The Two Flavors of Happiness
“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” –Jonathan K. Foster
Your “Experiencing-Self” lives in the present. It’s the one that answers the question, “How you feel?” Your “Remembering-Self” lives in the past. It’s the one that answers the question, “How have you been feeling?” It’s the one that keeps the score. Your “Remembering-Self” is a storyteller. It turns your experiences into stories. A story is simply where there is a change, a significant moment, and an ending.
The key distinction between the two selves is time. For your “Experiencing-Self”, time matters. A two-week vacation can feel good, or bad, twice as long. For your “Remembering-Self”, it’s not about time. Whether you have a two week vacation or a one week vacation doesn’t matter to your “Remembering-Self”. It’s about the story, and a very critical part of the story is how it ends. That’s why it’s good to end on a high-note.
Because of these two selves, our “Experiencing-Self” and our “Remembering-Self”, we end up with two concepts for happiness:
- How happy are the moments of your experiencing self?
- How happy or satisfied are you when they think about your life?
To put this another way, we need two terms to think about “happiness.” We can think of happiness in terms of how we feel in our “Experiencing-Self”, and we can think of “well-being” in terms of our “Remembering-Self.”
Here’s the catch. You can have pretty good experiences for the most part, but then a bad ending to your story can ruin your memory of it. On the flip side, you can have a generally lousy day to day experience, and yet what you focus on and the story you tell yourself about your life can improve your sense of well-being, or your sense of fulfillment.
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnenman gives a great talk on this concept in his Ted Talk – Daniel Kahneman: The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory.
Photo by Joyseph.