The Pursuit of Happiness

Life is full of simple pleasures which give small bursts of happiness such as bumping into an old friend on the street who you haven’t seen in years or finding a bar of chocolate in a coat pocket which you’d forgotten was there.

The delight of immediate happiness is alluring and addictive which is why people seek it out as much as possible.

You know what makes you happy, so you engage in behaviours and activities which induce pleasure: you sneak a peek at social media during work hours to break the monotony of the day; you go shopping after a stressful week at work to ‘cheer yourself up’, and ice-cream and alcohol feel like a good idea of a Saturday night unlike celery juice or rye-crispbread which we should probably eat instead if we want a slimmer figure.

Short-term happiness isn’t inherently bad for you; small perks keep you upbeat and motivated through days which would otherwise feel soul-destroying and mind-numbing. However, focusing on pursuing short-term happiness over long-term growth is a waste of your life and potential.

 

Pursuing Instant Gratification – The Happiness Trap

 

When you’re focussed on pursuing happiness rather than growth, you focus more on how you look than on who you are. You spend your time with friends who give you gifts rather than those who would help you out if you needed something. Or, you spend your time and money on frivolous television subscriptions, fast-fashion and nights out without considering long-term investment plans.

You eat what you want every day and tell yourself ‘a little in moderation’ won’t hurt when, if you were honest, you know your daily ‘moderation’ totals up in the long term. You stay at home and sleep in rather than go to the gym early morning and label your decision as ‘self-care’, and you crash diet and lose weight quickly rather than adopt a lifestyle change and quit eating processed foods and sugar.

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”

– Brian Tracy

The lure of short-term happiness is far more appealing than the painful process of waiting to see the slow-emerging results of growth. Sometimes, pushing yourself through the arduous process of growth can be demoralising.

Why should a writer publish meaningful articles when the only articles which make money are negative-clickbait news and celebrity gossip, and why would an entrepreneur get themselves into years of more debt by trying again after all their business have failed so far?

 

Making Wiser Choices

 

Your emotions often impede your pursuit long-term growth. The road to growth doesn’t deliver the thrill short-term happiness does, which is why it’s so common to become depressed, lethargic, defeated and tired when on the road to personal growth.

But when your emotions get the better of you and tempt you give up now, you need to ask yourself: “How will I feel about today’s decision tomorrow, next week, next year or five years from now?”

Make the choices in life which will please your future self the most, even if your immediate self resents you for it in the short-term. I’ve never met a person who berates their past self for having worked towards a better life physically, emotionally and financially.

However, I have met many people who wish they did more things sooner, whether that was losing weight, starting up their own business, taking care of their physical and mental health or saving their money.

 

Long-term growth needs defining and planning. To pursue it, you need to let go of your addiction to immediate gratification in favour of awaiting a greater emotional payoff.

 

Long-term growth requires an internalised dedication to your future self and life. You must sacrifice sleeping in, buying cookies and ready-made meals in the short term to reach your ideal weight; and you must sacrifice a lot of your social life to focus on starting up and growing your business. 

Whilst pursuing long-term growth may involve many sacrifices, the journey isn’t joyless. There will always be pleasure and excitement in your life as long as you appreciate the things you have and you commit to being your best self. 

Pursuing long-term growth requires strength, courage and, most important, self-love and self-respect. So why not do something today that you’ll love yourself for tomorrow and take a new perspective on what it means to be joyful in the world?

Kain Ramsay
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As an established teacher of personal and professional growth principles, and a champion of mental well-being, Kain Ramsay is regarded as one of the world’s foremost thought leaders of modern applied psychology.