Erik Van Alstine

Erik Van Alstine

Author. Leadership strategist. Expert in Perceptual IntelligenceTM.

Happy Now, Miserable Later

Modern culture is all about happiness. Just look at a few of these popular internet quotes…

  • “Forget about whatever anyone else thinks and says. If it makes you happy, go for it.”
  • “Whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy.”
  • “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad.”

I’m all for happiness too. As long as what makes us happy now doesn’t make us miserable later. Solomon, the ancient world’s wisest man, once wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.”

As an extreme example, think about heroin. People who take it report off-the-charts pleasure. It’s the most addictive drug in the world because of the intense happiness it creates.

So why not give everyone heroin? Imagine you’re at a party, contemplating shooting up. Someone well-versed in the popular happiness quotes talks you through it. “Forget about whatever anyone else things and says,” they tell you. “If it makes you happy, go for it.” Or they say, “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad.”

That’s the worst advice in the world.

So as we pursue happiness, we should also think in two categories: short-term and long-term. Anything that offers short-term happiness at the expense of long-term happiness should be resisted.

Just like we’d resist an offer of heroin at a party.

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