Among the many advantages that the evolution of the human brain has afforded us, is an often overlooked capability – the power to ‘simulate’ the future. Humans are able to visualise and dream about future events. When you think about this, it is a pretty amazing ability. Future thinking is key to planning, anticipating, speculating and visioning. Imagining how events might turn out in your head before trying them out in real life turns out to be a skill that provides us with tremendous advantages.The brain’s pre-frontal cortex acts like a psychological immune system, that helps us alter our views of the world so that we feel better about things. This is displayed most dramatically in the way that humans synthesise states of happiness, regardless of what is actually going on in their world.
But is synthetic happiness of the same quality as ‘natural’ happiness? Do we ‘know’ the difference? Dan Gilbert describes ‘natural’ happiness as what we get when we get what we want, and synthetic happiness as what we ‘make up in our head’ when we don’t get what we wanted. He goes on to argue (based on psychological research), that the quality of these two types of happiness is no different – see Dan Gilbert’s TED talk on “The surprising science of happiness” for an entertaining appraisal of this subject.
Why is this important? Well, it provides scientific support for the power of visioning, one of the principal tools used in coaching. Being able to create a rich vision of what you want is a powerful enabler for starting to experience the emotions, benefits and happiness that achieving the vision will bring. Indeed, simply focusing on a positive vision of what you want will result in synthetic happiness, providing immediate benefit even before your vision has been realised.
So, there’s no need to wait on achieving your goals and aspirations before allowing yourself to ‘be happy’. Your brain has equipped you with all the tools you require to simulate the conditions you need to generate happiness at any time. It’s all a state of mind.
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