Connection: step off the Hedonic Treadmill

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Gratitude is a powerful emotion with many benefits, including better health, improved relationships, and a sense of humility that allows for greater empathy. In contrast, it becomes obvious when you think of someone you know who is ungrateful and carries a large sense of entitlement.

Feeling and expressing gratitude helps build trust with those who matter to us.

Unfortunately, modern western culture works against gratitude.

You know the drill. You dream, plan, work, and save for a promotion, a new car, or a special event. And when it occurs as you hoped, you get a buzz of happiness that lasts for some period of time as you savor the accomplishment, the pay-raise, or the new thing in your life. But the feeling is temporal, the happiness has a shelf-life that expires in weeks or even days. Far too soon, we take it for granted and begin the process of desiring “the next thing.”

Psychologists refer to this natural human process as the Hedonic Treadmill.

The hedonic treadmill, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness.

The effect of the hedonic treadmill is aided and magnified by the daily deluge of marketing and media designed to keep us in a perpetual state of impatience, of desiring more, resulting in a constant dissatisfaction with our current condition and possessions.

We lose our perspective regarding the good fortune bestowed on everyone who has the freedom and wherewithal to read this blogpost. That doesn’t mean many of you don’t face significant challenges and loss, but compared to sooooooo many others, you are truly blessed.

Think about the billion people in the world who literally live on the edge of survival in war zones, refugee camps, poverty, civil strife, political oppression, slavery, wildfires, homelessness, and famine.

They would consider their prayers answered and greatest dreams come true if they could trade places with you to complain about traffic congestion, stock market dips, an unappreciative child, a colleague with an attitude, or a boss or spouse who doesn’t seem to care enough.

As Sam Harris recently remarked:

To have your health; even just sort of;
To have your friends; even if only a few;
To have hobbies, interests, and the freedom to pursue them;
To have spent this day free from some terrifying enounter with chaos is to be lucky.
Just look around you and take a moment to feel how lucky you are.

Be a High-Trust Leader: slow down and take time during this holiday season to step off the Hedonic Treadmill and feel gratitude for all that you have and all that you are. Express your gratitude in words and deeds by getting outside yourself to share and invest in others. Some ideas for gratitude rituals to build connection with those who matter throughout the year can be found HERE.


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