2017 Reflections and hedonic adaptation | Goodbye 2017

So we have a new year everyone!

Time for unrealistic goals that have no specific action plan or accountability backed behind them. Then, we all extort valuable energy into a direction with no clearly defined path for about 30 days and wonder why 92% of people fail new year resolution goals.
Well now, please don’t mistake me for a pessimistic person. In all honesty, I am actually a very optimistic fellow. Which is why I wrote this latest post.

You see, instead of writing a goal for the new year, my path this year is going to be different. I am going to focus on a few “systems” that will likely lead to the desired “goal” as a consequence so long as I am disciplined enough to take charge of my life each day.

Example: Let’s say, I would like to lose the flab developed in my mid section that mysteriously appeared over the holidays. Well, more cardiovascular workouts is the key to burning fat. Instead of just going to the gym more (which I probably won’t do) I could just change my situation. I will now park my car further away from work forcing me to walk an extra 20 minutes when I arrive and when I leave. In addition, watching Netflix or any television is no longer allowed unless I am on the exercise bike.

How many calories will I burn?

That gives me a grand total of burning 3550 calories every week! And I never had to make a trip to the gym or modify my diet!

Please don’t be mistaken. This post is not a post about weight loss. We are talking about behavior change here. Since behavior change is difficult you are more likely to commit to this change by reducing the amount of effort it takes to accomplish it. And aside from changing your situation, there are other ways of easing your body into change.


Psychology behind behavior change

Hedonic adaptation is the idea that states no matter how good or bad something is, most of the time we drift back to the same emotional state. There is even a study that shows despite their initial euphoria, lottery winners were no happier than non-winners a few months later. There seems to be a tendency to always return back to the baseline happiness level regardless of what happens in life. When a positive change first occurs (say, you move into a great new house), there are usually lots of positive events happening as a result. You get to break in that new six-burner range, take a long bath in your first soaking tub, and appreciate the roominess of your new garage. But over time, there are fewer positive events to experience, because you get used to all the home’s features, and after a while, you just don’t notice them anymore. With fewer positive events, and thus fewer positive emotions (excitement, pride, happiness), your newfound well-being can’t be sustained. source

Sadly, this is why most Americans go further into debt the older they get. Here in the states, we are taught to be good little consumers who always run to the department store and wait in line to buy the newest gadget regardless if the old gadget needs to be replaced or not. Initially, it feels good to shop. We think the item we get will bring us happiness. But it doesn’t. Retail Giants know this and they thrive on luring us in with emotions and well-produced commercials about animated emojis.

Typical line for a new IPhone

But there is another side of the coin

As stated earlier, “most of the time we drift back to the same emotional state.

So Hedonic adaptation works both ways. Meaning, if we commit to the pain of change, over time, we will get used to it. I can attest. I just spent nine days on a Caribbean island with no hot water, horrible traffic, rolling electrical outages where you have no idea when the power is coming back on, no AC and no ability to flush toilet paper. Sound rough? It was for about 48 hours. Then I adjusted. And since I visit this place every year, my body adjusts to the change even faster. In spite of the environment change, I had the basics. Food, water, shelter, ebooks and all my favorite shows downloaded to my smart phone. I also had a neighborhood gym and a space in the backyard to workout.

Facebook Post

As a result, when I came back home to the states, I now have this little muscle built-in to tolerate fewer luxuries. For instance, I see no reason to take piping hot showers anymore. Yes, I enjoy them. But I really don’t need them. Nor do I feel the need to turn the shower water pressure up all the way. I have adjusted to less water pressure. As a result of incorporating this behavior change into my shower routine, I imagine I will save hundreds of dollars each year on my water heating bill. Perhaps I will do the math after a few months just to brag.



This makes me come to the conclusion that discipline is more valuable than the temporary euphoric motivation we receive from a good lecture or movie. If you want a pivot in your life, be disciplined enough to stick to your behavior change and know that eventually your body will adjust accordingly. In addition, changing your situation will force you to inadvertently incorporate the behavior change you want. This is why immersion learning is more effective than remembering flash cards when trying to learn a new language.

Here, we take great pleasure in driving 12-year-old cars, spending $20 per month on our cheap smart phone plans, living on a budget and saving at least 50% of our paycheck. For it’s these behavior changes that have allowed us to pay cash for our home, and fully max out our retirement accounts each year. Because we have lived this type of lifestyle for so long, it doesn’t seem like we are really living a hyper-frugal life. Actually, I know of ways I could optimize more. And I know, should I decide to implement any changes, Hedonic adaptation will be there to guide me.
Do you struggle with keeping new year’s resolutions? Please tell me how you can apply some of the methods mentioned here. Good Luck!

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