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Understanding Happiness – Part 5

When looking for happiness one of the first things you are going to have to decide is what type are you going to go after. Your asking? You mean there is more than one type of happiness? Yep. Happiness like love and anger comes in some variations. More about love and anger in later articles. The easiest way to categorise them is by time. Short medium and long, each one has its rewards and costs. One could say there is a similarity between the subject of happiness and a healthy diet. There are foods which you like but aren’t that good for you. There are foods that are not that exciting but in the long run are significantly better for you. This doesn’t remove the fact that we are all drug addicts. We are all looking for our daily emotional fix; the question is what is your drug of choice. Just like some people like beer over spirits or wine over a beer, so too is it with happiness. No right or wrong, just choices, benefits and consequences.

Let’s start with short term happiness. These are things activities or things produce an emotional state that can be measured in minutes. You do the activity think the thought eat the food and the sensation lasts for a few minutes. The moment the sensation is over you are out looking for another hit to return you to that happy place. This is the realm of food, e.g., chocolate, video games, or movies, alcohol, sex, drugs, shopping, adrenalin, I think you get the idea. Searching for this type of happiness is a bit of a wild ride; quickly you will start to realise that even in the middle of the pleasure there is a part of you that knows it is only fleeting.

Medium term. These states can be measured in months and years. More thought and effort is required to achieve this type of happiness. This happiness comes in the form of education, career, child rearing. Designing, writing, creating, building. Effort and focus of attention is the thing that are the earmarks of this type of happiness. The rise to this state is slower. However, there is no sudden drop off at the end. It is a steady and continuous movement in a direction. There maybe a sense of tremendous loss when it has come to the end of its time, like children leaving home, the end of a career or graduation. At the end of this the addiction, you will be required to find another.

Long term, I think this is the most attractive of all the forms of happiness. In saying that it is the one form that is the most challenging and in my mind most rewarding. The one word that could describe this type of happiness is legacy. Knowing that you have made a difference in the world. It is about realising your short existence on earth has had a positive effect on the people around you or the world. What is it that you have done with your life that will live beyond your eventual death. This could be as simple as building a better mousetrap, producing an evergreen piece of music, writing a poem or book that will be passed down through time. True it may take significant time and investment of resources. It could also be thrust upon you by chance. Like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Bill Gate and Steve Jobs have produced a legacy that has changed the world forever. It could also be as simple as having a child and investing in them so that they may take your learnings into the future. Becoming a master so that your apprentices evolve into the masters that continue the skills through time.

Short term happiness is quick up and faster down, usually lasting only minutes. Medium happiness is slow to rise and slow to fall. Long term is possibly slow to rise however it continues beyond your death.

The reason of this is apparent, there is no profit in long term happiness for a corporation. The moment you have sold a thing you need to sell it again as soon as possible otherwise your out of business. This is why drugs and pornography are such good businesses because you know that your customers will be back the next day.

I’m I saying that short term happiness is bad and that we all have to go after long-term happiness? No, the going after long-term to the exclusion of short and a medium term is just as destructive. It is a bit like budgeting. If you save 100% of what you earn you will starve to death. If you spend 100% of your income there is nothing for the future. The aim of the game is finding a balance. There is nothing wrong with a bit of sugar and fat in your diet; it is only an issue when it is the only thing you eat. At different stages of your life, you will seek more of one than the other. In childhood, it is about short term happiness, as you grow more of your resources will be spent on medium to long term happiness. Take the time to discover your short term medium and long term happiness objectives. By doing this, slowly at first you will spend more time on the medium to long-term activities. By doing this you will experience a more sustainable and stable sense of happiness. Remember to eat the chocolate cake from time to time as well.