Many people coast through life bouncing from pleasure to pleasure. These people make their decisions on feeling and instinct. The people in this group are likely also part of the 69% of people that don’t have $1,000 in their savings.
Investors know that feelings are often wrong. If you invest long enough, you’ll realize how bad emotions can screw up your portfolio. When (not if) the next downturn happens, many people will get scared when they see multiple red days in a row. This fear will cause many to sell all of their stocks and never return to the game.
That’s the absolute worst thing you can do. Seasoned investors know not to trust these feelings. Long-term investors prefer logic and reason instead.
I’ve written before about how everyone needs a reason to invest–or do anything for that matter. People get lost without a beacon to head towards.
But how do you decide what that reason is?
It’s more difficult than it seems
Many financial neanderthals that claim to be gurus say just do what makes you happy. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Playing video games makes me happy, but if I retired right now to dedicate my life to video games, I’d be flat broke in no time. I’d also be bored to death within a month. Dedicating your life to pleasure guarantees that you’ll become desensitized to it.
Pleasurable things alone won’t satisfy you.
Others, myself included, will tell you to strive for freedom.
This is better, but still incomplete. Freedom on it’s own doesn’t provide anything. Having an infinite amount of free time won’t make you happy. In fact, without a true purpose, too much freedom is depressing.
Freedom doesn’t equal happiness. It does, however, provide many avenues to happiness.
Freedom gives you options. What options you choose to employ are up to you.
So seeking pleasure ends in ruin, and seeking freedom ends in confusion. What path should you take?
True happiness doesn’t come from pleasure or freedom. It comes from being useful. When you are able to provide value to other people, you feel a sense of worth–a purpose.
Your purpose in life is to serve.
This can mean many things to many people. Tim Ferriss in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, explains that service can be arbitrary. Many people agree that saving the whales is a good cause. But what if we killed the whales to feed the starving children around the world?
Which cause is more noble?
It’s a trick question. Neither cause is more noble than the other.
Every large action has so many cascading effects that can’t be known for decades–if at all. That Bolivian bush you fought to save may contain the cure for cancer. Using faux fur may save the lives of some foxes, but it also creates more plastics and pollution that harm our oceans. Restricting lumber harvesting can help save all the rainforests, but it could cause prices of home building materials–and homelessness rates–to skyrocket.
There’s no way to know the full extent of our actions at the time.
So how do you know what’s right?
You get to decide.
As long as your actions help a life that isn’t yours, this can be counted as service. There’s no measuring scale for which service is best. There’s only a feeling. Being useful is a way of thinking, not an action.
Ironic, isn’t it?
Investing with your feelings can be dangerous, but your end goal is driven on emotion.
In other words, your journey is calculated, and your destination is a feeling.
And truth be told, “do what makes you happy” is actually good advice if you understand what happiness means.
Happiness does not equal pleasure. Happiness is the feeling of peace. You are happiest when you are relaxed, present, and calmly focused. Do what gives you the calm feeling of confidence and peace, and you’ll live a happy life.
Pleasure in your life can be great, and it should be kept. However, a life with pleasure as the only goal leads to pain. And freedom is only a time hole. What you fill it with is what’s important.
Choose your goals based on what makes you feel useful, and take logical steps along the way. The end result will be your happiness.
Thanks for reading!