Discover more from Prompted
Prompted: Horizon of Happiness
Exploring the relationship between indulgence and fulfillment.
Happy Sunday! Today’s newsletter covers a topic I’m guessing most of us struggle with every day.
I hope these thoughts and prompts help you develop more clarity around the trade-offs between the short-term and long-term. I think the middle ground will always be a moving target, but it never hurts to dig a little deeper.
As always, thanks for reading!
Happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.
- Roy Goodman
Horizon of Happiness
We’re all living our lives in the pursuit of something, but what is it that we’re after? Is it success, happiness, fulfillment? If so, what do those words mean? There’s no agreed-upon definition for any of them, and they represent something different to each of us.
There’s not one pursuit that is “right” or “best”, but I think there are frameworks and principles that can help us experience more happiness and fulfillment in our own lives; however we define them.
So we’re all working with common language; let’s define some terms:
Happiness - lasting joy.
Fulfillment - feeling whole and proud from something bigger than ourselves.
Indulgence - a short-term pleasure without lasting benefits.
Worthwhile Pursuit - an activity with limited short-term benefit/enjoyment, but produces progress and fulfillment after months or years of consistent effort.
In short, we probably all need to do more hard things with long-term benefits and less pleasurable things with short-term benefits. But this is too simplistic.
If all we do is delay gratification and make sacrifices now so we can enjoy ourselves at some undefined point in the future, we miss out on the richness of life right now. Although less common than falling prey to indulgence and short-term pleasures, there are countless examples of those who delayed gratification for so long that they never had a chance to enjoy their lives.
After all, what’s happiness and success without anyone to share them with? Conversely, what’s to admire about impulsively indulging in every indulgence without regard for the future?
I believe the answer to living a good life lies somewhere in the middle ground between these two extremes. It’s the balance of working hard for the future and enjoying the present that helps us maximize feelings of happiness and fulfillment.
In everyday life, this translates to a delicate balance between worthwhile pursuits and indulgences. If we constantly prioritize work, exercise, side hustles, and similar pursuits, we can miss out on enjoying the fruits of our labor and delay gratification until fleeting opportunities have passed us by.
Deathbed advice always reminds us to spend more time with the ones we love and to do the things we love, but the opportunities to do both are often the result of our pursuits and discipline that require forgoing them in the short term.
There’s no perfect way to do anything, but I think we can all benefit from an inquiry into how we balance what brings us joy and pleasure right now with what will bring happiness and fulfillment at some point in the future. It’s easy to justify entirely prioritizing one over the other, but balancing the two will allow us to expand our horizon of happiness.
Am I succumbing to short-term indulgences at the cost of worthwhile pursuits and long-term happiness or vice-versa?
What are the parameters or rules I can set for myself so I know what indulgences are worth forgoing in the pursuit of longer-term ambitions and what moments I’ll regret missing out on?
What are the costs of living in the moment? What are the costs of only building for the future?
An interesting read from UCLA on how our brains develop “future bias”
Enjoyed this week’s newsletter?
Consider becoming a premium subscriber to receive…
Additional prompts throughout the week
Access to long-form essays
An invitation to the Prompted Journaling Collective to meet and interact with other folks looking to become a bit better each day.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.