I recently read a book by Daniel Kahneman entitled “Thinking Fast and Slow”. Among various other topics, Kahneman discussed prospect theory and highlighted several times over the benefit of understanding someone’s reference point, which his theory incorporates, over utility theory, which does not take into account the subject’s position when selecting their choice between a sure thing and a gamble. Essentially, those who are faced between a sure thing and a gamble, elect the sure thing when both outcomes are good; while those faced between a sure thing and a gamble elect the gamble when both outcomes are bad. Essentially, we hedge our bets so as not to be disappointed with nothing when we could improve our situation, while we gamble on the risk when we have everything to lose. It has proven true time and time again in economics; and so too does it hold true with behavioral economics. Kahneman looked closer at how people elect to utilize money and time. Shockingly, or maybe not so shockingly, a great number of people tested in his analysis over many generations have reported the greatest utility of their time and money is derived from creating memories. That memory creation creates a lasting impression that goes a great way towards improving our happiness.
As this is a blog about achieving happiness, I find this to be vital information. I also found myself shaking my head in agreement when he made these points. Through my own experiences, it is in making of memories that we are able to recall our happiness and utilize it as a means towards furthering that pursuit. That is to say, memories are fuel for the engine of our lives. We can use them when our tank is empty to continue forward. Likewise, when we are at leisure, when we are not necessarily on empty, but just relaxing, we can funnel those memories back into ourselves and reinforce the investments of time and money that we are making. We receive a hefty return on that investment, because those memories serve as reminders of why we are doing what we are doing; why we push ourselves to success and why we endure stress and strain. We do it so we can direct ourselves to places where we can enjoy ourselves, and our loved ones, most fully.
Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to collect memories with my family and friends in Charlotte, NC, over father’s day with my family and my brother-in-law, and again at the lake and our house in Richmond with a party of 13, comprising grandparents, parents, siblings, children and friends. We saw fireworks, grilled, went boating, swimming and rested together. It wasn’t always perfect, but we left each other with a greater since of pride in belonging to one another. I’ll draw on those memories in various periods of reflection, reference and re-fueling to encourage my inner self to push for the next opportunity to be so fortunate. My favorite thing about this past month is that I’ve had an opportunity to enrich my life with the presence of each one of these people; those whom I’ve already come to love are endearingly more so beloved. I hope I am seen in the same light in each of their eyes. For that is what is truly important.
These are my people. They are my tribe. I love so many others, but I am in love with only them. They accept me for who I am, support me in who I want to be, and push me to keep a tether between those two things. Spending time with them is my reference for gauging happiness. They are my sure things and I’d choose them over anything else I ever had to consider before me. My month of June was a drastic juxtaposition between being a ball of stress at work and a husband, dad, son and brother outside of it. I tried hard to be my best self for each of them. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I gave it my honest best effort. Hopefully, I’ll be more capable this month than last at achieving that goal, but each and every one of them created a better sense of self within me, and for that I am eternally grateful for the memories we shared and built in June of 2017.
Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness