Ever heard of the Hedonic Treadmill? Sounds like a marketing thing but interestingly it’s the concept of always trying to earn more, because more is never enough.
We work and our salary grows over time. We play the lottery and pray to win big. We hope for a performance bonus. Whatever might increase our financial position there is often the effect of elevating our lifestyle. You earned that extra money, you deserve it so why not spend it on something nice. The trouble here is that as your income increases and your lifestyle improves to match, you notice that you are no happier and you are in the same position as you started, hoping for a pay rise, lottery win, or bonus.
You might look at those that endlessly strive for more as role models for your future self but it is important to remember there is one thing these people will never have – Enough.
It is within everyone’s reach to escape the rat race but some will forever be trapped on the Hedonic Treadmill because they don’t know what they are striving for, like a dog chasing cars, they don’t know what to do once they catch them.
Understanding what you value and what goals you have will give you the freedom you are searching for. You might think earning more money will free you but if anything money just enables you to either consume more or have the ability to relax for a while.
I know what I would do if I didn’t need to work again. I’d read, I’d go climbing, I’d hang out with family and friends, I’d walk my dog, spend time with my fiancé – not necessarily in that order – and those are my values. My goals are to be healthy, learn new things, challenge myself, and form strong relationships – lucky for me these goals match my values.
I have found that defining your goals and values is an important exercise, as important as planning my finances, because it gives me the freedom to enjoy life. I don’t worry about money, I don’t worry about my house burning down and destroying all my possessions, I don’t worry about much at all and that is a very healthy position to be in, and it’s all because I know what Enough means for me.