Time, energy, and happiness

Rob Pavacic

This was a hard truth for me to accept and it took me about 7 years. From the time I graduated college to about January of this year.

I’ve come to the conclusion like some before me, that money can’t buy you happiness. What money can do though is buy you time.

As humans, our existence is finite. In each one of us there is a ticking clock whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. We will not live forever. Time will inevitably run out for each of us. But, if we can slow that clock down and make every moment last just a little bit longer, maybe we can experience more bursts of happiness along the way.

Your energy expenditure

The energy we expend now can do one of two things. It can allow us to buy more time today in the present (think checking account, debit cards, etc.), or we can store that same energy so it can be used at some point in the future (think savings account, 401K, etc.). In some ways, we can also borrow time using various lines of credit and debt allowing us to spend others’ energy in place of our own.

All of these modes of human energy expenditure have their tradeoffs:

  1. Buy time now: instant gratification can feel great short-term. But you don’t know what the future holds and that energy may be getting spent foolishly.
  2. Store energy for later: delayed gratification can feel bad short-term, but may pay off long-term. With storing your energy now for later, you are essentially placing calculated bets on your future. You are forgoing utilizing energy spent now only to be used in the later years of your life. Conservative move, but will you be around later to benefit from that energy? Or will that energy be wasted on you only to be passed on to future generations?
  3. Borrow time. Pay back later: instant gratification without expending your own energy. Feels okay short-term, as long as the borrowed time is being spent wisely. Are using that time you borrowed for the present, the future, or both? You will eventually need to pay back the time you borrowed. What is the time horizon for paying this debt back? Will you be able to?

Borrowing Time

These days I often think of money as a means to an end. We lend our energy to companies and corporations. They borrow our time, go into debt, and pay us back every two weeks or in some cases once a month. They do not ‘buy time now’.

Think about that. The most successful corporations in the world and the entire economy operate in this way. The notion of borrowing others’ time for their benefit is foundational. This should tell us something.

Our time is the most valuable asset we will ever have. We should be careful about spending our energy to buy time for now. We should also be careful about storing our time for later.

If possible, the most worthwhile thing to do may actually be to borrow time. As long as the interest on that time is not significant, and can be paid off by you for little to no cost at some point in the future, this solution may make the most sense.

Money ≠ Happiness (Stored Energy ≠ Happiness)

Having ‘more’ money or ‘more’ of a physical good, I firmly believe does not make you happy. I personally have made money, bought things with that money, and I’m convinced that no amount of 1’s or 0’s in my bank account will ever make me truly happy.

Jokingly, I’ve always hated math as a subject and I can say no amount of it has never made me happy before lol.

Whether we call it money or refer to it as our stored energy, neither can directly buy happiness. They can buy you comfort, or relief, or assurances to some extent. But they cannot buy you happiness.

Spent Energy + (Experience or Relationship) = Happiness

It is becoming clearer to me everyday that you must spend your energy on experiences and your relationships in order to become happy.

What you spend your energy on should be carefully thought out.

Spending energy on what should matter most to you I think may be the path to a happy life.


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