Have you ever wondered if there is a mathematical representation of Happiness? The answer is Yes! Tal Ben-Shahar, a renowned researcher in positive psychology and a popular lecturer at Harvard, represented Happiness in terms of the X-Y quadrant. Considering X being the present Happiness and Y the future Happiness, he said we need to have both of them +ve to be happy.
Imagine you are going for a family trip to the Yellowstone National Park. You have got the time off from work, you got the money for the trip, made all the reservations, and now you and your family have started the journey. It is a 12- hours’ drive, and you are very excited to reach there as soon as you can. You tell your family that the schedule will be very tight; there will be only two bathroom breaks, will have to take out food and eat in the car. How does that sound? Not too exciting, I assume. While you are anxious to get to the park (your future Happiness) sooner, you are overlooking your present moments.
In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar describes all four quadrants in terms of present and future Happiness. When you sacrifice all your present moments for the desired future, you are rat racing (-ve present, +ve future). In this mindset, even if you can reach a particular goal a little sooner, you are unable to enjoy it as your rat racing mind won’t let you devour it much; it will tell you there is one more thing you could do if you rush now. And this goes on and on. On the other extreme, if you are avoiding all the pain, suffering, and sacrifice at any cost and are indulging in quick ways of entertainment to hide from reality, you are a hedonist (+ve present Happiness, -ve future Happiness).
So what is the best quadrant to maximize Happiness? It is when you care for both present and future Happiness (+ve, +ve)! It doesn’t necessarily mean you will always be euphoric and will be shooting for the stars. It could be as simple as heading for that amazing Yellowstone, allowing yourself to take some scenic detours, having a quality time to dine in with your loved ones. You have a clear vision for the future, and at the same time, you are enjoying the journey towards it.
In case you are paying attention, you may notice that I haven’t mentioned the 4th quadrant yet; let me leave it for now as I can see you are not a nihilist (-ve present, -ve future). Have a Happier life today!