Happiness versus Relief

What is the difference between happiness and relief, and how does this apply to watch collecting? This is a discussion about our inner-critic, and our inner-cheerleader – along with some thoughts about pursuing lasting joy; not only when it comes to watch collecting, but life in general.

I have written an entire post about happiness which you can read later; In summary, I conclude that happiness has a set point, it is relative, and our own memories of pain and pleasure are always skewed. That said, happiness is a broadly defined term, so psychologists tend to refer to ‘subjective well-being’ when they talk about happiness as an emotional state… in other words, it relates to an individual’s personal feelings about their life in the presentRelief on the other hand, is what we feel when we overcome feelings of anxiety and stress… in other words, relief is a reduction of a negative state. So the obvious question is: Are you living your life in the pursuit of happiness, or are you constantly seeking relief?

It is always useful to make life’s decisions consciously and deliberately, as opposed to letting things unfold randomly. So, to the extent you seek a life filled with happiness, let us consider where lasting joy comes from:

  • How you spend your time – if you spend more time doing things that bring you joy, on balance, you’ll probably feel more joy in your life, right?
  • The relationships you have with others is similar to time spent; If you spend more time with people who bring you joy, you’re more likely to feel that way… and of course, the opposite is true as well.
  • Your relationship with yourself! That’s right… We all have two voices in our head; an inner critic, and an inner cheerleader. The critic punishes you for every mistake and failure, and is often the source of our stresses in life. When this voice is too loud, it shuts down joy because it demands perfection – and since we know perfection isn’t possible, we can conclude that joy isn’t possible either (we will come back to this). The cheerleader is the voice of compassion and warmth. This voice accepts your flaws, supports you and encourages you when you don’t achieve perfection every time.

So ask yourself – Which voice is stronger in your head? I’d argue that any person’s capacity and desire for joy is probably higher when the inner cheerleader’s voice is louder than the critic’s. What this means, is you’re likely able to exercise a certain level of self-acceptance.

On the other hand, if the critic’s voice in your head is louder, your capacity and desire for relief (due to the stress that comes with lack of self-acceptance) will be high… and your capacity for joy will be low (since you need to be perfect to experience joy). This can often lead to episodes of self-hate. That might sound dramatic, but think about how often one might feel this way.

What this means, is when you keep experiencing self-hate, rather than self-acceptance… you end up in a situation where you will often experience relief from the aforementioned self-hate, but almost never experience lasting joy. Think about it… If you have a fundamental belief that you’re “short of perfection” or “not as good as…” everyone else, the feelings that come from this negative self-perception are constantly in need of relief! Relief, in this context, is what comes from others around you in the form of plaudits, approval, status, and money.

Of course, people in this boat are often surprised by how they feel… even after they do ‘succeed’. They genuinely believe “I will be happy when ___________” and it doesn’t happen or, if it does, it doesn’t last. My point is, happiness doesn’t work like that… Happiness and joy do not operate in the future tense; Only relief does.

Hopefully, it is now evident how this applies to watch collecting?

I will feel relief when I can finally afford a Journe.

I will feel relief when I have a collection of X different watches.

I will feel relief when I can join the MB&F tribe.

Joy describes a feeling in the present.

On the other hand… today was a beautiful day, which I spent in the company of my family whom I care about deeply… while doing fun activities, making each other laugh and eating birthday cake. In this moment, right this second, I feel joyful. THAT is joy.

So, my friends… if you want to enjoy this hobby in the long-run… even when you aren’t constantly buying new watches or following the latest releases… you’ve got to work on improving your level of self-acceptance; This will lead to an improved ability to feel joy, and reduce your propensity to constantly seek out relief.


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