?”
Turns out the answer was a big fat YES!
Our free time together didn’t have to be full of paid activities; it was the experiences we created together that really mattered. And in spite of the fact that I wasn’t yet where I hoped I’d be financially, owning my own business meant that I had the flexibility to create that time together.
Once I could see that clearly, my attitude about money changed. I could start to see everything we had rather than everything I thought we lacked. That didn’t mean that I needed to feel guilty about striving for more; it just meant that I wasn’t delaying my joy until my bank account reached a certain balance.
The key to overcoming this trap is shifting your perspective from a sense of scarcity to a focus on gratitude. Getting grounded in all the things you have to be grateful for changes your relationship with money. If you feel constantly stressed about money, every transaction becomes stressful, no matter how much money you have.
Changing how you value money, how you understand its role in your life, allows you to see its true worth.
Trap #2: Relationship Status
Real talk: Loneliness is the worst thing you can feel. There’s no way around that.
As humans, we need connection. We need love. We need partnership.
But no mater what the online dating platforms try to tell you, finding a romantic partner isn’t the key to overcoming loneliness. In fact, it’s totally possible to be in a relationship and still feel completely alone. (Yep, I see some of you out there nodding your heads!)
On the flipside,
being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you are lonely.
The difference is learning to be comfortable with being alone.
Think about it this way: When we’re getting to know someone new, we invest a lot of time, energy, and effort into learning about the things they love, the things that motivate them, the things they value.
But we don’t always bring that same level of effort to learning about ourselves.
You know what? We should.
And when you start to figure out what you love to do? DO THOSE THINGS. Don’t wait until you have someone else to do them with!
If you love going to country concerts (that one might be me…😉), don’t wait until you have a date to go with you.
If you’ve been wanting to take a class in glass-blowing, don’t put it off hoping you’ll meet someone who is excited about the same thing. Go blow some glass!
If you’ve always dreamed of seeing Paris, don’t delay it just because you don’t have a travel partner. Book that flight and start making a list of the things you want to explore!
Invest in the things and experiences that bring you joy. And if you’ve got the chance to do them again someday with someone you love? You’ll be the best date/teacher/tour guide your partner could ask for!
The key to overcoming this trap is shifting away from a belief that you need someone else to make you whole and recognizing that the relationship you have with yourself is the most fulfilling one you can invest in.
The best way to combat loneliness is knowing that you are whole all on your own.
Trap #3: The Dream Job
From a pretty young age many of us adopt a vision of what work should be based on what people share with us, whether that’s our family, our community, or our country.
But that can leave us closed off to the limitless possibilities of what our work could be, what burning passions we could pursue in our work. We can end up searching for deeply meaningful work in areas that don’t align with who we are, what we're interested in, and what we can offer the world.
We can end up spinning our wheels in careers that just don’t fulfill us and waste so much energy looking for the job title that will finally give us that sense of fulfillment.
Don’t let other people’s advice or expectations limit the work you pursue.
And don’t limit yourself by believing that you need to find your single passion and pursue it until the day you retire. You may have multiple career paths because you are a multi-passionate person! Career change is natural and gives you the chance to explore all of your beautiful facets. Even when it’s not obvious, each step serves the next.
And when you do, don’t mistake obstacles for misalignment.
When you’re trying something new, it’s always going to be hard. There will be aspects of your job that challenge or frustrate you. The “dream job” is the one where you can connect to how you serve others, the one where the struggle feels worthwhile.
The key to overcoming this trap is shifting your belief that you can find satisfaction in a field that doesn’t help you grow as a person and instead investing in learning what makes you feel alive—what stimulates you creatively or intellectually or spiritually—and then chasing it.
Trap #4: Health
You want to be healthier, whatever that looks like for you.
Hey, listen, you know that I am all about creating healthy routines and patterns. What I’m wary of, though, is getting caught up in health shame.
Sometimes we can slip into the space of believing that if we’re not doing ALL the things—eating perfectly, rocking exactly the right cardio/strength-training/stretching balance, meditating 30 minutes every day, taking every supplement and hitting every macro—we’re failing at being healthy.
No more of that, please.
Trying to be 100% healthy, 100% of the time is debilitating. Wellness starts with creating new, healthier routines, even if they don’t feel like a big lift to you or look like a big lift to the rest of the world. That is where long-term health really lives.
If your exercise today was walking the dog—well done!
If you just had one Diet Coke instead of one at every meal—that’s awesome!
If you remembered to take your multivitamin this morning—you are #HealthGoals!
The key to overcoming this trap isn’t chasing every hot health craze. It’s shifting your attention to the many ways you can live a healthy lifestyle. Embrace and celebrate every step you take in creating healthier routines. The small changes have a huge impact, and every time you make a single healthier choice, it makes a difference.
Pssssst, did you catch the theme here?
Yup, the key to avoiding each of these traps starts with a shift in your mindset. Why? Because your mindset is the only thing that you fully control in each of these scenarios.
It's not about having more money or being in a relationship or finding the "right" job. It's about accepting ourselves for who we are right now, in this moment, and then doing our best to live a meaningful life based on our own values and interests.
You have to figure out what brings you joy and peace and focus on those things.
It’s not always easy, but it’s abso-frickin-lutely worth it.
Time to let go of our search for external validation and look within ourselves instead. When we get to know ourselves deeply and connect with our own hearts, that's when we find true satisfaction. What makes me happy? What brings me peace of mind? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves if we want to live a life of true satisfaction.
Let me know in the comments below which trap you struggle with the most! It’s important to recognize which satisfaction traps you’re most stuck in, then you’re in a better position to work on freeing yourself from their grip.
Hiya! I'm Karen.
My main goal is to give you the mental skills you need to experience less stress and more joy.
Your life is a direct reflection of your thoughts. If you want uplifting content that will help you master your mind join the community. We'd love to have you!
If not, no hard feelings. Feel free to stop by whenever you need a pick-me-up! I'll be here.
Either way-see you soon!