Hard Tasks Make Us Happier

I can't quite say I've fully invested in this mindset quite yet, but I have noticed the pattern to be overwhelmingly true. I'll start with the reverse. I notice that when I relent and engage in the "dopamine hits," — the social media scrolling, eating reachable sweets, binge watching shows instead of creating — I normally feel a little bit worse about myself than I did the moments before. I have given my brain the short term pleasure at the expense of my long term satisfaction. Not to mention, I typically feel like I never get enough. One scrolling TikTok leads to wanting to scroll just one more time... and then one more time... and then one more time. One chocolate chip makes me want one more... and then one more... There is no end point, just a hyperbolic curve of reduced satisfaction each subsequent time. After an afternoon of bing watching TV shows, I tend to have a feeling of empitness rather than excitement. On the other hand, if I can overcome the internal friction of starting that "hard task" that will propel me to a better future, I almost always begin to feel energized. And these don't have to be major goals either. For example, once I engage in cleaning my dirty dishes, I start to hunt down every crumb in my apartment, relishing in the power and satisfaction of an inviting space to live. Once I finally sit down to record those vocal takes I've been dreading, I fervently refine and practice them until they start to make the song come alive. And I'm almost always amazed that I feel "happier" doing the harder tasks once I'm in them. Or at least a sense of contentment — I'm on my way towards my goals, as arbitrary as those may be, and it helps me feel fulfilled at the end of a day. Of course, everything in moderation — not every moment has to be building up to some great internal empire — but it's helpful for me to remind myself that I actually like doing the harder tasks better most of the time, if you just weigh it by fulfillment at the end of the day instead of what will give me the most immediate pleasure right now.

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