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Happiness and Life Planning


❝I'm killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.❞ -"Calvin" in Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

I'm at lunch mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed when I come across a meme about a tough decision. The meme states, "I'm stuck between YOLO, and I have to pay my bills."


I make fun of this meme in my head because I can easily tell that whoever made it is confused. The person who made this meme presents a false dichotomy; we can either be happy now or happy in the future, but not both.


Suddenly it dawned on me, though, that I'm doing the same thing. I recently took a job with a high salary, thinking that that's what you do. I thought having a high salary and a fancy title would make me happy. When I realized that the job I took turned out to be awful, I had a decision to make - I can quit and turn down the money, or I can put my head down, be miserable, and retire in 10 years.


Whereas the meme I was making fun of highlighted the difference between having fun now and having fun in the future, I was stuck in a pit of endlessly pursuing things that I thought would make me happy only to find out they didn't, and then entering the cycle again.


I learned this far too late, but there is a way to use your money to be happy both now and in the future. The quest for money is not it.


WHAT HAPPINESS IS - AND WHAT IT'S NOT


Any talk of happiness has to start with defining what happiness even is. Some people equate happiness with having fun. Therefore, happiness happens if you can get to a point where you are only having fun. Other people interpret happiness as the opposite - they think that to be happy is to be in a state where you never feel sadness, anger, or any other negative emotion. Still, others believe that happiness is simply an endpoint; a place that you have to get to once, and then you're there. Others feel guilty about being happy, while some people feel ashamed that they are not.


With so many interpretations of what happiness is, it makes sense to define it upfront. My views of happiness are based in part on Stoic and Epicurean philosophies,