I recently wrote about how overthinking kills happiness.

Besides thinking too much about things, we also often have a tendency to think too big.

Oh no, not me, you might say. I know everything about baby steps and setting achievable goals.

Fair enough, but you still might be thinking too big.

Huh?

Let me explain…

DICHOTOMOUS THINKING

There is this thing called dichotomous thinking. It’s also seen as all-or-nothing-thinking or black-or-white-thinking where people classify things as good or bad, happy or unhappy, black or white.

There is no room for gray of any shades of it.

So when we are unhappy in a situation or want to solve a problem, we tend to look for the contrary of what makes us unhappy.

Examples:

  • you were unhappy with your extrovert ex because he was always the king of the party leaving no room for anyone else, especially not you. So this time, you want to make sure not to make that same mistake and you are looking for introvert men.
  • you don’t like the house you live in and next time you move you will make sure to look into moving abroad.

The problem with this dichotomous thinking however is, that you bounce from one opposite to another and that there are disadvantages in both places, the black AND the white.

IMPACT BIAS

On the other hand, you might be biased when trying to achieve your goals. How? Because you are giving too much importance to the impact.

Examples:

  • I only have to find the perfect (introvert) partner, to finally find happiness.
  • If I move to a country house in the South of France, I will find peace and quiet.

You are attaching too much importance on the impact that your goal may have: happiness, peace and quiet.

You may be looking for an ideal like happiness which is too big and too far away. So far or so big that you end up doing nothing.

So how do you make sure that your goals are not affected by the above?

THE SOLUTION: PEEL IT LIKE AN ONION

Look at your dream, your goal: happiness, peace and quiet, a loving partner, a new job…

Now peel it like an onion into the following three layers:

  1. Autonomy: sailing your own course
  2. Connection: creating and feeling connections to others
  3. Competence: doing what you’re good at.

Deeper feelings and wishes can be satisfied by smaller things.

No need to open a bed and breakfast in the South of France to be more autonomous. No need to join the local network to feel more connected. No need to go back to studying.

Instead, try things, little things, in order to find out where your happiness can come from instead.

As long as these things satisfy the above trio of autonomy, connection and competence, you are guaranteed to get a happiness boost.

Increase the little things that already work well and make you happy.

Enjoy teaching your friends how to paint? Why not do more of that?

Are you good at and enjoying helping with homework? Why not offer some help to your friends?

Still at a loss on where to start? Try this:

THE MIRACLE TECHNIQUE

Imagine that overnight a miracle has happened and all your problems are solved.

  • How does a day look like now?
  • How do you get up in the morning and how do you notice that a miracle has happened?
  • What has been replaced?
  • What do you feel and do?

Look at details. That’s where life is.

Solutions to problems are often hidden in small changes: having a coffee with your partner in the morning, cycling to work, cooking together, crafting with your kids, teaching your friends how to paint,…

No need to think BIG to make big changes.

Peel your onion right and a miracle might just happen!