Our lifetime is made up of about 600 million moments. A moment lasts for 3 seconds. According to behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman each of us has both an experiencing self and a remembering self. Our experiencing self is in the present actually living through those 600 million moments and our remembering self keeps score and composes the story of our life around the moments we choose to remember. My cousin Al suggested I check out the work of Daniel Kahneman after I posted a blog called Writing Is the Way I Think and Remember
I watched a TED talk by Kahneman and now I know why Al made that recommendation. When I write this blog my remembering self is at work choosing how I will compose the story of my life. Kahneman says we have a choice about how we will remember an experience. If we go on a holiday for example and choose to remember only the one terrible day where everything went wrong that can color our memory of the entire holiday and perhaps prevent us from going on another one. But if we choose instead to remember the high points of the holiday then we will label our trip a success and be ready to set off on another one in the future.
On our trip to Costa Rica in 2016 for example I wrote 45 blog posts. Those posts represent the efforts of my remembering self. I wrote about being terrified, having a horrible day where everything went wrong, and our trip being delayed by fourteen hours, but I realized as I re-read my posts that somehow I managed to turn even those bad experiences into positive ones in the way I wrote about them.
I also wrote about seeing an extremely rare bird, a gourmet sail and memorable hikes. So while there were some bad things that happened on our trip my remembering self turned the holiday into a good one which made us ready to set off for Iceland and Germany in 2017.
Kahneman says our experiencing self is actually a stranger to us and it is the remembering self we know. It is our remembering self that decides upon reflection whether our relationships are worthwhile, whether our careers are rewarding, whether our passions are enjoyable, whether a trip is fun. There is a difference Kahneman says between living a happy life and being happy about your life.
Thanks cousin Al for recommending the research of Kahneman. It is thought-provoking, a bit disconcerting, but also empowering because in many ways it puts the onus for living happily on us.