Design by Alan Yang/MiC. Buy this photo.

A hedonist’s commonly expressed rule of thumb is if you don’t enjoy something, don’t do it — a simple solution to help you assert your priorities. This philosophy holds true in many cases. For instance, impartially joining a bunch of different extracurricular clubs for the sake of a resume is not the most effective or enjoyable way to spend your time. But what this statement fails to acknowledge is the realities of life we cannot escape. It overlooks the fact that to reach your goal, you often have to do things that are out of your comfort zone, things that might make them uncomfortable. But having to take these steps is a necessary component of reaching goals. While achieving these steps may be challenging, they are vital to accomplishing what you set out for, and learning from the difficulties they bring is more important than avoiding them altogether.

A pure hedonist often looks for a constant source of happiness instead of seeking the inherent value in everything; as a result, in the pursuit of happiness, they might develop this unnatural fear of failure. While for small goals that can be easily accomplished this mentality does not do any harm, for goals that require perseverance in the face of challenge, this mentality will bring about ongoing discontent instead. 

For example, imagine you have always wanted to accomplish Goal B, an extravagant goal, like climbing Mount Everest. In order to achieve Goal B, you must first achieve Goal A, a challenging prerequisite to your dream, say first climbing Mount Antero. Goal B is far away from your reach, but Goal A is achievable, given you train persistently and with perseverance. If you obsess over avoiding failure and all things that won’t bring you happiness, you will never attempt Goal A because you are worried you will never be good enough to actually succeed. Goal A can never be achieved, and thus your entire dream is forsaken. This is the folly of the hedonist’s rule. It fails to acknowledge that there is more to life and achievement than constantly being in a state of happiness. Accomplishing big targets will never be easy, but that is just the reality of developing yourself as an individual and a professional. When the path to something is difficult, it doesn’t mean your goal is no longer worth pursuing. Your journey may require an unfathomable amount of dedication and struggle and could potentially involve many overwhelming moments. But tasks should not be avoided because they will cause something other than happiness. You cannot always pursue events that only bring you joy. Finding something that will help develop your perspective, or at least learning from all circumstances, whether they be inherently sad or difficult, is a more important and realistic approach.

Instead of being intimidated by reaching your goal because you don’t like the steps of getting there, try to think more about where you will be when you reach the end of your path. After you reflect, and you truly think the path to get there is not worth the effort, then that’s okay. Not every profession and its path will complement your personality and work ethic. But if you think you can manage, at least give it a chance. Do not let something go because you are afraid that the results might not be a complete success. Embracing the challenge head-on and working to overcome it will leave you with pride for the potential you have, and when you finally reach your goal, you will see the merits of your work, whether tangible or intangible. Always expecting life to bring you happiness will constantly leave you disappointed. Instead, embrace the variety of emotions around you, and try not to get plagued by the idea of working hard. You’ll have to keep pushing yourself in all realms, academically, socially and personally, if you want to change for the better and fulfill your passion. Leaving a path you thought you could manage is completely acceptable too. Just don’t give up on yourself before you’ve even tried. Believing in yourself is more than a mantra. Giving yourself the opportunity to try is giving yourself a chance at succeeding — don’t allow the hedonist’s rule to scare you from living your life to its fullest potential.

MiC Columnist Syeda Maha can be contacted at syedariz@umich.edu.