Sunday, March 30, 2014

Delayed Gratification

Lately one of my most important questions I ask myself is "Will this make me happy or not?"

There is a quote often displayed that says something to the effect of "Don't sacrifice what you want most (mine is happiness) for what you want most in the moment." Recently I have grown to appreciate how true and profound this statement is.

One of the keys to happiness is continual self improvement. Self-improvement requires us to make the choice to self-improve and this choice is one that often derives down to the choice of delaying gratification. Do I want to be entertained now or do I want to be happy later? Those who are able to choose the latter seem to be typically more successful, educated, respected, and have higher self-esteem. More importantly they typically are happier.

What makes self-improvement hard is that it is often not immediately gratifying. Currently I am studying for the GMAT so I can go to grad school. This is one of the ways in which I am trying to self-improve. However, I often find it hard to study because studying isn't all that immediately gratifying. It's not all that fun. What is immediately gratifying is checking Facebook, texting someone, playing a game on my phone, taking a quiz to find out which character from Lord of the Rings I am, watching a funny Youtube video, turning on Sportscenter, taking a nap, and the list goes on. I am sure you could add many other activities of your own to this list. While these activities are fun and are entertaining they don't actually make anyone happy, at least not for sustained periods of time. While these activities are not inherently bad, they can be abused. Some of these activities are even good but that doesn't mean they are the best activities to be doing.

On the extreme end of the spectrum of immediate gratification we have drugs, alcohol, pornography, and giving in to strong negative emotions like greed, lust, envy, anger, wrath, and pride. See the 7 deadly sins. These acts have immediate and strongly powerful gratifying and pleasureable effects but can you think of how any of these activities helped someone grow and progress in the long run? These activities also have an addictive power which makes these activities consuming and can degrade one's life. 

The best activities are often the ones that require work and don't necessarily provide immediate noticeable gratification to ourselves. These activities include but are not limited to exercising, eating healthy, studying, meditating, practicing emotional awareness, giving service, going to work, cleaning, thinking critically, and even for me writing this blogpost.

So what makes these harder and less immediately gratifying activities give greater sustained happiness? To be honest I am not sure but I think there is something to be said about the pride one can derive from self-control, which these harder activities require. I know there are more and better reasons but I will have to flesh those out with time.

I finished this blogpost, which wasn't easy. It feels good.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Emotional Intelligence in Relationships

If you can't be happy with yourself, why do you think you would be happy with someone else?

This is a question/statement I have been mulling over lately. As I have gone through a few relationships I have enjoyed the highs and endured the lows. It's been a volatile emotional roller coaster. How is it that my emotional well being has been so directly correlated and connected with the status of my romantic relationships? Is that even healthy? The lows have have often made me desirous to be married so my relationship status will be cemented in place. Have I been naive to think that being married or in a relationship will therefore make me happy?

I believe that happiness in life is something I decide. Even if I remain single for the rest of my life or get rejected many times, that shouldn't be something that negatively determines my sense of worth and happiness. A relationship with someone else should only serve to enhance my happiness, not make or break it.

Of course our relationships with our families, co-workers, friends, and our significant others are going to affect our moods, dispositions, and our happiness. I don't think there is any escaping that, but it is one thing to be affected by these relationships and another to be dependent on them. A relationship doesn't have to be something that completes you or makes you whole. Why can't you be that by yourself? A relationship adds onto or enhances oneself.

Recently I became informed of a term called emotional intelligence. The general idea behind emotional intelligence is to be cognizant of ones and others emotions and to be able to effectively manage those emotions. This doesn't mean that we block out strong emotion. I think strong emotions are something that need to be embraced and fully experienced. If we don't experience these emotions, especially the negative ones, we will struggle to fully experience the positive ones. However, one needs to be aware of these emotions and how they affect one's life so as to be able to harness them in a positive direction. Emotional intelligence, I believe, will help one as they wade through the emotional struggles often found in romantic relationships.

A girl with whom I recently conversed with spoke of a previous relationship in which the guy was often depressed and unhappy. One day she asked him what made him happy and the only response he could give her was her. If you think her reaction was, "oh that is so sweet that I mean so much to him" you are severely mistaken. Knowing that you are the sole owner of another person's happiness is a lot of pressure, which eventually pushed her away.

So if you're approaching a relationship looking for someone who will make you happy and help take you out of your slump, then maybe you're not ready for a quality relationship. Once you are happy with yourself and would like to add onto the happiness of someone else's life, in turn adding onto your own life, then you're at a better starting place for a quality and happy relationship.

My brother remarked to me that he doesn't need his wife but he chooses to be with her. That may sound a bit harsh or unromantic, but knowing that the person I love has a wonderful and happy life by herself and yet chooses to spend her time, energy, and resources with me because it yields both her and I greater happiness is a wonderful thought.

So I pose the question again, "If you can't be happy with yourself, why do you think you would be happy with someone else?"