The Risks of Settling for Being Less Than 100 Percent Happy

Conforming is simple and comfortable. However, in the long run, it can lead to dissatisfaction and even health problems. We tell you how to work toward real happiness.
The Risks of Settling for Being Less Than 100 Percent Happy
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

At some point, you’ve probably been asked how happy you were on a scale of one to ten. As a rule, your answer will be quite changeable and subject to your mood at the time. Today, we want to ask you another question. If you understood happiness as a percentage, what degree would you settle for?

It’s important to remember that complete happiness doesn’t come from experiencing a perfect reality, never suffering disappointments or setbacks, or having achieved all your goals. If so, happiness would simply be a utopia. In reality, happiness means being willing to invest your resources in plans that excite you.

A ball with a smiley face on it.

The comfort of conformity

At first glance, you might think that being 80 percent happy is quite an achievement, a real privilege, in fact. After all, society today is plagued by stress, depression, physical illness, interpersonal conflict, and job difficulties. Therefore, enjoying that degree of fulfillment should make you feel both satisfied and lucky. However, a problem arises when comfort makes you too conservative.

Maybe you feel anxious but it doesn’t restrict you too much, so you don’t do anything. Perhaps your relationship isn’t that fulfilling, but at least you’re not on your own and your partner isn’t abusive so you content yourself with that. Or, your job feels pretty meaningless and doesn’t motivate you, but you don’t hate it either, so why make changes?

This mentality is extremely common. You become accustomed to conforming, not expecting any more from life, maybe even thinking that you couldn’t improve your situation. Nevertheless, the difficulty is that this 80 percent degree of happiness decreases over time.

Firstly, your unaddressed anxiety may lead to serious disorders and even begin to affect you physically. Secondly, your relationship will increasingly deteriorate and the emotional distance between you will become greater every day. Finally, that job you’ve had for years will eventually take up all of your energy and turn your daily life into a monotonous and meaningless routine.

Suddenly, from being 80 percent happy, you become 60 percent happy, then 40 percent, and so it goes on. This is the result of conforming.

Be thankful for the straw that broke the camel’s back

As a human, you tend to fear great crises, those moments of change in which everything established collapses. Times when you have no choice but to look reality in the face and make decisions. For example, the day you had a panic attack and felt like you were going to die, the moment you decided that your life as a couple was no longer sustainable, or the time you were fired, which forced you to rethink your job prospects.

These are the kinds of moments you’d pay to not have to go through. However, they’re actually the seeds of the change that you need. In fact, for many therapists, this is the best time to work with their clients, because conforming is no longer an option, and generating change is their only way out.

Being 80 percent happy is a comfortable situation, good enough for you to keep looking the other way. Nevertheless, surely you deserve 100 percent? Interestingly, it’s that great crisis, the last straw, that gives you the courage to work for it.

A smiling woman who hasn't settled for being 80 percent happy.

Find happiness in self-realization

To achieve complete happiness, you don’t need everything to go your way. As a matter of fact, this isn’t even in your own hands. Nonetheless, you do need coherence. That means knowing what you want and aligning your actions with these goals.

Do you want to live a calmer life and reduce your feelings of stress? If so, don’t burden yourself with obligations and try to be perfect. Learn to delegate. Do you want a life partner who complements you? Don’t settle for mediocre loves because you’re afraid of being alone. Would you like to wake up every day with a purpose? Train yourself in what you’re passionate about. Don’t be afraid to change course and take a new step every day toward your goals.

The path to self-realization requires perseverance. You must recognize how to put limits on yourself so as not to give in to mediocrity. Furthermore, you must have faith and remember that a better life is possible. On the other hand, you probably won’t see results as fast as you’d like. Consequently, there’ll be times when you wish you were 80 percent happy again. Nevertheless, it’s consistency and staying true to yourself that’ll make you feel calm, motivated, and fulfilled. Feelings you didn’t experience before.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Prochaska, J. O., DiClemente, C., & Norcross, J. C. (1994). Cómo cambia la gente: Aplicaciones en los comportamientos adictivos. RET: revista de toxicomanías, (1), 3-14.
  • Valencia, S. M. (2020). Crisis familiares: una oportunidad para transitar de la catástrofe y el caos, al despliegue de capacidades para el cambio. Diversitas: Perspectivas en Psicología16(1), 169-180.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.