The happiness paradox

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Have you ever felt like sometimes your actions and choices are not consistent with your end goal of being happier ? Have you ever found yourself sacrificing your own happiness in the long term for the sake of other things to do immediately ?

Too often I have noticed people going to bed much later than they should because of a TV show or a party despite having an important meeting the next day ; people on a strict diet or with diabetes eating an ice cream just because they felt like having one on the spot ; people refusing or delaying a holiday because of work…

Even if you feel like it is okay on the spot, that you are doing the right thing, you often end up realizing that those decisions did not make you happy. This is due to a false sense of perspective, or what I call the instant happiness fallacy : what might make you happy right now is not necessarily what will contribute to your sustained happiness, in the long term.

Nowadays, people are often dragged toward the instant pleasure maximization system. In other words, you do something that seem to contribute positively to your life on the spot, but truly ends up sabotaging or stalling your happiness end goal.

I feel like this is something quite common in today’s world. The question is : why ? Why does such an illogical thing happen so often ? I know we are not the 100% rational human beings economists would like us to be, however this is too much of a recurrent pattern to be considered the exception to the rule.

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My answer to this paradox is that we have lost our sense of perspective and priorities. What needs to be done for others – here, understand “underlying responsibilities” – seem to trump our inner, final, yet simple goal of being happy.

Reversing a process that seems to have become so natural to us might not come easy at first. However, you can try it on a daily basis.

You just need to take a few seconds before each decisions you take –  those you are not sure about, but also those that you take without even thinking about them because they have become some kind of natural instinct or reflex for you. Try to be more mindful.

Instead of simply asking yourself : “will this make me feel better tomorrow ?”, go deeper, and consider whether you will also be better off in a week, or a month ? Chances are you might be surprised with the answer most of the time.

The solution, you see, is to try to get out of the instant gratification process we so easily fall into, and seek higher purposes. If you truly want to improve yourself, this should hit you as being the simplest and cheapest solution. If not, be curious and try it out for some time. It might help you uncover some hidden benefits you did not suspect the existence of, who knows ? Oh, and of course, let me know how this little experiment goes on your part.

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