The Olympics have provided us with a fascinating lesson in happiness. We’ve seen athletes thrilled to win bronze medals and we’ve seen athletes devastated at winning ‘only’ silver.
The contrast between swimmer Rebecca Adlington and rowers Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase could not have been greater. Rebecca came third in the 800 metre freestyle and was clearly delighted.
By contrast Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase in the Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls were distraught at coming second. Spectators watched in amazement as the two men apologized for, as they saw it, letting everyone down. Even the BBC interviewer, confronted by the misery of the two men, was fighting to hold back tears.
Here’s what Zac Purchase had to say: ‘When you put everything in and you lose, there is no hiding place. We’ll spend days, weeks, months, the rest of our lives, trying to work out if we could have done more.’
This is a recipe for depression. There are nearly seven billion people on the planet and only one can take individual gold in any given event. Don’t bet your happiness against odds like that.