Running with the Joneses

Naturally, we all look forward to things we think will make us happy, but we often fail to realize how short-lived the happiness will be.  Welcome to life on the hedonic treadmill!  On the bright side, the experiences we believe that will make us miserable often fail to deliver the long term gloom we expect too. This process is called “hedonic adaptation” and it works both ways.

Many of the things we consume do indeed bring a quick hit of euphoria; however, the feeling dissipates rather quickly and only leaves us hungry for more. In the same vein, many of the things we think will make us miserable only do so for a short time. We adapt and reset the way we think about things by adjusting to our new surroundings. One of the interesting things about hedonic adaptation, though, is that relative comparisons are more important than absolute ones.

The bottom line is that all of us are stuck running on the hedonic treadmill. We may be at different metaphorical gyms and running at different paces, but there is no escaping the hedonic treadmill. Let’s call it “running with the Joneses”. The sad news is that our neighbors pace does have some affect on how we feel about our pace. If we’re running at a pace of 8 minute miles and our neighbor is running at a pace of 6 minute miles, we’ll surely feel worse about ourselves.

Oftentimes, I think having the wisdom to choose the right gym is more important for your happiness than how fast you’re running.



3 Comments on “Running with the Joneses”

  1. […] According to the great Stoic teacher, Dr. Irvine, “Stoicism, understood properly, is a cure for a disease.” And it’s a cure for a disease that plagues all humans, i.e., the fact that we have insatiable desires that cause us unnecessary unhappiness. In other words, we are all stuck running on a hedonic treadmill. […]

  2. […] Chose your speed wisely. We spend our lives walking or running on what is called the hedonic treadmill. This means that as we make more money (or gain more of something) our expectations and desires […]

  3. […] really experience long-term improvements in our happiness when we achieve “X”.  Welcome to life on the hedonic treadmill!    Throughout the book, Taleb devotes a fair amount of time alerting readers of what the […]

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