If I ate the finest cuisine every meal, every day, for 10 years straight - it still wouldn't be as satisfying as the joy that comes from creating something worthwhile.
Building things that matter. Doing things that matter. This is so much more satisfying than consuming.
I eat plain oatmeal, brown rice with tunafish on it, drink black coffee, eat some fruits and vegetables, and try to eat light. Nutrition, not pleasure. But still - there is quite a lot of pleasure in a simple bit of tuna on rice or pasta. That right there is pretty enjoyable - it gives me fuel, keeps me going, gives me life.
How much better is the finest chef's meal than plain tuna on brown rice? Somewhat better, I guess. I've eaten really, really nice food. My favorite is chutoro nigiri, the slightly fatty part of the tuna. It's a delicacy. I had a $15 piece of chutoro once. It was great.
But was it much better than plain tuna on brown rice? Not so much. Creating, producing, building - that gives so much more satisfaction.
It's hard to build. It can be discouraging, intimidating, overwhelming... trying to get your hands to create what you see in your mind might be impossible. But man, you've got to try. Even completing something that isn't very good gives a certain sort of pride and satisfaction.
Consume? Okay, sure. Enjoy it when you do. But producing must be a million times more enjoyable. Who gets the most enjoyment out of a great event? I think the organizer. Who gets the most out of a great book? I think the writer. Create something. Make something. It's hard sometimes, but it's so worth it.
When I think of the greatest, most fulfilling experiences of my life, I don't think of any nice meals, I don't think of any pleasurable experiences. I do think of things I built, things I made, things I produced. Create. It's worth it, probably more than anything else.
I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.
Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:
First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.
Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.
Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.
Seven years ago, I wrote a post called "How to Be Happy. Always." It's pretty poorly written, but starts off with an important concept-- we live in a society where happiness is the number one priority. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one really questions that, but maybe we should. Is happiness really the best goal we can come up with?
In the time that's elapsed between when I wrote that post and now, I've thought a lot about happiness, and I still think that maximizing it is a bad idea. But before I get into that, let's talk a little bit about what happiness is.
Happiness is an good state of mind. It allows you to be optimistic, to see the good in people, and to be productive. On the other end of the spectrum, when you're very unhappy, you have a lot of barriers between things like productivity and socialization. Clearly, being happy is much better than being unhappy. It's important to be happy. Is there such a thing as being too happy? I don't think so. I've never seen someone make a mistake because he was just too happy.
So what's my problem with maximizing happiness, then? Well, it's the method, mostly.