Emotional Compounding

Being somewhat of a nerd, I sometimes like to play with investment calculators and figure out what one dollar invested today would be worth after about three decades in the stock market. 

The growth of the dollar is quite slow at first, but then the power of compound interest causes it to accelerate quite quickly. 

I’m starting to think that perhaps human emotions work the same way.  The little things we do each day at first seem to not matter much.  But they run together and build up steam, and the once trivial acts of our lives become the overall theme. 

I think that this is just as true of happiness as it is sadness or anger or fear.  Getting frustrated several times a day leads to a pattern of frustration that may one day pervade our entire life.  The future in this sense is much greater than the present.

So, the happiness we find today has multiple values- the joy of anticipation, the extemporaneous pleasure found in the moment, the tranquil recollection a few days afterward and the future value of that happiness down the road.  By viewing happiness and human emotion as a multi-dimensional object, it gives us a greater urge to chase it.  We do things not just to be happy for today- but to paint our lives with a wide and joyful brush.

This is even more important when the nature of the act appears quite trivial.  We might question whether or not it’s worth it to even do, compared to the small amount of happiness the task will give us.  But when we look to the future value, and the effect of emotional compounding, the answer becomes clear. 

Every rivet, though it may be unnoticed, is important when it comes to building a ship.  Leaving out one rivet may be forgivable; forgetting one or two here and there is probably okay, as well.  But if two many rivets are cast aside, the future value of the ship begins to suffer.  At that time it won’t matter if the fancy cannon or steam engine is in perfect working order.  The die is cast- the ship is going down. 

This is perhaps why I see so many people who have a lot of stuff but never seem happy- they forgot the rivets, and all of their grand things have no safe foundation of happiness to rest upon.  The objects, incapable of giving happiness in and of themselves, simply end up slipping silently into the forlorn sea.

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