Be a Long-Term Hedonist

Albert Ellis, arguably one of the best psychotherapists who ever lived, often described himself as a long-term hedonist. Some years ago, I’ve come to think of myself as a long-term hedonist as well. And practicing this as an overall philosophy for life has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Today, when I coach other people, I frequently encourage them to practice long-term hedonism in life, and I help them develop the confidence and communication skills that aid them accomplish this.

I believe that no matter who you are, if you’re seeking solid principles to guide your life by, long-term hedonism is definitely one of the best principles you can adopt. So let’s take a better look at what this concept means and how you can apply it in your life.

It’s Okay to Pursue Your Own Pleasure

Our attention will first go to the second part of this concept: hedonism. Derived from the Greek word ‘hedone’, which means pleasure, the term hedonism signifies the pursuit of pleasure. A hedonist is a person who makes the pursuit of pleasure (and implicitly, the avoidance of pain) the key theme in their life.

This pleasure can take basic forms, such as eating something tasty, as well as complex forms, such as connecting at a deep level with a like-minded person when conversing with them.

The ancient philosophers who founded hedonist schools of thought, such as Aristippus of Cyrene and Epicurus, believed that personal pleasure is the only essential good in life, and that it makes sense to live life striving to maximize your own pleasure.

You might say that’s a normal thing and there’s nothing wrong with that idea. And I would agree with you. The problem is that in the society we live today, the pursuit of one’s own pleasure is often criticized and villainized. People are frequently labeled as selfish or bad for putting their pleasure first. Under the social pressure, many of them end up constantly sacrificing their own gratification because they’ve been made to feel guilty about pursuing it.

I think that’s a big problem. I believe that it’s only rational to make the pursuit of your own happiness your most important compass in life. Every living creature on this planet does that in some way. It’s in perfect accordance with the laws of the natural world and the principles of life perpetuation.

Upside down in chairThis doesn’t mean you can’t concern yourself with the happiness of others as well. In fact, often in life, you need to give others what they want and make them happier in order to get what you want and be happier yourself.

But still, keep in mind that your final goal is your happiness. You’re doing a self-interested transaction. And that’s really okay.

Other times in life though, your interests and other people’s interests will run divergent courses, and that’s when hedonism dictates that you pick the course that best suits you, not them. And doing that is really okay as well. There is no sensible reason to think it’s not.

If you’re the kind of person who often feels bad about doing what gives them pleasure instead of what helps others, this idea is something to really dwell on, regularly. You wanna learn to accept your own needs and to be comfortable with putting them first, so you can pursue them freely. Here is some more in-depth advice on how to build the confidence to achieve this.

Thinking Long-Term Makes a Huge Difference

Now that we’ve established that it’s okay to pursue your own happiness, let’s move our attention towards the first part of our concept: long-term.

The type of hedonism you’ll commonly see practiced in the world we live in is short-term hedonism. This is when an individual considers solely the options that give them pleasure quickly, and then they choose from these options the one that gives them the largest amount of pleasure. They don’t wanna wait. They want instant gratification.

Just look at some of the widespread delights people bask in and you’ll know what I mean: fast food, fast-effect booze, instant TV, instant sharing, Instagram. Notice a pattern?

The trouble is that many times, there is at least one option that will give you a lot more pleasure than the rest, but it won’t be quickly. In fact in the short-range, it may actually cause you some displeasure. The overall amount of pleasure you’ll get will be much bigger, but in order to get it you’ll have to wait a while and perhaps put in some work or make some sacrifices. Now we’re talking about delayed gratification.

When you choose to eat something healthy that tastes only decent instead of something that tasted good but is unhealthy, when you choose to prolong your education to get a high-paying job a few years down the road instead of getting a low-paying job now so you’ll have money to go out and party next week, you’re choosing with the long-term effects in mind, not just the short-term ones. That’s long-term hedonism put into practice.

Long-term hedonism doesn’t mean you sacrifice today for the deceptive promise of a better tomorrow. It means you realistically consider both today and tomorrow when you make decisions, big and small. You look at things in perspective. And perspective is crucial.

Delays, effort, compromises and all, the long-term hedonist still gets to experience a lot more joy and delight in life than the short-term one. That’s why he/she is a long-term hedonist in the first place. It’s a rational, advantageous choice.

For the reasons discussed above, long-term hedonism makes so much sense to adopt as a philosophy for life. I encourage you to be a long-term hedonist, and dedicate your life to the rational, responsible pursuit of your own pleasure. No other way of living can compare.

If you believe that a lack of confidence or a lack of social skills is holding you back from experiencing the happy and exciting life you wanna experience, I strongly encourage you to join my free social confidence newsletter, where I’ll share with you my tried and tested advice for improving in these areas and getting the social life that makes you truly happy.

Long and short-term considered, I think it’s gonna be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Go here now to join the newsletter.

Get Off the Therapy Couch! Why Exploring the Past Is Nonsense

Client: “I’ve always been lacking the confidence to speak up. In childhood, my parents were very harsh with me and would always criticize me when I opened my mouth. There was this one time when I was 9…

Me: “Aham (cough)… I don’t really need to know that. Give me an example of how this lack of confidence manifests itself NOW.

The fascination many people have with doing a heavy, skilled analysis of their past is something I understand very well and in terms of practical benefits, I find pointless.

Coaches have traditionally been making a lot of fun of some types of therapists for focusing to much on the past and not enough on the present. I guess somebody forgot to inform the potential clients as well about this frequent weak spot of therapy.

Why We Like to Explore Our Past

There are several reasons for which I believe that many of us put a lot of emphasis on exploring our past in our personal development:

  • We have a need to know ourselves, which includes understanding clearly how our past experiences left their mark on us. This is all fine but, do you really want to put a lot of effort and sometimes money in that?
  • We have this idea (probably induced by cheap self-help books) that there is this one negative experience in our past which is single handedly responsible for a certain flaw or fear we have. And we need to find it.
  • We think that in order to change our beliefs or get rid of our fears, we need to understand exactly their source in the past. And when we do and we embrace our past, the change often happens just like that.
  • We sometimes us it as a way of running from the responsibility of acting and changing ourselves. We focus on the past so we can forget about the person development work required in the present.

The Reality of Personal Development

I will sometimes read a psychoanalyst’s opinion on how our present problems are rooted in the past and we need to skillfully uncover the past in order to heal the present. And it will crack me up; because in all my research on this topic, I haven’t found a single convincing shred of evidence to support this.

Analyzing your past, digging dip and unraveling all sort of stuff may sound cool, but it is basically a useless process judging by the improvements it creates. The bottom line is this:

Exploring your past is not necessary or very useful in transforming yourself.

Why? Because our present ways of thinking and feeling may have their origins in the past, but it doesn’t really mater. Our beliefs, thinking patterns and emotions have a life of their own in the here and now.

Consequently, it is in the here and now that we need to address them if we wanna see results. Understanding the kind of experiences that created them may give us some extra clarity and help us discover irrational thinking, but that’s about all it can do. And we only need a small amount of past exploration to get this effect.

This is why I use principles and techniques from CBC (Cognitive Behavioral Coaching) when I assist my clients change their thinking and emotional reactions, in order to improve the people skills they aim to improve. CBC has a focus on the present and on getting real, quantifiable results.

If you’re looking for improvement, focus on the present. Identify those limiting ways of thinking you have now and combat them now. Do this repeatedly, systemically, and you’ll see some real progress. The answer to your personal development is not in the past, it is in this moment.

Image courtesy of geroco