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Short-Term Pleasure vs Long-Term Happiness

  • 2 min read

As human beings, we are wired to move towards pleasure and away from pain (though I guess it gets a little more complicated when you’re into S&M).  This is not a bad survival strategy.  A lot of painful things can get you killed.  Like great white sharks, epileptics holding chainsaws  or spray painting your face to disguise yourself before committing a robbery.

However, when you’re not surrounded by sharks, this strategy can lead to less desirable consequences. In western society, pleasure is literally always just a few bucks (or a mouse click and some tissues) away.

On one hand, this is great. Pleasure tends to be pretty pleasurable, so why wouldn’t you go for it?

On the other hand, most things that bring you instant gratification (sugar, porn, buying stuff that you don’t need) are not very good for you in the long run.  In fact, more often than not, these things make your life less pleasant over the years.  And the initial feeling also stops very quickly. So you’ll need another source of pleasure soon afterwards.

This confuses our pleasure-seeking-pain-avoiding-brains and makes the system a lot less reliable. While I’m the first one to say life is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest and that conscious indulgence can be great sometimes, it generally pays more to override your first impulses here.

If you want to fill your life with long-term, sustainable joy instead of short spikes of pseudo-enjoyment that create problems over time, you have to interrupt yourself and make a firm decision.

Some examples you may want to consider:

• Devouring a pint of ice cream now?  Or feeling vital, healthy and good about your body in the long run?

• Popping another prescription pill now?  Or confronting your issues to be more free and happy later?

• Avoiding an uncomfortable conversation now?  Or not losing a friend later?

• Buying another pair of shoes you don’t need right now? Or traveling the world with the money you saved up?

• Reading comments from people you don’t know on some Facebook status that makes you upset? Or subscribing to this blog to read stuff that helps you in the long run? ?

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