One of my students approached me after getting a fantastic job offer from a prestigious media firm.
She told me that she was not interested in their work but she felt she should take it up, although she had offers from many other companies, none would “set her up” as this one would.
She asked me at what point in life she could stop thinking about the future and start thinking of being happy.
My answer was, that instead of asking “Should I be happy now or in the future?”, she should be happy now AND in the future.”
Of course, expecting constant happiness is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Not everything we do can provide both present and future benefits.
Sometimes it’s worth it to forgo the present benefit for a greater future gain. Everyone has at a certain point in their lives do an amount of mundane work and that is unavoidable.
But the trick is to know that even as you give up on some present gain for the sake of a larger future payoff, your objective is to spend as much time as possible doing things that benefit you now AND down the line.
Read about the four personality types below, and learn how to get closer to your ideal of feeling good about your life now and also where you want to be.
Figure out what personality you are. Describe your emotions, your thoughts and actions. What makes you feel this way and why? What were the benefits and the costs?
The more you open up to your therapist or yourself, the more insight you will gain into your patterns and behaviors which will help you begin to make meaningful changes.
Rat racers work really hard but typically do not enjoy the work. Instead, they believe they will be happy only when they reach their destination.
Our hurry-hurry culture reinforces this notion and most people from childhood learn to focus on the net goal, nor on the present. WE are not rewarded for enjoying the journey, only for completing it.
This attitude is counterproductive to happiness. Someone who gets over a headache may feel happy and pain free but that’s not true happiness. It is relief from a negative experience.
Once the pain is gone, you take your health for granted again. Similarly, rat racers grind away towards a goal, confuse relief with happiness when they attain it, then wonder why the food feelings evaporate so quickly.
The defeatist or nihilist are chained to their past failings and are disillusioned and resigned people with the belief that their life has no purpose.
They just accept their current unhappiness and expect even more in the future assuming they have no control over what happens to them. Their daily routine has absolutely no pleasure or meaning and never will.
Pleasure seekers or hedonists give little thought to the future. If something feels good right now (like the third glass of wine or ice cream), then that’s enough reason to enjoy it.
If you have a job project that’s difficult, then that’s enough reason to avoid doing it. They fill the day with passive activities instead of pursuing meaning.
The trouble is, at the end of the day, just vegetating all seven days in front of the TV until they doze off, rather than engaging in pleasurable and meaningful experiences will only reinforce the concept and belief that you are too tired to do anything challenging.
If you do focus on a hobby you enjoy and care for, then you will be more apt to get a second wind and replenish your emotional energy.
Happy people strive to spend as much time as possible doing things that provide present AND future benefit. While these may sometimes conflict, often you can find ways to enjoy both.
Students love learning may have to cram for exams, but they also derive present benefit from learning new ideas and future benefits for the way those ideas prepare them for a great career.
So while happy people may not always be joyful, they view their lives as positive, enriched and purposeful.