All our actions can be mainly divided into three categories. You can work out what category an action belongs to by assessing your level of happiness when carrying it out and your motivation.
1. There are those actions that result in both your immediate and ultimate happiness. Practising wholehearted generosity is a good example. Thinking and meditating about love and compassion is another. Not only are these actions personally rewarding, they also contribute to your eventual future enlightenment. In an ideal world, all your actions would fall into this first category.
2. There are those actions that cause you and others unhappiness, both now and in t he future. Being abusive towards your partner is a typical example, as is plotting revenge against someone at work or stealing from your clients by 'cooking the books'. All such actions are bound to cause unhappiness and bring you negative consequences in this life and the next. Actions of this kind are very often fuelled by anger, attachment and ignorance. They are usually easy to identify as negative which, in theory, makes them easy to avoid.
3. There are those actions that bring you short-lived happiness, but generate negative results in the long term. At first glance, these actions may not seem negative, which makes them difficult t o resist. Any dieter knows this one. You can justify eating sweets and ice cream because it tastes so good. But if you're already overweight, you'll pay for your actions in increased girth and worsening health. Another good example is having an affair when you're in a committed relationship. The romance may be exciting and pleasurable, but the longer-term consequence is pain for all involved. Many of our actions fall into this third category...and they're motivated mainly by attachment and ignorance. It's true that these actions bring happiness for a while, but they don't deliver the goods in terms of ultimate happiness or enlightenment.