I occasionally reflect on certain periods of my life nostalgically as the “good ol’ days.”
Of course, I didn’t recognize them as the good ol’ days while they were happening. They seemed like ordinary days.
I found much to enjoy in each of those seasons, and have no major regrets, but I notice a certain restlessness in myself over the years.
In the moment, I saw each chapter (as good as it was) as a stepping stone to some future success and greater happiness that was just around the corner.
My mind and my energy were constantly searching and longing for something more, instead of enjoying the good things that were already mine.
If only I’d known that I’d someday be wistful for those periods, maybe I’d have drunk it all in a little deeper.
There is good news in all this: You are likely living through the good ol’ days right now.
This period of your life, especially if you choose to see what you already have, can be enjoyed in the present in the same way you wish you had enjoyed those in the past.
Always Striving, Never Arrived
Let me start with a definition of happiness, since it’s a word that’s used pretty flexibly in our culture. In this article, I’m talking about a deeper kind of happiness than mere positive emotions—something richer, more profound, and less fleeting. Some people call it joy or contentment, but whatever you call it, we all know it’s important.
In fact, practically everyone, if you asked them, would say there is no greater motivation in their lives than to become happier.
Why then are we always chasing happiness and rarely savoring it?
Why does it seem, for so many, to be a future goal rather than a present reality?
If it’s as if we’re all banking on enjoying blissful happiness in our retirement years, and simply paying our dues now. But research shows that our ability to savor the moment is not only linked to positive emotions, but also to greater psychological well-being.
So then, what are the reasons we kick the can of happiness down the road and fail to enjoy the good ol’ days while we’re in them? There are at least three reasons that I’ve observed in myself:
We Settle for Cheap Dopamine Hits
Modern culture encourages us toward passive consumption instead of active creation; distraction instead of engagement. It’s much easier to flick through the feeds on my phone or reach for a favorite snack than it is to connect to a friend or stir up gratitude for what I have. But the more frequently I give in to these instant pleasures, the more I crave them and the less receptive I am to life’s richer but slower joys.
We Don’t Think We Deserve It Yet
As crazy as it sounds as I type that, sometimes I don’t let myself enjoy what I have because I’m afraid it will make me passive. I feel that I’ll have earned the right to savor life when I’ve achieved a level of success in my own eyes. Or sometimes, I feel “behind” as if I’ve wasted time already, and now I’m in a rush to catch up. I tell myself that someday, I’ll cultivate the ability to enjoy the moment, but I worry that I’m creating chains of habits that will be hard to break.
We’re Searching for Something Else
I remember a particular moment in college when I was feeling uncertain about the future, and thought that if I could find a job I enjoyed and get married to the girl I loved, then I would be perfectly content. I really thought those two things would solve my restlessness once and for all. Well, I did marry that girl, find a great job, and start a family—but too often, I find myself wondering what’s next instead of treasuring those wonderful gifts.
Discover Your Treasure
There’s a short parable in the Bible about a man who is walking through someone else’s field and stumbles upon an incredibly valuable treasure.
He proceeds to dig a hole and bury the treasure so that no one else would find it. Then, he goes home and starts selling everything he owns—cashing in his entire net worth—so that he can raise enough money to buy the field containing the buried treasure.
Let’s leave aside the ethics of his choice for a minute and focus on his obvious motive.
Once he knew what he had, there was no reason to keep searching. No reason to hesitate. He already discovered something supremely valuable and all he had to do was stake his claim to it.
Imagine if, upon selling everything he had, he decided to start looking for another field to buy—maybe one in a nicer part of town. Or if he became distracted by his newfound cash and started indulging in little pleasures, forgetting about the field altogether.
Why keep looking when you’ve already struck it rich?
Why settle for cheap thrills, when something better is yours for the taking?
These are the same questions we must ask ourselves when we delay, even for a day, in savoring all that is good in our lives.
Why keep searching for something better if you haven’t even learned to enjoy what you have?
Why waste away the days and weeks, jumping from one cheap dopamine hit to another, when something deeper and richer is already in your life, waiting to be discovered.
Don’t wait another minute to enjoy the happiness that is already yours. These are the good ol’ days, and it’s time we noticed.