And you also have learned that pursuing happiness (and avoiding stress) serves your personal survival and the survival of the entire species.
So, by default, you avoid encountering stress and sadness and actively seek sources of pleasure and happiness. And this constant unconscious hide-and-seek can cause you suffering.
In this post, read how to consciously hack the happiness of recognition and respect to live a fulfilling and happy life.
Happiness of Recognition
From the first day of your life as a baby, you experienced the attention of your caregivers as comforting and rewarding.
This continued into your adulthood. As an adult, you may find yourself longing for attention and recognition from your peers and superiors.
And when you get noticed, it feels natural and satisfying.
The absence of expected recognition can bring lasting dissatisfaction, disappointment, dependence, and neediness.
The urge for specialness might seem annoying in others, but in yourself, it just feels like fairness.Loretta Graziano Breuning
Continuous comparison against everyone
The need for attention and recognition leads to a constant unconscious comparison of yourself against everybody else in different aspects.
We scan others, compare our outfits, and are concerned not to be underdressed or overdressed.
You might know that contentment with your income and possessions depends purely on one thing – comparing to your neighbors.
We are happy when we earn more or possess something better than our neighbors (a family member or colleague) or when our child is better off than our neighbor’s child.
We can get upset when we make less, our possessions are poorer, and especially if our child is doing less good than our neighbor’s child.
Just imagine you are happy and content with your job and salary. Then you learn that your colleague was promoted for doing the same work or putting in even less effort than you. How wrong would it feel?
Desire to be right
A commonly used way to feel recognized is by proving you are right.
Whereas the opposite, being wrong or admitting having made a mistake, doesn’t feel good at all.
But in the pursuit of establishing our rightness and achieving dominance at that moment, we lose on the quality and depth of our relationships and divert from doing what genuinely matters to us.
Just think of all the spouses’ arguments that simply waste our time.
Serotonin and Mental Health
The happiness of attention and recognition, generated by the happiness hormone Serotonin, is critical for your mental health.
So much so that there are commonly prescribed drugs that raise the happiness hormone serotonin levels in the brain.
SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (Selective serotonin noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors) are antidepressants, but they are also prescribed for restlessness, anxiety, and sleep problems and to prevent suicidal thoughts.
The downside of taking antidepressants is that they reduce the symptoms and prevent relapses of depression in only about 20% of patients and also cause side effects like diarrhea, headaches, sleep problems, and nausea. This can motivate you to make efforts to raise your serotonin levels in a natural way.
Leveraging Happiness of Recognition
It is truly liberating and empowering to be independent of external validation.
By practicing internal validation, you can follow your dreams, be led by your personal life values, and possess integrity and authenticity.
- Your internal validation can be focused on the progress you’ve made compared to your past self rather than somebody else.
2. A good start towards such a state is making self-recognition a steady habit.
3. Another powerful tool for internal validation is creating a compelling and powerful vision of the future self and validating your progress toward that beautiful vision.
This might not be easy and even draws a primary focus of my one-month program with some clients.
My one-month program is designed to help clients change their automatic, unconscious behavior for new behaviors that serve them better, resolve long-term issues, and make them happier. You can book a free discovery call to talk about your personal situation and how this program can help you here:
How do I know I’m right?
Ray Dalio, the founder of the most successful investment company, Bridgewater, puts a high value on learning as a means to becoming and staying happy and prosperous. And he recognizes the desire to be right as an obstacle to that.
Therefore, he made it to his life and work principle to ask himself: “How do I know I’m right?”
And the best answer to this question you can get from a competent person sharing the same interest as you.
Remember, every person sees any situation through the filters of their own knowledge and life and professional experience. Therefore, the point of view of each person is limited despite the best efforts.
So, by asking another competent person, you can explore a different perspective on the same topic or a valuable addition to the picture that you see.
Furthermore, in certain situations, it is best not to have any opinion at all. Can you think of any such situation in your life?
Lasting Happiness of Recognition and Respect
And yet, seeking recognition is a part of the human life.
But instead of momentary righteousness or eternal waiting for praise, you can look for a long-term strategy to create lasting happiness of recognition. Here are some assured means for that
1. Knowledge, Skills, and Education
Knowledge and skills are highly valued in any profession, be it a nurse or a doctor, a hairdresser, or a lawyer. Moreover, there are hardly any professions that do not require continuous learning for the mere purpose of staying up-to-date but also for professional growth.
In this, University education and degrees help you to attain even more respect and recognition. And it is never too late to acquire a university degree. This can also be a higher or an additional degree.
A friend of mine, whose father is a fisherman and mother is a housewife, obtained a bachelor’s degree and worked in the research area. With this, he was already far ahead of his parents.
His upbringing environment determined his ambition at first.
But this friend of mine enjoyed his work very much and was very good at it. A few years later, he decided to return to the University and obtained a master’s degree. And this happens often that we discover our passion only later in life.
Furthermore, you know from your own experience in your own professional field that knowledge, education, and skills open entirely new perspectives in your career. This also turned out to be the case with that friend of mine.
And professional advancement secures, in turn, even more recognition.
So, all your learning efforts lead to sustainable and growing respect and recognition. And do not forget that learning itself gives us happiness – easily accessible and controllable happiness of newness, i.e., dopamine happiness.
2. Meaningful Occupation and Leadership
Pursuing education at any time in life will allow you to seek a meaningful occupation and make your life purposeful.
Herewith, certain professions, like teacher, doctor, or university professor, are highly respected independently from the income they provide.
But you don’t need to be a teacher by profession in order to teach. You can earn more respect by sharing your knowledge and expertise with others.
Another meaningful way to gain respect and recognition is by creating value for others, a personal contribution that genuinely matters to others. This can be done at work, in your neighborhood, or by volunteering in the areas that matter most to you.
You can show authentic leadership by taking responsibility, contributing, supporting, and uplifting others.
3. Belonging and Trust
While making money was good, having meaningful work and meaningful relationships was far better. To me, meaningful work is being on a mission I become engrossed in, and meaningful relationships are those I have with people I care deeply about and who care deeply about me.Ray Dalio
Often, we put recognition for work that we do above trust and belonging both in work- and private relationships. But remember that building trust and belonging simultaneously satisfies your desire for recognition and respect.
Conclusions: Leverage happiness of recognition
The desire for attention and recognition feels very natural.
But it can take rather extreme forms of continuous comparison and competition with others, dependency on validation by others, or proving to others you are right.
The solutions to these traps are:
- relying on internal validation and recognition
- comparing yourself to your younger self and the desired positive and powerful vision of the future self
- practicing open-mindedness by asking yourself, “How do I know I am right?“
- acquiring knowledge and skills, and obtaining education
- having a meaningful occupation and growing professionally
- taking leadership: taking responsibility, supporting, uplifting, and teaching others
- building trust and belonging
- Loretta Graziano Breuning, Habits Of A Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels. EAN 9781440590504 16.12.2015, 238 pages
- Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work. ISBN: 1501124021. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster; September 19, 2017. 592 pages
- Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. ISBN: 054784428X, HarperOne, 2012, 208 pages