Over the past three months I’ve conducted a social experiment where I asked friends, family and complete strangers how they would measure their day to day level of happiness on a scale from one to ten. The majority answered with a dull seven. When I asked why, almost every response led back to the same delusion – “If I could just do this or have a little more of that, then I’d finally reach a ten.”

We as humans are living in a constant state of mild happiness where things are just fine or ok but could always be better. My candid message to stop living your life at a level seven state of happiness is to stop chasing after the illusion that you’re only one step away from reaching your ideal ten. Telling yourself that if only you got a higher paying job or lost the extra weight you would find and sustain a consistent level ten happiness. Because even if we obtain that one thing, we always want more. It’s a loop with an imaginary finish line.

Chasing after something because you think it will bring you happiness only to end up back where you started is a common mistake known as, the hedonic treadmill. It’s like spending all your extra money on lotto tickets because you think that once you win the lottery, you’ll finally be happy. But even if you won on your first try, that high would eventually wear off and you would find yourself back to a level seven state or more likely, even lower. If you’re constantly experiencing ups and downs then it’s time to stop chasing after happiness as if it’s waiting for you just around the corner.

You think to be happier, you need a new car, so you get a new car. Then a few months go by and you think you would be happier with a puppy, so you get a cute little puppy. A few more months go by and you think a new house is the key to happiness, so you buy a house. Then you realize your house is missing a pool, so you put in a pool and a fire pit and well, after a few months you run into an acquaintance at the supermarket and they ask you how you’re doing. Your lackadaisical response is, “I am fine.”

You find your level of happiness has slowly made its way back to a seven even though you did all those things you thought would make you happy. Constantly chasing after that imaginary level ten happiness wondering why you inevitably always end up back where you started. Of course, I am not saying that everyone that does those things aren’t truly happy because there are plenty that are but the difference is why you did it. If it was for any reason other than your own or because you thought that once you have that missing piece to your puzzle you’ll finally be happy – then once again, you chased after happiness for all the wrong reasons.

We live in a time where everything is measured, recorded, watched and ultimately – judged. People feel the need to make their life appear to be a ten instead of actually living it that way. We’re held to a high standard of living because on a daily basis we’re exposed to a false perception that everyone around us is living a happy and flawless life. Fairytale photos on Instagram, exaggerated stories on Snapchat and Christmas card smiles on Facebook. We live a level ten life on paper but are trapped in a constant level seven state of happiness in reality. The way to break free from this is to stop looking at life like a checklist. Checking those boxes off your list will only bring you a temporary high until quickly dropping you back down to your inferior reality.

If you want to find true happiness then you have to erase the social norm checklist you’ve been so accustomed to and start writing your own no matter how different it appears. You should be able to look at yourself in the mirror and recognize the person staring back at you. Realize their dreams before they got silenced by the overwhelming noise of others.

Stop doing things for the sake of others, if you want to quit your job and pursue a new career, then do it. If you aren’t ready to get married then don’t let the pressure from others force you into it. If you want to move to the beach, then give yourself permission even if that means making a big sacrifice.

Whatever it is, follow your gut instinct and put your best first foot forward. Intuition is more than just a feeling. It’s the masterplan you already designed and it’s the universe steering you in the right direction. Trust your path and every little choice you make along the way and you’ll never have to measure happiness. You’ll simply be you.