Hedonic Treadmill

What kind of treadmill is that?  You say, “I know only the treadmills from Horizon, Epic, and  Lifespan.”

Like so many of us, I am quite sure that you have spent some time on the Hedonic Treadmill.

The Hedonic Treadmill is one that some people are constantly running on because their neighbour—or the people on television—appear to be richer than them.  hedonic-treadmill Keeping up with the Joneses (I don’t even know who they are) —who incidentally might be heavily indebted and unhappy behind the façade that they present to you—appears to be the main objective that people (= the others) work in a stressful job, so as to make enough money to have a stress-free life.  Do you see any irony in this?

Take a break and take stock.  Look at where you are and define for yourself the level of “materialism” you require to be happyDon’t let envy get the best of you and don’t always compare yourself to others.  You can’t keep up with the Joneses anyway. Once you are on par with them, you shift our reference group to those who are still better off, like the Smiths down the road who are ahead again.  Off onto the treadmill again.  An endless race with dire prospects.

We are never satisfied, since we quickly become accustomed to our own achievements. Which is why the rat race is run on a treadmill, rather than to the victory line.

Take a view from a different angle and avoid the so-called Perspective Bias or Base-Rate Neglect:  You think it’s impossible to live on less than US$34,000 a year, not realizing that literally 99% of the world does, even adjusting for purchasing power parity.  Think again.  Take a trip to a poor country and you will realize that the world doesn’t care how entitled you feel or what you think is “fair” or what real financial hardship is.

If you really want to “compete” with your neighbours, why don’t you move away from “who owns the newest and best car” and open up a new playing field by installing an environmentally friendly solar system on your roof and instantaneously you are “better than your neighbour”.

Too expensive you say?

Ok, then another very affordable option is to pick Joneses to whom we don’t feel bad in comparison. Improved happiness instantly.

I’ve observed that people’s expectations grow faster than their wealth. The planet is richer than it’s ever been. I don’t think it’s as happy as it’s ever been.

Permanent striving might be good for economic growth as a whole – but it’s not likely to be good for your mental health.


“Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on that trolley?” – Charlie Munger

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