Why is it that we want to make the bad decisions but reap the good consequences?
No really, does that make any sense to anybody? If the consequences are what matter, why would we ever balk about the steps required to get there?
Once when I was in I high school I sat in my best friend’s kitchen, utterly befuddled by the concept of infidelity.
Seventeen year-old me: I don’t get it. If people want to sleep around, why do they get married in the first place? Or if they’re dating, why wouldn’t they just break up with their partners first?
Slightly-wiser-than-me best friend: *pause* I think they want both.
I never wondered again.
We want both. In the case of infidelity we want the cheap thrill of a one-night stand coupled with the deep fulfillment of a committed relationship. We want the sensation of gelato down our gullets and the health benefits and attention that come with rocking a super model body. We want the immediate release that comes from fueling an addiction plus the strength and character of someone entirely untethered by using.
We want the brief excitement/ pleasure/ high that comes from the poor decisions and the long-standing happiness and contentment that come from the good ones.
Thing is, they’re mutually exclusive. It’s one or the other. It’s a choice. Why? Because one of the main sources of that deep contentment is the sacrifice of the brief thrill.
When we’re aware it’s a choice, it becomes easy enough. Do I want to be entertained for the next 3 minutes or enjoy a life of fulfillment? Stumped me there. Let me get back to you by the end of the week.
So the real source of the disconnect is in believing that we can have both. And I know every person with half a brain is thinking that I have totally lost my marbles and you can, in fact, occasionally eat gelato and still maintain a life-long commitment to health. True. You got me there. Just the same as I could buy a pair of shoes without centering my entire life on acquiring the next pair and the next.
It’s a dangerous road to tred.
My point is that we have to be willing to make the decision about what matters most first. If we really want to be happy, we have to be WILLING to give up anything (notably the bad decisions and the accompanying fun). Almost never are we actually required to entirely give up these pleasures. No, grey areas are good. We like grey areas.
But if we approach life insisting that we CAN have both, WILL have both, and have the right to both, we’re screwed– and we definitely don’t end up with both. We end up with just the superficial part of the bargain.
Once we are truly willing to give up these inconsequential and self-centered pursuits, we can be at peace, satiated. And then some times, in some ways, we actually can have both– or at the very least not need the other.