As New Year’s rolls around again, we should all resolve to be happy. But why do so many of us put off pleasure until the future instead of enjoying ourselves now?

Have recent shocks like 911 (note:subscribers can still listen to this provocative show) and the financial crisis made people think they don’t deserve to be happy? Airlines have noticed that millions of air miles expire without being used. This may be because, without a job, it’s tough to pay for the hotel and meals that go along with a vacation. But here’s an even MORE puzzling fact: Many Christmas gift certificates expire without being used (and these are already completely paid for!)

When it comes to travel, most people don’t even visit the landmarks right in their own home towns. Marketers Suzanne B. Shu and Ayelet Gneezy discovered that most people in Chicago went to the landmarks in the other town they visited much more than to their own.

One reason for this is a obsession with perfection, or getting the MOST for our money by waiting for the perfect time (so we never drink that expensive wine because we’re waiting for the perfect occasion to do so). In the December 29th edition of the New York Times, John Tierney quotes Shu as saying, “People can become overly focused on an ideal. Even if they know it’s unlikely, they get so focused on the perfect scenario that they block everything else. Or they anticipate that they’ll kick themselves later if they take second-best option and then see the best one is still available. But they don’t realize that regret can go the other way. They’ll end up with something worse and regret not taking the second-best one.”

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