The anticipation of getting something you want elevates your dopamine levels (happiness neurotransmitter) every time you think about that thing you want. This is why the pursuit of success, the pursuit of something meaningful, the pursuit of a dream and the pursuit of goals is often the time period in which we experience true happiness in life. Once we get what we want, anticipation is gone, and in a matter of a few weeks, days or even hours after getting what we want, happiness fades away. That thing we wanted so badly, once acquired, does not produce any more happiness.
You see this with kids, 2-3 weeks prior to Christmas. During this 2-3 week period, kids are on a dopamine high that hits its peak on Christmas Eve. The real reason most adults have fond memories of Christmas isn’t the result of getting things they wanted. Stop for a minute, right now, and try to remember the things you got for Christmas as a child. How many things could you remember? I can remember only three things, myself. You see, it’s not the things that you got as a child on Christmas morning that fueled your happiness memories of Christmas. It’s the period of anticipation, prior to Christmas, that forged those memories.
When you are pursuing something worthwhile, it almost always requires an investment of your time and money. The cost you incur is in putting off things you want to do or have now, in exchange for getting something you want more, down the road. This is why delayed gratification is so important to happiness. Forgoing something today creates anticipation for something better tomorrow and that anticipation produces happiness.