Constant Luxury is No Luxury At All

“But just as the human body didn’t evolve to deal well with today’s easy access to abundant fat and sugars, and will crave an extra cheeseburger when it shouldn’t, the human mind, apparently, didn’t evolve to deal with excess money, and will desire more long after wealth has become a burden rather than a comfort. A vast body of psychological evidence shows that the pleasures of consumption wear off through time and depend heavily on one’s frame of reference. Most of us, for instance, occasionally spoil ourselves with outbursts of deliberate and perhaps excessive consumption: a fancy spa treatment, dinner at an expensive restaurant, a shopping spree. In the case of the very wealthy, such forms of consumption can become so commonplace as to lose all psychological benefit: constant luxury is, in a sense, no luxury at all.”

Excerpt from Secret Fears of the Super-Rich by Graeme Wood.

Future Blindness

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This prediction error works as follows. You are about to buy a new car. It is going to change your life, elevate your status, and make your commute a vacation. It is so quiet that you can hardly tell if the engine is on, so you can listen to Rachmaninoff’s nocturnes on the highway. This new car will bring you to a permanently elevated plateau of contentment. People will think, Hey, he has a great car, every time they see you. Yet you forget that the last time you bought a car, you also had the same expectations. You do not anticipate that the effect of the new car will eventually wane and that you will revert to the initial condition, as you did last time. A few weeks after you drive your new car out of the showroom, it will become dull. If you had expected this, you probably would not have bought it.

Excerpt from The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

A Culture of Rat Racers

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The reason why we see so many rat racers around is that our culture reinforces this belief. If we get an A at the end of the semester, we get a gift from our parents; if we meet certain quotas on the job, we get a bonus at the end of the year. We learn to focus on the next goal rather than on our present experience and chase the ever-elusive future our entire lives. We are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of a journey. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys.

Once we arrive at our destination, once we attain our goal, we mistake the relief that we feel for happiness. The weightier the burden we carried on our journey, the more powerful and pleasant is our experience of relief. When we mistake these moments of relief for happiness, we reinforce the illusion that simply reaching goals will make us happy. While there certainly is value in relief—it is a pleasant experience and it is real—it should not be mistaken for happiness.

Excerpt from Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar.

Photo credit: James Clar.

Happy People Make More Money

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Some people think that money is not important for happiness, or even that rich people are not happy. On the contrary, research has shown that people who are well-off financially are happier than poor people (Diener & Biwas-Diener, 2002; Diener & Seligman, 2004). It has usually been assumed that financial success brings happiness. But it is also true that happy people make more money. Indeed, happy people are successful in many areas of life that require motivation and persistence, including domains such as work and income (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).

Excerpt from Life Goals and Well-Being: Are Extrinsic Aspirations Always Detrimental to Well-Being? by Ingrid Brdar, Majda Rijavec & Dubravka Miljkovic

Aristotle on Material Wealth

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(Happiness) belongs more to those who have cultivated their character and mind to the uttermost, and kept acquisition of external goods within moderate limits, than it does to those who have managed to acquire more external goods than they can possibly use, and are lacking goods of the soul . . . Any excessive amount of such things must either cause its possessor some injury, or, at any rate, bring him no benefit.

Excerpt from The Politics of Aristotle (1958 translation) by Aristotle