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My Happiness Hypothesis

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For a reason quite unknown, people have an inclination to obtain some sort of happiness. This happiness is something people think about just about everyday. The decisions we make, the thoughts we think; they all pertain to this desire of being happy sometime in the near or far future. But focusing on future happiness is more detrimental to our present lives than beneficial.

Some people however disagree and may argue that focusing on the future motivates one to make positive present day decisions that will benefit them in the long run. Hypothetically speaking let us examine a man who has a love for cupcakes and every time he eats a cupcake, he becomes happy. He has ten cupcakes lined up in front of him. He can either eat the ten cupcakes and gain pure satisfactory happiness or he could walk away. If the man is concerned about his future happiness, he may think twice about the health costs of ingesting all of the cupcakes. Because he is focused on his future happiness, he may be more inclined to resist the sugar, and remain in a healthy conducive state for years to come, resulting in a happy and healthy future.
Though basing decisions off the future may be deemed beneficial in some ways, it is best to maintain a balance. Some people may find themselves so involved with their future happiness that they forget to enjoy the present moment. Eating a few cupcakes here and there will more than likely not deteriorate a man’s health, but rather give him a sense of sugary, un-harmful happiness from time to time. In essence, the present should be attended to, because there are many things to appreciate. “It really is the journey that counts, not the destination,” (Haidt, 84) so the individual should enjoy present time as well.
In part of forgetting to enjoy these present moments comes missing these opportunities. Only thinking about what is to happen in the future can become a distraction to us. If we keep thinking that we will be happy in the long run, we will neglect what is really happening to us in the present and remain stagnant until one day our future happiness finally supersedes our present state. But in essence, if we are so concerned with our future happiness, once we reach that so called future, what happens next? Are we actually happy? More than likely the answer is no because when we finally reach what was once the distant future, it becomes the present, and then we are ultimately discontent again until we reach another future. It is a vicious cycle that never ends. Haidt deals greatly with this concept, coining it “the progress principle.” We work every single day of our lives in hopes to achieve something great in the near or far future. “Then [we] succeed, and if [we’re] lucky [we] get an hour, maybe a day, of euphoria…my first thought is seldom ‘Hooray! Fantastic!’ it is ‘Okay, what do I have to do now?’” (Haidt, 83.)
When that happy ending is not obtained in the near future people feel confused, and sometimes even devastated, perhaps trapped within despair. This state of discontent illustrates the “dark side” of happiness as we see many people diagnosed with clinical depression, physically unable to achieve happiness. These patients are subconsciously burdened with the pressure to attain some sort of euphoria because it is a natural part of life based on a societal notion. Their present lives are ruined because their continuous hopes in becoming happy in their latter lives seem to be more and more unrealistic as time lapses.
Focusing on future happiness can also be a bad thing because in essence, the future is not guaranteed. There is this conceptual view that most individuals, if not all, deserve an optimal predestined future. The entertainment industry is partially to blame for this. “Human beings in every culture are fascinated by stories” (Haidt 142.) This fallacy is a daily occurrence causing us to sugar coat our realities and blind us from the obstacles that balance our achievements. The media uses movies to establish a “real world” plot that always seems to end with a “happily ever after.” A cheesy movie such as Valentines Day (2010) serves as a typical situation where couples break up and make up, waiting for their special someone to sweep them off their feet and ultimately fall in love all because the setting is on Valentines Day. Movies like 500 Days of Summer (2009) “surprise” the audience with what they think will be a rekindled flame between Summer and Tom, and when that does not happen, we are then reassured Tom will find a new woman who makes him even happier, Autumn. Despite the fact that this idealistic depiction of life does include a series of unfortunate events, the positive ending leads society to believe that no matter what we will eventually be happy. So we allow ourselves to remain in a state of discontent and misery unwilling to try to mend the situation, but rather just wait in present time for our happy ending to come in the future. The time invested in future happiness can eventually turn into wasted time, meaning present time has not been fulfilled. Who is to say some anticlimactic event cannot occur in the matter of seconds, thus depleting all harbored focus for the future? That is an ending movie makers tend to avoid.

Essentially, if people stopped focusing on their future happiness, then they would be able to acknowledge their present possibilities. There is so much that already lies in front of us that we may take for granted: a healthy life, a loving family, educational opportunities, or perhaps a well paying job. Taking the present for what it is allows us to enjoy what we have now, because who knows what will happen tomorrow. Happiness can be found in love, family, friends, and opportunities, all of which must be fostered in the present in order to last into the future.



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