Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
-Thomas A. Edison
“If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who had not been satisfied with their conditions, you would still be living in caves. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.”
-Eugene V. Debs
Now that I’ve addressed the variety of ways you can negate your unhappiness and maximize your overall satisfaction, I’ll tell you how unhappiness is actually an important variable in your Happiness Equation that fuels your happiness directly. (This will make sense, I promise. Stick with me here.)
I thought happiness was an unattainable thing.
It was something to aspire to but impossible to achieve—one of those “shoot for the moon, land somewhere in the universe in the general vicinity of the moon,” kind of things.
I was both wrong and right. You can achieve happiness, but you should never achieve complete satisfaction. To be truly satisfied with everything marks an end to upward mobility. A large portion of your happiness stems from the improvement or correction of the imperfect.
Simply put: Happiness is boring.
Making things better makes us feel good. When everything is perfect you stagnate, professionally and personally. This is why continuing education classes are loaded with attendees at every trade show. None of us want to stagnate. We thirst for knowledge, for change, for improvement.
Unhappiness is the strongest motivator around. Unhappiness inspires you to aspire to perfection, solve problems, and to make things better. It drives your creativity every day of your career, whether you realize it or not.
Don’t believe me? Consider Mr. Deb’s quote above. If people were happy living in the dark and using fire for winter heating, would electricity have been invented? If people were cool with sending letters or telegrams, would we have phones or the internet today? If we were truly satisfied with the speed and convenience of using horses for travel, would we have planes, trains, or cars?
If we were fine with polish that chipped off after three days, would we have gel polish?!
No. We only have these awesome things because someone said, “This sucks. I’ll bet I can make this better somehow.” Someone was unhappy with the method of doing things and that unhappiness inspired them to come up with more convenient solutions. A lot of innovations ultimately stem from some degree of dissatisfaction.
Every client who sits in your chair is dissatisfied when they arrive. They desire improvement and you deliver it. I’m willing to bet that “fixing” whatever your client considers imperfect contributes significantly to your job satisfaction. (Us nail professionals, in particular, live for that feeling—it’s why we pick up our foot files every day.)
However, it’s not enough to be dissatisfied with everything all of the time. In order to take full advantage of your dissatisfaction and transform it into happiness, you have to take steps to improve whatever causes the dissatisfaction and reap the feel-good benefits of knowing that you did something awesome—no matter how small that “something” was.
Identify the things in your life that could use improvement and systematically address each one of them. Develop a strategy and tackle it with righteous fury.
When you accomplish your goals, celebrate them.
No task is meaningless or without merit. For example, today I made three meals for my family, did two loads of dishes and a load of laundry, cleaned up some of my lecture content for my trade show classes next year, wrote 2,000 words for my book, edited my third draft for next month’s Stylist piece, finished and posted Part 3 of Your Happiness Equation, and finished my final draft of this particular installment of the Happiness Equation series.
I got things done! I have been productive and that feels awesome! +20 to my Happiness Equation today.
In order to be happy, you have to be unhappy (at least a little bit).
Even simple improvements—like replacing those old, outdated window treatments you hate or developing a more efficient system for tracking gift card sales—will contribute to your happiness and personal sense of accomplishment, and the satisfaction gained from a job well done can’t be understated.
Get critical! Focus your hatred, then get productive. Never settle for “good enough.” There’s always room for improvement or advancement. Be the one who makes it happen and be sure to congratulate yourself afterwards—right before you move on to the next thing.
Dissatisfied people change the world; be one of them.