“Gut Instincts”

Happiness research indicates that we humans are not very good at predicting what will bring us happiness.  Many people follow their “gut instincts” to determine how to spend their time and money.  But our gut instincts are more often than not based on emotions, not intellect.  This is why Advertisers spend so much time trying to shape our emotions regarding goods and services.  As one advertising website put it: “Studies have shown that the majority of the time, it is our emotions that influence us to make decisions and buy products.

So, while your “gut” may tell you that a certain product or service will make you happy, there’s a high probability that it won’t.  For example, I know a family who bought a new boat a few years ago. They realized that they really couldn’t afford a new boat—I have to give them credit for that—so they convinced another family, friends of theirs, to purchase the boat together.  Now joint-ownership of anything can lead to its own problems, and it did. But they also found out that having, using, and maintaining a boat did not lead to the happiness they thought it would.

At first it was exciting, but over time the boat did not have the same appeal.  And then there were the clashes with their co-owners about the times each could use the boat, and also about the ongoing costs of upkeep.  After a few years the boat was sold.  And I don’t believe either family has owned a boat since then.

If we humans are so easily persuaded by our emotions, which are easily influenced by advertisers, what can we do to get our intellect more involved in our purchase decisions.  Well, we know the answer to this, a strategy that most of have heard about throughout our lives, something we just need to be reminded about every now and then: Listing the Pros and Cons.

You can do this electronically or the old-fashioned way with paper and pencil.  Divide your page into two columns: in one column list all the positive things associated with owning the item you are interested in purchasing, in the other column list all the negative things associated with the proposed purchase. When considering the pros and cons you will want to gather as much information as you reasonably can.  Purchase and maintenance costs as well as reviews are readily available online.

Additionally, you may want to talk to people you know who have already purchased the product to get their thoughts and feelings on owning the item.  Make sure you talk to people you can trust to give you honest feedback, not just what they think you might want to hear.  In the end, if your review of the “facts” has you convinced that you should proceed with the purchase, then proceed.  If you have doubts, though, wait on making the purchase.

Whatever you decide, however, does not guarantee increased happiness.  As the old saying goes, “the only guarantees in life are death and taxes.  However, an informed decision increases the probability of greater happiness.

So, the next time your “gut” is totally convinced that you’ve just got to have something, it might be good for you to pause and ask yourself who is really speaking: your informed intellect or your advertiser-persuaded emotions?

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