Units of Momentary Happiness


“Everything we need to be happy is easy to obtain.” -Epicurus

I’ve long advocated that happiness is not entirely related to a feeling of a precise moment. Instead, it’s more closely related to the overall life we live, as well as the life we hope to have in the future.

If you quit smoking, you might still want a cigarette sometimes. And if you give into the craving, you might enjoy it at the time—but will you still feel good afterwards? No, real happiness is much better measured through meaning and fulfillment. It’s something to work for!

That said, I like the measure proposed by G. Richard Shell in the book Springboard. He calls it units of momentary happiness:

“No matter how you define success, momentary happiness should have some role in it…. happiness has also been thought of as having a larger, almost spiritual quality that goes beyond both momentary feelings and reflective thought.

Philosophers have talked about this third kind of happiness in terms of the fulfillment that comes from exerting the right kind of effort on the right kind of task (for you) or experiencing a sense of deep connection to loved ones, nature, or the divine.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been very future-oriented and have spent much of my time always looking ahead to the next thing. But thinking about these “units of happiness” is helping to change my perspective.

I still want to build for the future—I just also want to enjoy the macchiato, appreciate the walk in the park, and actually read (not skim!) the emails from my friends.


Image: Alice

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