To me happiness is a state of mind and much depends on the conditions in which we live on a daily basis. That does not mean that we can always in all circumstance control the full extent of our emotions, but the extent to which our emotions fluctuate can certainly be controlled. I do believe that at times we will be unhappy with things around us and with ourselves. I have found two sources of unhappiness that we are all confronted with each day in our life; it is for us to take charge and decide how we want to deal with them. The first source is not being to get things the way you may want or not being able to control an event that affects you directly. The second source is when your unhappiness is relative to the happiness or sorrow of others around you.
Here I am concerned about the second source which I term as “relative unhappiness”. Ideally we should all be able to enjoy the success of other people. I for one have always enjoyed when people around me have achieved success and moved on in their life. In my small way I try to push them to that target when possible, if they have the competency for it. But then I have also learnt that no one feels that they are not competent, and they feel they deserve the best in life.
Let us take a few examples that we can all relate with from our daily life. We all work for some organization or the other to keep our life and family going. Now we have a new employee who joins the organization. He has gone through all processes of recruitment. I ask him what it would take in terms of compensation to keep him/her happy and to take care of their family responsibility. I go ahead and give the person what they ask for and he/she joins the organization. A month after his/her joining he finds that another person in the organization gets more salary than him. All of a sudden the person becomes so unhappy about it. We also have situations that one individual in the organization gets promotion and the others become unhappy about it. What is it that makes us so unhappy about it? What is the source of this relative unhappiness? I am sure you can come up with a lot of examples of such sources of unhappiness. We all need to understand that every individual is different and they will command a different compensation. No two individuals are the same and thus compensations can never be the same.
Let me give you another example from my life. Once I asked one of my employees to tell me what level of salary increase he was expecting this year. He gave me a figure and I asked him/her if this will make him happy and keep him motivated. He said yes and I decided to give him that increase. He was taken aback and was very pleased about it. The next day I found him to be engaged in deep though, I asked him, if everything was ok with him and that he looked very unhappy. He did not say anything. Later I was told that he was unhappy that another person in the same organization at the same level had also received the same salary increase. I was unable to understand the speed of shift from a state of happiness for what he had achieved to a state of unhappiness due to what someone else had achieved.
These are just a few examples of relative unhappiness; they are not directly caused by our own actions or what is happening in our own life. I cannot say that in some instances a person may feel let down due to an element of bias in decision making and that can cause this unhappiness. But I have always felt that this is a very small percentage that we come across in our life.
I believe that this source of unhappiness is very painful and self defeating. It can hamper your growth as it is likely to lower your efficiency and performance. The ideal situation and course of action would be to try and reflect back and understand if what you have got in life is what you deserve and not be too concerned about what others age achieving (in a negative way). It is good to learn from them and to understand how they achieved it rather than to spend the whole time being unhappy.