One of things we talk about in FF1 is the hedonic treadmill, the idea that no matter what we get, we quickly return to a base level of life satisfaction. We believe that when we get something, we’ll be happy. And it’s true: getting things or experiences we want makes us happy. But only temporarily. Then we need to get something else to make us happy again. (Deeper dive here)
This “pursuit of happiness” is encoded in our national DNA and is paradoxically the source of so much unhappiness. We are hungry ghosts unable to satiate ourselves because our appetites are unending.
How I see it, there’s only two ways to find sustainable happiness and end the relentless and exhausting search for more. First is becoming aware of the emotions behind our desires. Most of the time, it’s the desire for love, status, safety or some other basic need. Then we need to realize that the thing or the experience only temporarily solves the problem and only awareness allows us to sit and come to terms with our real desire.
Second is gratitude. We spend so much time thinking about what we want, we forget what we already have. I was in a workshop a few weeks ago and we took a look at the Wheel of Life.
The exercise was to examine how we felt about these facets of our life and then think about how we wanted to improve or maintain them. But I started really thinking about the wealth I already had in these areas.
Instead of thinking of what I wanted in my life and what I didn’t yet have, how about sitting and becoming grateful for what I had been given? To me, stepping off the treadmill of constantly trying to get something or achieve something and just being grateful is the real path to sustainable happiness.
Now, I have found that I cannot predict the stock market except over very long periods. I cannot tell you when the housing bubble will burst - only that it will burst. I cannot tell you when the dollar will stop rallying - only that it will stop. So I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich. But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich. Be grateful. - Ben Stein
I’m putting together a short course called “The Inner Game of Happiness.” It’s a deeper dive into true wealth, which is an inner state of gratitude. The course will be online where’s we’ll be (1) learning the science of gratitude and then (2) writing and sharing letters of appreciation to people in our lives. If you’re interested, send in a note. Email me at douglas@schooloffinancialfreedom and I’ll arrange the course around the schedules of those who want to participate.