Author’s Note: I’m currently in the process of migrating old blog posts to this new system. That may mean some links, syntax highlighting, and other details are broken or missing temporarily. Sorry for the inconvenience!
I devote a lot of time to self-evaluation. Not in the healthy “let’s look at past performance, address necessary changes, and make adjustments for the future” sort of way. More in the “Ugh, why aren’t I doing better?” self-hatred sort of way. It’s not a good habit. But the more I grow to understand other people - it’s not an uncommon habit either.
Generally speaking, I can shrug off the voice of self-criticism. I know that I’m not actually the worst person in the world. And I’ve got a lot of stuff going for me. I’m rich, handsome, successful, and unabashedly humble.
Some days though, I don’t get out of bed. Why is that?
To the Behavior Economics!
I need to briefly nod to some real research first, so I can rampantly reinterpret it to suit my own needs. So here’s a TED talk by Daniel Kahneman:
(he has a book called Thinking Fast & Slow as well, but I figured this’d be easier)
So, to summarize: there’s a remembering self and an experiencing self, and they both measure happiness in different ways. And the remembering self is the one who makes all future plans. So when I say “I will not order pizza delivery five nights in a row”, it’s really a different person who breaks that promise.
But science is a lie!
So you may have heard that psychology has a bit of a problem. Or, to speak more generally, all of science has a bit of a problem. Or, to speak less sensationally, humans are fallible creatures.
But in particular, there’s a bit of a stir about certain experiments that did not hold up to further scrutiny. And it just so happened that this study addressed psychology. Ya know, that field that we’re talking about right now. So does that mean the science (or rather, my complete misapplication of the science) should be ignored?
I mean, this shouldn’t cause us any real concern over scientific credibility, but we should kinda ignore the results of a lot of this research anyway - even the stuff that was reproduced.
When it comes to the question of “how can I be a bit more happy,” it doesn’t really matter if a study shows “98% of applicants are happier when they learn to tango.” What matters is “will I be happier if I learn to tango?” Maybe not. Maybe you’re in that 2%. Or maybe the study can’t be reproduced. That doesn’t matter, because we can test these ideas out and see if they work for ourselves. Maybe they only work for ourselves. Maybe it’s placebo. Who cares? We’re happier, right?
Let’s get happy!
Okay, so we’ve stolen this idea of a remembering self and an experiencing self. And this can sorta explain the difference between our best laid plans…and our crippling Netflix addiction. Again, the science may be wrong - but we don’t care because maybe it’s useful. But if we accept this as a thing to run with, we have to answer a big question: which “self” do I want to improve?
Do I wanna be happy, or do I want to think fondly about how my life is going?
I don’t really have an answer at the moment (and I’m trying to warm myself up to writing blog posts again), so I’m gonna have to come back to this one. But leave a comment and let me know what you’d choose.