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My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. — Ayn Rand

Giving a bit of background information, I'm having a well-paid corporate job in the city but inside of me, I feel emotionally empty and have a lack of happiness. Having grown up in a small town and having a passion to teach kids, what I'd really want to do is move back now, to my town and teach in an elementary or middle school. I also do not really feel comfortable living in a big city and love to be able stay in my town. However, due to social pressures and high expectations from family, friends and so forth, after graduation I left my town and went to the city where I am building "a successful career". My family and friends generally present the argument of "Work hard for the next 20–30 years in the city, then come back to enjoy your retirement in your small home town".

I briefly touched on Ayn Rand's philosophy, and what struck me is the part which states that man's moral purpose in his life is the pursuit of his own happiness. So I was thinking, is the pursuit of one's own happiness incompatible with delayed gratification?

If I were to follow Ayn Rand's philosophy that man's moral purpose of his life is the pursuit of his own happiness, would that be incompatible with delayed gratification? I would think since college, I have been practicing delayed gratification — moving out of my town to go to college, moving to the city after graduation to work. The long-term reward I see in this is that I would be financially very well off in 20–30 years time and can retire in peace and luxury. But for the next 20–30 years, I would not have a lot of happiness in my life as what I want to do is to live in my town, and to be a teacher, which would bring me a lot of happiness.

  • Sounds like you've spent long enough doing this to know you don't enjoy it. Doing it for 20-30 years could end up being soul-destroying. Is being a teacher so badly paid that it can't be made to work? – Mozibur Ullah Apr 2 '13 at 6:53
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I think the concept of "delayed gratification" is incompatible with Objectivism, because I think it's a deeply flawed concept.

The word gratification shifts the emphasis away from the intellectual nature of the source of happiness and turns it into something that's physical with hints of dishonor. I also think the word "delayed" is dangerous too as it leaves the time period wide open between a week and a life time.

I think you need to look at the context of your life and goals. It's one thing to delay a goal for a small period of time in order to meet some other already chosen obligations. For example, suppose you have always wanted to go to Hawaii, but it simply isn't financially feasible for the next few years because you still have college debts to pay.

Putting off your career passion for 20 years isn't a "delay". And a career isn't a gratification. It's one of the primary values in life. Such a delay is likely to be very damaging. You risk harming yourself in a way that prevents you from enjoying it later in life. Your bank account might be full, but you may not have a self to speak of.

Consider Peter Keating's choices in The Fountainhead. He became an architect at the behest of his mother. He really loved painting, but gave that up to pursue a more financially rewarding career in architecture. By sacrificing his needs to please his mother, win friends, and achieve the socially accepted notions of success, he really destroyed himself. He is a tragic figure at the end, but a tragedy as the result of his own choices.

For what it's worth, Dr. Peikoff addresses a variety of these questions on his website. The question that is currently at the top of page 2 sounds similar. http://www.peikoff.com/tag/career/page/2/#list. I'm sure you can find others in the Career tag that will offer similar thoughts.

  • I was going to post an answer, but no need after reading yours. I would just stress that for 'delayed gratification' to be sensible, the delay needs to be for the purpose of increasing your eventual total happiness. (For example, monotonous training so you can become better at a task you love.) If the delay is simply delay, not for the purpose of increasing happiness but simply postponing it... the delay is irrational. – kbelder Apr 2 '13 at 15:22
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Here is a very short and to-the-point answer.

“Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. [1] “Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. [2]

Your individual code of values is something we can't really comment on. Philosophically, Objectivism would ask you which do you value more?

If you value living in your home town and pursuing a teaching career more than any benefits you're currently getting in your corporate job then you are behaving irrationally. If you believe your current job is a stepping stone that is enabling you more economic freedom so that later in life (not necessarily 30 years) you can move home and pursue teaching, then you are fine where you're at.

Only you can weigh those values friend, but you don't seem happy. Perhaps you haven't explored all of the opportunities for excitement, fun, leisure, activities, etc... in your new city?

  1. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/sacrifice.html
  2. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/values.html

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