From "Taking That Big Risk May Not Jeopardize Your Long-Term Happiness" reprinted from Spirituality & Health magazine (May/June 2005):A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that most people have stable levels of happiness. Psychologists Frank Fujita, Ph.D., of Indiana University in South Bend, and Ed Diener, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Gallup Organization, examined data from a large representative sampling of individuals in Germany over a 17-year period, and concluded that three-quarters of those studied have fairly firm levels of life satisfaction that return to a baseline even after life-changing events.
Psychologists call this phenomenon a "life satisfaction set point." The concept is much like the body weight set point, the notion that a person's weight may fluctuate over time but tends to stabilize at a certain level. Similarly, the authors claim, "Some people seem to remain relatively satisfied with their lives over long periods, and others seem to have low or fluctuating [life satisfaction] even over a period as long as 17 years."
The psychologists suspect that genetically determined factors and life circumstances play a role in the ability to maintain both weight and satisfaction levels. In other words, if you feel satisfied with your life, you will likely continue to feel satisfied, come what may. Therefore, if you are considering taking a big risk, go ahead. Even if you fail, your happiness will likely bounce back. And if you are among the one-quarter of individuals who do have a fluctuating life satisfaction set point, you also might want to take the risk. Because if you succeed, you really may feel much happier.