Short term pain, long term happiness

With my daughter turning three in August, I know we’ll soon have a conversation or two about honesty. 

It’s a complicated subject, so I expect this conversation to occur off and on over the next…say…75 years (I plan to live to 115).

Most people think honesty is about lying or not lying, and therefore not very complicated.  I disagree.  I think honesty is about facing the facts.  If you frame honesty in such a way, you can live a moral life, and achieve and sustain happiness (which is what I think morality is all about).

You can lie and be moral.  For example, if I’m served liver and Brussels sprout casserole I can tactifully lie by thanking the server.  I’m not denying the fact that I hate liver and Brussels sprouts, but the thanks is polite.  That white lie is not incompatible with honesty.

If the Nazis come to my door and ask where I’m hiding the Jews, I can’t say, “first door on the left,” and be moral.  Once again, the lie does not deny the facts, it simply acknowledges that I have no moral obligation to be truthful with monsters (actually, being truthful will definitely bring unhappiness).

It’s my stand that you have to be honest, to face the facts, in order to be happy.  But, happiness is not equal to instant gratification.  Sometimes, being honest with oneself or others is short term painful.

For example, think about making a mistake on the job and telling your boss.  Your boss is unlikely to be happy, but you have to face the the facts and let your boss know because she has the right to know.  If your boss is any good, she will reward that honesty over time even if she isn’t happy with the mistake.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that many (most?) moral things, like honesty, are short term painful in order to reach long term happiness.

I exercise 5 days a week.  I work out hard enough that it’s mildly painful.  But, the rewards pay for the effort.

I work hard to find investments.  I spent hours, day, months doing research on each investment idea.  This is rarely a fully pleasant experience.  And yet, I know it will work in the long run.  That’s why I do it.

Buying investments that will do better than average almost always includes short term pain.  The reason why it will do better than average is because something is wrong.  Most people will think you’re nuts for investing there–that’s why it’s cheap!

Over the long run, too, buying such short term pain provides long term happiness.

Do you think my three year old will understand why honesty or investing can bring short term pain and long term happiness?  No, me neither. 

But, over time she will, and then she’ll be long term happy, too.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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Short term pain, long term happiness