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 remembered by self-made millionaires as the happiest time in their lives.
Once we get what we want, anticipation is gone, and in a matter of a few weeks, after getting what we want, happiness fades away. That thing we wanted so badly, once acquired, does not produce any additional 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.
Try to remember the things you got for Christmas as a child. How many things could you remember? I can remember only three things. 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 emotional 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.