If you ask people their most enduring moments from the last year, I would wager the majority would highlight “big events” like birthdays, deaths, or otherwise rare experiences. Given this, the variance, or at least the perceived variance of our emotional states is necessarily high. It is natural enough, events that are scarce by nature will have an inflated amount of real estate in our minds.
I have, however, found myself re-framing my outlook from wanting to seek out the highest highs to savouring the slow burn of contentment. If I were to look at this dispassionately, I want to reduce the variance of my emotional wellbeing while increasing its mean. A higher variance is associated with the Buddhist idea of craving, wanting to experience the best of what is available is a one-way trip to suffering. Don’t get me wrong, the short-term ecstasy derived from living in luxury is great, but sooner rather than later hedonic adaptation appear and make it harder to recreate those feelings.
If seeking out rare experiences is off the table, the focus necessarily shifts onto savouring common experiences. Living to savour everyday and all the moments of the present is the only way to increase the mean of our emotional wellbeing. To allocate time being excited about or worrying about something happening tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year is the definition of craving. Regardless of whether the outcome of said event is positive or negative, it takes us away from the only non-fungible thing we have: the current moment.
We suffer more in imagination than we do in reality – Seneca
In many ways, it is a burden off my shoulders. Whether I change the world for the better or for the worse, so long as I do right in the moment, life will naturally trend towards good. These days, I feel as though my default is to be present. I will cast an eye forward for practical things like logistics, but even in this it is something I need to be prompted to do.