What does it mean to 'do what we want', to 'enjoy life'? When I was younger, I thought it meant going out with my friends to party, drink and just mess around. Every time after I came home drunk , the next morning I woke up feeling sick, lazy and down about myself and my choices from the night before. I always thought about good nights and bad nights based on whether I was happy or not.
Yet things changed. Suddenly what I 'want' to do is much more different. I still like spending time with friends, but by doing something productive. I enjoy reading much more, like I did when I was a kid. Traveling and having adventures spiced with books and new people seem like a much better way to have fun. Going out drinking just doesn't appeal to me anymore. Why is that?
Examples of actions and their effects: what makes me happy?
Let's take a look at video games. I feel excited about playing them before I start. As I play, I get sucked in and keep playing, excited about challenging and pushing myself to new levels. When I finish though, I feel empty. Playing led me to accomplish nothing worthwhile.
Now compare that with writing a blog post, or my journal. Before starting I feel a bit of fear or doubt and make excuses to not do it. As I write my attention diverts easily and I look for more excuses to postpone my work. Yet when I finish, I feel amazing. Pushing myself led to fulfillment and joy, and I look back on my time with a smile.
The power of the past.
We often look forward for what we want. We expect the party to be great, our life to be perfect once we get the job, and our happiness to sprout after we retire. We must look back though, seeing how we feel after pushing ourselves to write, approach and make friends with a stranger or give our all and then some at the gym.
The best way then to tell if we really enjoy something is to see how we feel after the action. By looking into and examining our past, we seize control of our actions, our choices and our lives.