Just read about a fascinating study in this month’s Wired. Ran Kivetz, a professor of business at Columbia University, recently did some experiments that study our long-term reactions to various choices. According to writer Clive Thompson, “Doing the ‘right’ thing — putting our responsibilities ahead of momentary pleasures — often leaves us unhappy down the road. When we skip a vacation to work overtime or pass up that awesome vintage Porsche for a used minivan — sure, we pat ourselves on the back for a week or two. But as the years go by, we inevitably regret our monkishness and wish we’d enjoyed ourselves more.” Indeed, we’re more likely to behave self-indulgently when recalling a virtuous decision years hence.
This gets at a point I’m trying to make in 168 Hours — you have to be happy on a daily basis. You live your life in hours, not abstractions, and if those hours aren’t filled with things you enjoy, the mosaic of your larger life won’t be a positive one. That’s not to say spend freely and eat whatever you want, but since there are ways to make ourselves happier while doing things like working and ocupying our leisure time (hint: TV doesn’t help!), better to make those choices than delude yourself that there’s some bonus virtue gained by being miserable.