"In the rooms" of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), lawyers hear repeatedly that a "geographic" doesn't work. Most of time that geographic involves professional opportunity. The lawyer specializing in intellectual property from a mid-sized law firm in the midwest takes a lateral to a large firm in California. At first he's euphoric. Soon enough he's miserable, again. Actually, he could be worse off emotionally than before the change. The intensity of suffering could trigger relapse back into drinking.
Psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside Sonya Lyubomirsky explains why these grabs for a better life don't pan out. It's all in her new book "The Myths of Happines: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't - What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does."
In essence, humans are wired for a certain baseline in happiness. After the positive change, we tend to return to that baseline. The problem is, though, that simultaneously our expectations on what we are entitled to are raised. Therefore, the new position, despite its status, intellectual stimulation, and lucrative pay, serves to create a craving for more and more of that. The lawyer could then start searching for what he perceives as a better opportunity.
How to stop that cycle? Lyubomirsky recommends what will sound familiar to those "in the rooms." That's an attitude change. For example, mentally re-experience what your professional life used to be and develop an attitude of gratitude. Sure, you can go after better professional opportunities. But you do it this time with a grateful heart for what you already have.