How to Help Your Future Self

Colin writes… I’ve finally figured out what makes me truly happy, and it’s a lot simpler than I would have guessed. It’s this: the freedom to work hard every day at building things that help other people happy. Passion + discipline + connection = happiness.

Whenever I feel foolish for taking so long to figure this out, I remind myself that I live in a society that actively buries this simple formula under thousands of sales pitches for things that actually make me miserable. Self-contained short-term happiness is surprisingly affordable and accessible. All it takes is an online streaming service and access to your particular guilty pasttime (be it fast food, candy, alcohol, etc). And just like that, you can unplug from your life.

It doesn’t seem fair. Making yourself miserable shouldn’t feel so irresistible. Why is it that I think eating cookies at 9am will make me feel energetic and productive at 3pm? It won’t and it never has.

The simple truth is that ignoring your life doesn’t improve it. It usually leads me to the polar opposite of my vision of happiness: a curious form of laziness/selfishness/insecurity that leads me away from thinking of others and into the abyss of self.

There’s good news though: happiness works the same way. It’s a series of small choices adding up over time. So let’s pinpoint this dilemma as clearly as possible… when we choose what makes us happy in the short-term and unhappy in the long-term, we are making a choice our future self will have to pay for instead of us. But that person doesn’t have a choice: we do. We have to choose on behalf of the person we will be when our head hits the pillow this evening. We have to make the small healthy choices (even if they make us temporarily unhappy) that create long-term happiness. Our future self will be glad we did.

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