There is an important distinction between what is “good” and “sweet.”
Good: “Good” actions are those that lead to enlightenment, improvement, positivity, growth, and love. More often than not, “good” actions are not “fun” things. We may need to have an unpleasant conversation with a friend about her addiction, arrive late to an important meeting because a stranger ran out of gas on the freeway, or pick up our dog’s poop to keep the neighborhood beautiful.
Sweet: “Sweet” actions are those that are pleasurable: they make us feel excitement, short-term happiness, or arousal.
Understanding the difference between these two concepts is critical to personal growth and genuine happiness. When we cannot tell the difference between these two concepts, we misdirect our energy and waste tremendous amounts of time.
Deep down, we know when we are using “sweet” things (shopping, sex, drugs, alcohol) to fill holes in our other aspects of our lives, but giving “sweet” things up is difficult, so we close the door to our thoughts and continue on a pattern of destructive, anxiety-provoking behavior.
We may overindulge in food, becoming compulsive eaters who are addicted to the dopamine-rush of a fatty meal. We may zone out for hours every night in front of the television, without leaving time for friends, family, or self-improvement. We may spend prodigally to repress something that is bothering us: “Ugh, I should really nurture my relationship with my husband/read that fascinating article I’ve been putting off/clean my home, but I’m going to buy this instead.”
We can use food, television, and shopping like emotion-numbing drugs or we can use them to bring people together and nourish ourselves. If there is a hole in your life created by emotional or physical trauma, the only thing that can fill the hole is hard work on yourself (individually or with a loving professional). Using people or things to procrastinate putting in work on ourselves may be “sweet” in the short-term, but it is not “good.”
There are, however, many things in life that are both good AND sweet: savoring a delicious fruit (taking joy in the taste and nourishing your body), smiling with a young child, engaging in random acts of kindness, having sex with a loving partner, petting a dog (I’m sure the dog would also find this “sweet,” even though he may have no concept of “good”).
When we fill our lives with things that are both good AND sweet, we maximize our capacity for joy and pleasure.
Ask yourself: What am I doing in my life today that is only “sweet” and not “good?” How can I find more joy my “good” actions? Am I too concentrated on aspects of my life that are “sweet” or am I moralizing excessively and obsessing only over what is “good?” If I cannot identify what I can improve about myself, how can I gain insight into who I want to be?