Long term vs short term happiness
What is happiness?
We tend to measure happiness in numbers cause that’s the only way we know how to. How much money is in your bank account? How much is your house worth? What brand is your car?
We tend to think that these are signs of happiness. But these are not the true measures of happiness. Happiness comes from within. From a sense of purpose in life. A meaning of some sort.
When we ask our kids questions like: “Did you get a lot of Christmas gifts?”, we tell them that quantity matters. If we instead ask them what their best Christmas gift was, it produces a completely different answer. An answer that has another meaning. It forces them to think about what their favorite gift was, one that truly made them happy to receive. Maybe we should ask them what their least favorite gift was instead. Then we know what things not to buy.
What gives us long term happiness is not necessarily the same things that give us short term happiness. If your only goal is short term happiness then go ahead and watch your favorite TV show every evening. You’ll get immediate pleasure, but your life will not improve in the long run.
If on the other hand, you’re striving to build a meaningful life then you have to skip that TV show most evenings and do something different. Perhaps read an inspiring book, learn a new skill or exercise. Whatever you choose to do will get you further ahead than sitting in front of the TV.
But spending that hour in the evening doing something else than watching TV, how could that possibly get me ahead? How could I possibly benefit from that? It’s just an hour! It’ll not make any difference.
I say it does. Don’t forget the compounding effect. Imagine that you spend six evenings each week doing something that will expand your mind. One hour each evening. That’s six hours in a week. In a year that adds up to 312 hours. That’s equivalent to 39 working days, assuming an eight-hour workday. That will make a difference in your life.
“We overestimate what we can do in a week, but we underestimate what we can accomplish in a year.”
– Tim Ferriss
“Live every day as if it would be your last”. In theory, I guess it’s good advice. The intention being that you should live every day to the fullest. In practice, it doesn’t work well. If it really was my last day, I would keep the kids home from school and spend the day with them. Spending all of my money wouldn’t bother me if it really was my last day to live. It’s an extreme form of short term happiness, which leaves you without anything to build on for the next day.
So what’s it going to be? It’s up to you. No one can force you to do anything. But next time you sit down in front of the TV, ask yourself is this really what you should be doing right now or is there something else that’s more worthy of your time? After all, time is your most valuable asset, but it’s also the most elusive. When it’s gone, it’s gone, there’s no way of getting it back.
Spend your time building something that matters in the long run.
Why not start today?