Selling your happiness

I’m choosing self-care tonight and recycling a post a wrote for another blog back in November 2011. It was a very good reminder for me today on the cost of my choices.

I recently came across a post on Tyler Tervooren’s Advanced Riskology blog called Happiness for sale that suggests that we tend to sell our happiness all the time. I highly recommend reading his post because he clearly describes this phenomenon and the ways it shows up in our lives. He has a follow-up post called Happiness experiments: Tipping the scale towards joy that talks about how we can change our behavior to stop selling our happiness that is also worth reading.

But for those of you who aren’t convinced to go read it yourselves right this moment, let me summarize his basic premise. He starts with the idea that every decision we make has an opportunity cost; choosing one thing means we are giving up the opportunity to do something else with whatever you are spending on that choice. For example, the fact that I am choosing to write this blog post right now means I cannot spend this time reading a book or vacuuming the floor. Choosing to spend money on eating out for lunch every day means I don’t have that money to spend on other things (like books).

Therefore, every time we choose to do something that does not make us happy, we are choosing to sell our happiness in order to have that choice. Yes, you read that right: every time you choose to do something that makes you unhappy, you are choosing to sell your happiness. And for what? Is it worth it?

When I used to choose to go to work every day at a job that was making me very unhappy (and incredibly stressed), I was selling my happiness in order to have that paycheck and the “security” of that job. The paycheck was nice, the security was comforting, but the price I was paying for those things was ultimately too high. I miss the paycheck and the security some days, but most of the time I am too happy creating a life that works for me to even think about it. I chose to stop selling my happiness for that job, and it’s been worth it!

There have been times in my life when I have chosen to stay in relationships that were making me unhappy in order to avoid rocking the boat or being alone, but that means I was selling my happiness (and time and energy) for maintenance of the status quo. Making drastic changes to relationships (or even leaving them if necessary) is never easy, but there always came a time that the price I was paying to hang on to the relationship cost me too much happiness to be worth it.

The same could be said of “stuff” we buy that winds up becoming clutter as we spend money and happiness for a temporary high from a new toy. It could be said of luxury item purchases (like bigger homes or fancier cars) that we buy to impress others but that cost us in money and happiness because we then can’t afford the things that really matter to us. It shows up in myriads of ways that we sell our happiness for things that are nothing but short-term band-aids that help us avoid difficult feelings or situations.

Does this mean we should always choose what makes us happiest in the moment? Of course not, sometimes our future happiness requires that we do things that aren’t much fun today. I am spending a lot of time in classes and doing homework right now in order to reach my goal of becoming a life coach. While I’m really enjoying what I’m learning, there are mornings when I get up for a 6 am class when it sure isn’t much fun in the moment. But my focus is on my future happiness, and I’m willing to choose what is necessary today for that happiness later.

Where are you selling your happiness today? Is it worth it? What can you change to choose happiness instead? Do you even know what truly makes YOU happy? If not, start there. Then choose more of THAT in your life!

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

5 thoughts on “Selling your happiness

  1. This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately now that writing the first draft of my novel is now in my tail lights and I am sort of “recovering” from the experience of doing so while working a demanding job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I reflect I also realize I had to make the choice to sacrifice a lot of special moments and fun adventures to hole myself away to write. As I embark on phase 2 of the project – editing – I am striving for more balance in living life AND writing it.

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