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Rat Racer

by Megan

So I read a profile of the book “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar in a magazine a long time ago, and I ended up buying it since what I read reminded me of myself quite a bit. I haven’t finished it (I guess when I started reading it I was happy enough and put it aside for a later date), but I wanted to share one of the things he talks about at the beginning of the book.

He says that there are four types of people (with respect to his topic), and they can be categorized using a burger analogy. In my own words… Picture four burgers on a plate. You’ve got a burger dripping with cheese and bacon that is extremely delicious and also extremely bad for you, a veggie burger that is completely bland but very nutritious, a burger that is overdone with a stale bun which is neither tasty nor good for you, and then a burger with light shining from it which is extremely delicious and also somehow good for you- the ideal burger, if you will!

This translates to four types of people (in order of the burgers)- a ‘hedonist’ who lives only for the present and doesn’t take care to ensure happiness in the future, a ‘rat racer’ who lives only for the future and doesn’t take care to be happy in the present, a ‘nihilist’ who cares neither for the present nor the future (has kind of given up on life), and then the ‘happy person’ who manages to be happy in the present while also taking measures to ensure a happy future.

Anyway, to make a long story short, though I would not choose the veggie burger (remember the point of this blog? Yeah, the food analogy doesn’t exactly hold true for me), I am quite definitely a ‘rat racer.’

This means that I am always thinking about what is coming next, and I have a hard time just relaxing and enjoying the present. I have lists of things to do in the next month, in the next week, in the next hour. I’m constantly trying to finish things, and if I have nothing specific that needs to be done, I’ll create a project for myself. I even schedule my relaxation time; if I’m reading a magazine or a book, I’m only thinking about getting to the end of it, rather than just enjoying what I’m reading.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was having a bad day, and my mom said, “I think that the best thing is to always have something to look forward to.” Ha! Fellow rat racer!

But I think she was right. Did you read that, Mom? I said you were right! It does make me happy to have something to look forward to, because that’s just the way I am. So I think that as long as I don’t focus all my energy on the future or allow my happiness to be completely dependent on the future, then that would be just fine. As long as I recognize and take time to enjoy the present, then having a future event to look forward to would make my darker days brighter. Right now I’m looking forward to our show choir trip to California, and also to our summer, which might be spent completely in Maine, or will at least include a trip to Maine and NYC!

So which burger are you? And what can you do today to make you happy, and also help to ensure happiness in the future? Think about it, then do it!

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Beans February 15, 2009 - 8:45pm

Yes, Mom is always right. :)