About halfway through ATDP, I descended into grumpiness. One particular Wednesday, I was standing on the BART platform, pondering my grumpy state of mind. I had been grumpy the entire week. I knew why too. It was a result of fatigue. I had gone from doing no work and waking up at 11:00AM to doing lots of work and waking up at 6:30AM. I was tired and stressed out. As I learned from Patton: Fatigue produces pessimism.
I kept thinking: “I need some peace and quiet. I need an entire day where I do absolutely nothing. I need to vegetate alone.” I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t be happy until I did that.
As all this went through my mind, Alex saw me and came over to talk. I was rather unresponsive. I kept reflecting on how unpleasant I must be. “Once I take that time off,” I thought, “I’ll be able to be happy again. I can’t wait until then.” This absurd thought dominated my mind through the conversation.
Several minutes later, I had a revelation. The “until” locution revealed a happiness fallacy. I thought, “Goodness, what if I do nothing all weekend and then I’m still depressed? What then?” I realized that happiness isn’t something you wait for.
I remembered Tal Ben-Shahar’s book, Happier. This arrival fallacy is backed up by science. It’s often the case that one may think that one won’t be happy until one achieves something. Then, once it is achieved, the person still isn’t happy. Happiness isn’t some prize that magically appears at the end. It’s a huge let-down.
It was very likely that a day off wouldn’t make me happy. I recalled that positivity is a choice. At every moment, I must re-dedicate myself to positivity, not hope that it will magically come to me. So there was nothing preventing me from being pleasant in conversation, except some stupid blocks that only existed in my mind. At that moment, I chose to stop being grumpy. I forced myself to smile even though I didn’t feel like it. By the end of the day, I was energized and positive.
This wasn’t a new lesson. This was an old lesson that I thought I had already learned. I thought that this “positivity paradigm” was thoroughly entrenched in my life, but I was wrong. It was a lesson I had to relearn. I had already had the epiphany, but now I needed a “repiphany.” Learning is really hard, isn’t it?
Finally, on Saturday, I got my lazy day. I lounged for hours on the couch. I didn’t even read a book. It didn’t make me happy at all. I laughed at myself. I really thought that this would have made me happy? Watching Hulu all day and laying on the couch is the key to happiness? Sometimes, I can be really stupid. But luckily I relearned my lesson.