Altru-Hedonism: A New Perspective on Pleasure & Helping Others
Altru-Hedonism is a mash-up of the terms altruism (selfless concern for the welfare of others) and hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure). Normally these terms are considered antonyms, which would make my made-up word a complete oxymoron. I aim to convince you of just the opposite.
Note: For you smartasses out there, yes we all know that helping other people feels good. This post does eventually transcend common sense :)
Altru-Hedonism can be summed up very well in a little memory exercise. Think back to the last time you have some change to a homeless person. How did you feel after? How did you think he or she felt upon receiving the money? Your answer to both questions is probably at the very least ‘good.’
WHAT? You mean an altruistic action gave pleasure to both you and the person being helped? I think now is a good time to give the definition of my new favorite word:
The key word in that definition is maximizing. I am proposing that not only does altruism give you pleasure, it provides you the most enduring and deep-seated pleasure you can possibly attain. In other words, a true hedonist would in fact act as pure altruist.
Why does helping others have such a bad rap? By that I mean why is it viewed as a chore — something you must unselfishly go out of your way to do? Our perspective of charity is warped in the wrong direction. IT FEELS GOOD!
You don’t need to make sacrifices or break a sweat to lend someone a hand. As they say, a little good deed can go a long way.
Don’t get me wrong, those ‘vices’ all feel fantastic. I am a big proponent of (responsible) drug use, I would LOVE to own a BMW M3 and I am a 20 year old male — need I say more? My point here is the pleasure provided by those things is, in most cases, fleeting and superficial. Otherwise you would be content with sex once a week, drug addiction wouldn’t exist and buying something new would make you happy for more than 2 days (if that). Remember that day you bought new shoes? You loved them and they would ‘love you long time’. Fast forward to a week later and the love has died.
Next time you have an opportunity to help someone, try a simple cost-benefit analysis.
Example 1: Homeless guy on the street holds out a can for change
Analysis: Will I get more satisfaction from giving this guy a dollar, or from the pack of gum/fast food burrito/4 gumballs I would be able to buy with it?
Example 2: Someone you don’t know well emails you asking your advice on your area of expertise.
Analysis: Will I get more satisfaction out of taking 5 minutes to help this person out, saving them a TON of time or from some other leisure activity?