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    Thread: The Question Of Life

    1. #1
      Novice dreamer Glieuaeiel's Avatar
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      The Question Of Life

      How does one arbitrate the conflict between present happiness and future happiness?

      It's a question I've journaled about on many an occasion without yet reaching any conclusions. Basically, if you focus too much on present happiness, then you'll neglect to do the necessary work to provide for your happiness in the future. On the other hand, if you focus to much on future happiness (by working or studying all the time), then you'll never get to experience that happiness, because you're always working towards a future that never arrives.

      I think I'll take to calling this "the question of life," because it seems to be at the heart of a lot of other difficult life questions. For instance, sometimes I have trouble deciding what to do with my time. Exercise, homework, sleep, what? Often it comes down to a conflict between what I "should" do and what I "feel like" doing, which is exactly the conflict between future happiness and present happiness.

      I'm really interested to hear anyone's opinions about this question, especially if it's something you've struggled with in the past. It's the "biggest" question I know, but I figure lucid dreamers are probably fairly thoughtful folk.

    2. #2
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      Do what you need to do to maximize overall happiness, including present and future. If you're constantly working toward a future goal, and when that future comes you'll be working toward another future goal, then you're doing it wrongly. Only work toward a future goal that you're actually planning to experience the outcome of.

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      Try planning for things in the future. It's been proven that having something to look forward to makes you happier. Plus, once that day comes, you can relish in that moment. You cannot maintain a sense of "bliss" without end, but if you always have something to look forward to, you've always got a reason to keep spirits up!

      Plan a gathering with friends a couple weeks down the road, or just a day off from work/school where you can relax. The anticipation itself is uplifting.
      curfused likes this.

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      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      Consider the desires that give you the most happiness right now. I don't mean to say actions that give you the most happiness, but desires.

      You see, when you desire something, you gain a good feeling from the desire itself. This feeling only becomes painful if you have doubt or if you wrongly attach the good feeling to the achievement of the desire rather than the desire itself. We often confuse what really makes us happy, we think it is the fulfillment of the desire that will make us happier, and because of this confusion we form these bottomless pits since the good feeling dissolves after we achieve success.

      So consider your dream, the greatest possible thing you could ever want out of life, your hottest burning desire. Now transform that dream into a daily routine. Excellence is not a goal but a habit, if you can turn your goals into habits you can continue having something to look forward, allowing yourself to remain focused on your goals without getting sidetracked by instantaneous opportunities for gratification. And always remember the desire itself is the source of happiness, aching over lack is ignorant.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      I focus on, maybe 80% present and 20% future (just an estimate). The reason for this comes from learning the reality of what is called impact bias, or the strong tendency to overestimate the positive or negative impacts on long-term happiness that any given future event will have. There is a skill of looking around you and finding happiness in your current situation (kinda like Macgyver), but it can only be practiced right now. So the plan for the future is to get good at this, and apply it when the time comes.
      dutchraptor likes this.

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      Novice dreamer Glieuaeiel's Avatar
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      Thanks for your replies, everyone! Preserver and OP, you both seem to agree that happiness comes from desire and anticipation rather than accomplishment, which I think is a really interesting idea. And if I understand your second paragraph right, OP, you seem to be saying that when working towards something that you want to achieve, it's the work itself that should be a happy experience, because it reminds you of that desire you have to finish the job. I'm not sure I completely understand it, but that seems like an interesting idea, too.

      Indie, I like that Wikipedia page (except that "Example" section is kinda badly written; I'm surprised it hasn't been flagged yet, haha). The sentence on "Inaccurate Theories" seems particularly relevant to my own experience. Even with activities I've never done before, I always have some specific expectation about how much (un)happiness they might bring.

      Relevant, well written NYTimes article: The 'Busy' Trap - NYTimes.com

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      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      Expectations tend to be subconscious, which is how it gets really tricky to look forward to something and delay gratification. In fact enough disappointment can create a strong reluctance to perform any activity involving delayed gratification. You'll stop trying, in other words. Lowering expectation also removes that burning motivation to accomplish tasks, defeating the purpose in working toward future goals to begin with.

      But let's look at an example. Let's say you see something in a store and suddenly you want it. It fills you with a floaty feeling of desire. You can just imagine what your experiences would be like if you could just get your hands on that. You salivate with anticipation. Maybe it's a new bike, maybe a new TV, maybe a videogame. Whatever it is, the effect is the same. The moment you purchase it, you reach a peak of accomplishment. It almost feels like relief, you've finally got it now you can escape the pain of needing it. But the desire doesn't go away, it just finds something new to cling to. Now that you own the item, it no longer seems as important. Before you know it, you'll replace the desire and forget you ever wanted that thing so hard. In the moment, it felt like the only thing you could ever want. But it wasn't, it couldn't satisfy you.

      It is true with everything. Let's say all you want in the world is to finish that book, and you do, and you smoke a joint and bask for a moment in total accomplishment. And that feeling subsides, and suddenly you need more again. Let's say all you want is for that girl you like to notice you. And then she does, and your mind quakes ecstasy each time she speaks to you and you're getting closer, everything is exciting, but now you just want a kiss. That's it, just one little kiss. And then you get that and it was perfect and life is amazing but you just want to sleep with her, that's it. Just one time. And you do. And you want to do it again, just one more time, and so you do. Before you know it you're married and barely capable of tolerating her and you wonder what happened to the times when your romance was so exciting. You were so caught up with getting the next thing, it all passed by you like a checklist. And if you'll notice, it's quite similar to a drug addiction. A drug addict does not think about their high ten days from now. They think about their next high. And they think if they could just get that next high, everything will be gravy. They can't anticipate that when that next high fades they'll need another after that. Our society is built off addiction. It depends on one fact: you can never, truly, be satisfied.

      Buddhism teaches that desire causes suffering, but it's not desire we must snuff out in order to be happy little buddhists. It is attachment to desire. That attachment is what causes us to think we want just that one thing and then we'll be happy. Attachment to desire comes with it expectation of what the accomplishment will give us. More accurately, we expect that when we achieve a desire, we will feel a certain way. And we never, ever feel exactly how we expect to. Some say lower your expectations and you'll always feel pleasantly surprised, but like I said without high expectations the burning desire to actually accomplish something dissipates. High expectations fuel you with ambition. You just have to remember that your expectations will not be met, not exactly anyways, that doesn't mean you can't have them anyways. To a man belongs only his labor and never the fruit of it. This means the outcome of your action is out of your control, you only control the action. Rather than assume the outcome will be bad, or require it to be good, focus on what actually belongs to you, your actions, and stop worrying about results you can't control. Detach yourself from the outcome, but revel in the desire. Giggle when you ponder what could go right. Laugh at the marvelous possibilities that stand before you. Care enough to continue, but don't care so much you suffer over it. Anything could happen, so why live in the lack? You can find happiness now while working toward a goal, and it's as simple as asking yourself, "If anything could happen, why should I live in the lack rather than the possibility?"
      Last edited by Original Poster; 12-13-2012 at 02:55 AM.
      IndieAnthias and Glieuaeiel like this.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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