Sometimes the feeling of the thing does not match the effect of the thing. Some things that are pleasurable have negative effects, short term or long term, and some things that are effortful, or difficult, have positive effects. Sort of obvious. Eating too much rich food? Lots of fun, but long term not too healthy. Avoiding housework? Easier than doing it, but ends up being messy, or worse, unsanitary. That’s why we remind ourselves to act like a grown up and do the healthy thing rather than the fun or easy thing (most of the time). It’s usually an effort, but we remember that our choices have consequences. That’s the dumb thing about being a grown up. You’re responsible for your choices. Bummer.
But we don’t always realize the more subtle ways this reality carries out. For example, we might have a friend whom we really enjoy spending time with but afterwards, when we go home, we feel unhappy, unmotivated, or self critical. We might have another friend who is not as interesting, maybe not as exciting, but after we spend time with that person, we feel motivated, empowered and competent. We don’t always recognize those after-effects. We remember the feelings, but we don’t connect the experience to its effects.
The only reason we know that eating an unhealthy diet leads to an unhealthy life is that some wonderful people did research to figure that out and told us. Even though the advice might change over time, at least we know that what we eat now affects our future health. That’s important. And, in a larger sense, all of our current choices affect our future life. We are each of us a single subject experiment to ourselves, figuring out as we go what makes our lives enjoyable, and equally importantly, what makes our lives healthy.
Relationships form the fabric of our lives. They are at least as important as what we eat. Ironically, even though people impact us and we impact them, we are still responsible for how we manage those relationships. We pay attention to how we take responsibility for our own impacts on other people and how we manage or limit their impact on us. Because our relationships form the internal and external environment in which we make choices, they are critical to our well-being. And because of that, we are responsible for choosing the relationships into which we invest our time and energy and for investing in those relationships.