And what to run after instead.
We’ve all heard the old adages of “you need to do your work before you play” and such.
To many of us, they seem like necessities only because of arbitrary rules.
Surely, if we had all the time and money we could need, without having to do chores, study, or go to work, a life of partying and enjoying life would be for the best, right?
Well… Maybe. Let’s dive a bit deeper into happiness and, more importantly, why chasing pleasure won’t really make you happy.
Happiness is Never Enough
If we automated all labor (as this is what’s happening in part right now) and had all the spare time in the world, then why wouldn’t we be better off for it?
The simple answer to this is that our bodies simply weren’t made for that.
Biologically speaking, our nervous and chemical reward systems aren’t attuned to the easy and fast fulfillment of our evolutionary needs.
This is why, for example, our bodies make fatty and sugary foods so tasty.
Because in the primordial savannahs where our brains did the majority of their evolution, these foods were rare, and getting even a bit of them made sure we didn’t starve if we didn’t find food for days.
However, when a bag of chips or cookies costs a measly sum of just a few dollars and we can buy it at every convenience store just a few blocks away, but our brains “haven’t gotten the message,” so to speak, we get an obesity epidemic.
The same thing can be applied to happiness - even if you have all the money in the world, lounging around all day, doing nothing but fulfilling your desires isn’t good for your mental health at the least.
They may be anecdotal, a.k.a. unscientific examples, but depressed, divorced, and unfulfilled millionaires or celebrities are unfortunately an expected, yet still sad proof of this.
All of that said, of course, happiness and pleasure aren’t inherently bad things.
It isn’t necessary that we still have a soul-crushing or psychically exhausting job, even if we have the option not to do so.
The answer to this is to rebrand pleasure or happiness while still attaining it in the end, but it not being the main goal.
As one great philosopher once said: “pursue fulfillment and happiness will come. Happiness is a natural product of fulfillment, but it doesn’t work the other way around”.
Sex makes you happy - working over the complex issues of a relationship and learning to compromise not so much, but it guarantees a fulfilling and stable environment that provides the former.
Creating music can bring you happiness, but if you want it to be a truly worthwhile song, you have to go through hours of practice, possibly disagreements with your bandmates, and pay for equipment.
You get the gist.
If one adopts this simple mindset, they don’t miss out on happiness, no one is saying we need to live in a cave like a hermit like the stoics might suggest, but they change their priority.
At the end of the day, if you still don’t believe this to be the best way forward, there is a simple thought experiment to illustrate the whole debate:
If every day of your life is the most pleasurable and blissful one without any hardships, then wouldn’t the next super amazing day be just… normal and mundane?
Answer this for yourself!