As human beings we are ingrained to make certain types of choices. However, our choice often seems to make us unhappy even though we are sure we made the right decision. It’s not understanding the nature of choosing that causes unhappiness.
Our three basic choices:
More vs Less
If given the choice between more of a good thing or less of good thing, most people would choose more. If we asked fifty people whether they would rather receive $20 or $10. Most would choose $20. This choice doesn’t mean that people are greedy. It means that we’re inherently designed for choosing abundance over lack.
Sooner vs Later
If we asked those same people if they would rather have the $20 now or next month. Most would choose to have the $20 now. This choice doesn’t mean we can’t delay gratification. It means that if all things are equal, we prefer the certainty of now over some unknown future where we may not be around to receive the $20.
Better vs Worse
Finally, if we asked those people, if they would prefer to have the $20 in cash or as a cashier’s check. Most people would choose cash because cash is more convenient to spend and therefore subjectively better. This choice doesn’t mean that we all want things easier. It means we prefer choosing the options that improves our lives the most.
The Rule of Two
The rule of two is this: More, Sooner, Better. Pick Two.
The rule of two can be best illustrated using the examples of happiness, relationships and money.
More and Sooner
We can have more and we can have it sooner, but the quality suffers.
Having more money sooner can be done with debt. Debt is form of money. We can buy things on credit, refinance our homes and we can have money in a relatively short amount of time. However the quality of the money from debt isn’t has high as money from savings because debt requires repayment and accrues interest.
In relationships, the entire concept of social networks is built around more and sooner. We collect lots of “friends” on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, but the quality of those friendship don’t improve until we’ve spent time developing relationships with those people.
Happiness has a qualitative scale. Some things make us happier than others. Good relationships usually make people happier than a good lunch or a nice walk. How to have more happiness sooner is explained in the “power of now” philosophies which teaches about happiness through living in the present. For some, taking happiness in the day-to-day is equal in quality to the happiness from accomplishing a long-term goal like running a marathon or getting married. However, getting to that point where happiness in the now becomes all encompassing takes time and doesn’t happen right away.
More and Better
Most understand that more and better takes longer. Having lots of really good friends takes a great deal to time invested into building relationships.
Having more money and of a better quality of money (passive income vs earned income) takes time. It takes time to create systems where your money makes money when you’re not working.
Lasting happiness takes time to learn and to obtain. Sometimes we get great results from our lives but that happiness never lasts and it takes time before we learn the what, why and how of our happiness. It’s in learning about ourselves where we learn how to be more happy more often and in a way that permeates our lives. That learning takes time.
Better and Sooner
For INFPs, this is the choice we often take. We choose better and sooner, just less of it.
We focus our time and energy on a few close friends and any remaining effort is divided among those other people. We find something we like, such as a camera or a trip to an exotic country. We work really hard to earn the money, buy the camera or take the trip and then it’s gone again. We spend time on those activities that make us happy whether it’s reading, writing, video games, creating art or whatever makes us passionate, but then we get interrupted by going to work, doing dishes and the busy-ness of the day-to-day.
We have moments where we’re intensely happy, but those moments don’t seem to last.
There’s no right choice
It’s the nature of the choosing the causes unhappiness and not the choices themselves. We want life to allow us More, Better and Sooner so we do things like get rich quick schemes and fad diets and wonder why those things never work out. Our attempts to find a way around the Rule of Two lead to failure and more unhappiness.
However, none of the three choices in themselves are better or worse.
At first, more and sooner seems to be a bad choice. However, this isn’t always the case. I own a house. In order to own the house now instead of after saving the all the money upfront, I have a mortgage. So in order to have more and sooner, I choose to sacrifice better (taking on debt). For some this is unacceptable and they pay everything in cash including houses. More and sooner doesn’t reflect a poor choice. It’s just a choice like any other choice with consequences that are either acceptable or unacceptable.
More and better seems to be the best choice in all things. I thought I could have a better quality of life across more areas of my life if I expended more effort and time. However, this often lead to the I’ll-be-happy-after syndrome. I’ll be happy after I meet the love of my life. I’ll be happy after I get published. The path of more and better leads to higher self-esteem and self-worth from mastering skills and developing better habits. However, this doesn’t always translate to being happier.
Most of my life, I’ve lived in the choice of better and sooner. I concentrated all my focus on energy on developing a few friendships. However, people changed and we grew apart and I had to do it all over again. I concentrated single-mindedly on one thing giving up balance. When I was lonely, I concentrated on relationships without realizing that my job wasn’t making me happy. So then I would focus on career, work ridiculous hours and then wonder why I was getting sick more often. So then I’d focus on health and personal development and then my friends would wonder why I didn’t spend time with them anymore.
The right choice for you
All choices have consequences. In making the choice, we have to accept responsibility for the consequences.
For example, our car breaks down. We’ve been living paycheck to paycheck and we’ll be fired if you miss work again. We can choose to repair our car and pay by credit. We gain convenience (more) in having a car that let’s us get to work (sooner) by worsening our financial situation. Or we can choose to ride the bus (less convenience) to get us to work until we save enough enough money.
Whichever choice is better depends on our values. Each choice has consequences. If we pay by credit card, we accrue interest. If we’re living paycheck to paycheck, our credit rating will suffer if we miss payments. If we choose to ride the bus, our work life and our social life will have to be arranged around bus schedules. The acceptability of those consequences is different for each person.
The Rule of Two give us three choices: more/sooner, more/better or sooner/better. In all areas of our life, those three choices show up in different ways from finding a job to figuring out what we want for dinner. It’s in figuring out which choice best fits with each area and accepting the consequences from that choice that leads to happiness.