Hedonic Adaptation – Blog Post 0031

The reason that many wealthy people become miserable over time is because their money allows them to access scarce resources at a high frequency. Special occasions become frequent occasions and what was once novel and exciting becomes regular and average. What’s worse, what was once average becomes unbearable or repulsive.

If you eat at a fancy restaurant twice a year, and vacation in the French Riviera every so often, those experiences tend to retain their novelty. But if all you do is dine out at expensive restaurants and travel from one luxury hotel to another, those experiences become normalized and no longer produce the same pleasure they once did.

The experience of adapting to abundance isn’t reserved only for the wealthy, it happens to everyone. The more music you have access to, the less you tend to enjoy each artist. The more food you have access to, the less you tend to enjoy each meal. Extreme abundance and optionality tends to devalue ones experience and produces dissatisfaction as one becomes aware of all the other options they passed over to do what they’re doing now. One can’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like had they purchased a different car or house or mail order bride.

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