Beware Moving The Happiness Goalpost

The moving goalpost is a logical fallacy in which evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other, often greater, evidence is demanded.

  • Person A: I’ll get the vaccine when it’s fully approved
  • Person B: It’s already approved
  • Person A: I’ll need to wait for more people to get it
  • Person B: Hundreds of millions already got it
  • Person A: I guess I’ll wait for more data to come in

The same effect occurs when attach our happiness to some future state and, once we get there, we immediately aim for another one.

  • Once I’ll get that job, I’ll be happy
  • Actually, once I’ll get then promotion, I’ll be happy
  • Well, one I’ll make partner, then I’ll truly be happy
  • Ad infinitum

As Tim Urban explains, Happiness = Reality – Expectation.

When we move our goalpost, we amp up the “expectation” component of the equation.

When you put it like that, happiness is simple. Adjust your expectations and grow them at a slower pace than the improvements in your reality.

Simple, but not easy.