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The Loophole in the Hedonic Treadmill (nautil.us)
123 points by dnetesn on March 30, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 127 comments



Lots of contradictory stadies on this subject:

Money buys happiness until you have $75,000 (the one they are citing):

https://www.princeton.edu/~deaton/downloads/deaton_kahneman_...

Money always buys happiness - no limit:

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2013/...

However, it seems to not matter that much as money only explains 1.8% of the variance in subjective well being:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1010079728426


The one I always find a little unsettling is the idea that relative wealth has a greater impact on happiness than absolute wealth. The inference that happiness is a zero-sum game doesn't sit well with me.

In South American countries for example, it certainly seems to be true that middle class professionals have a pretty nice lifestyle partially as a result of inequality in society. (For example, it's pretty normal to have a live-in housekeeper to clean and cook for you)


Many things are zero sum. Land does not increase just because world GDP grows. Further, increasing wealth does not mean every resource becomes more abundant.

Gold supply for example is fairly fixed because we have already mined the stuff for thousands of years and most of that old gold is still around. Granted, there is a lot of gold out there something like 2 pounds per person, but that it. Want more than that, take it from someone else.

Housekeeping is an edge case where everyone wants it, but nobody wants to do it. So, it only shows up due to wealth disparity.

PS: The abundance of food is also great wealth, but you only need so many calories a day.


> Housekeeping is an edge case where everyone wants it, but nobody wants to do it.

It's not that no one wants to do it. The problem is that it is regarded as a low status job and is also, almost invariably, low paid and poorly regulated.


> The one I always find a little unsettling is the idea that relative wealth has a greater impact on happiness than absolute wealth. The inference that happiness is a zero-sum game doesn't sit well with me.

It's important to remember that this kind of finding describes a default or average psychological outlook of a population. There's no reason that an individual can't alter his own perception of the world and his place within it through meditation, psychotherapy, CBT, or some other means.

Basically, relative wealth will affect your happiness if you allow yourself to believe that relative wealth is important. Capitalist society is built on this belief (it's foundational to aspirational advertising) but that doesn't make it true.


I think the fact that happiness is (mostly) zero sum comes from the fact that in early humanity's evolutionary environment, the ecosystem had a mostly constant (meaning over human reproductive cycle timelines) carrying capacity for humans. Innovative advances in technology or techniques or knowledge that would allow for more humans to thrive with better qualities of life were so rare that evolution did not have much opportunity to select for them. In that kind of environment, one's genes can only propagate at the expense of others'. So we're now all the decedents of the early humans who preferred being the top dog of squalor as opposed to an equal in a prosperous society.


> The inference that happiness is a zero-sum game doesn't sit well with me.

Note that that inference is limited to material wealth.


> The inference that happiness is a zero-sum game doesn't sit well with me.

The principle, true or not is summed up as:

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Gore_Vidal


Well, if you want to talk about South America, just keep in mind that in several countries the housekeepers are happier than the middle class people they work for.


It's ridiculous, but this argument tends to boil down to whether the author chooses to plot happiness against LOG income (look ma! a straight line!) or plain old linear income. IMHO plotting against exclusively log income mainly serves to obscure arguments for redistribution and is borderline dishonest.


So looking at yours (happiness proportional to log income) and J-dawgs (its relative wealth that matters) comments I had an idea. If we imagine dominance as a tree, then the number of levels below you is proportional to the log of the rank of your income, intensive handwaving something something, log of your income.

So could it be that what actually matters is your level in the dominance tree?


Yes - except that last week the article [1] about power and autonomy discussed how people seek power in a misguided attempt at autonomy.

If you think in survivalistic terms, the most powerful position to be in is one where others need you (and therefore you have high social capital) but you don't need them (so you could walk away if you wanted). This is actually autonomy, not power, but otherwise the people around you might experience the repercussions of your decisions as power.

I think money is just a derivative of the needs and wants of people, and so the desire for money is mostly just the pursuit of what you want, misguided or not. More money means more autonomy. It goes deeper too, as people want mastery and respect, which can also be derived from work in a profound, interdependent to the community kind of way.

[1]: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/03/people-wan...


Another loophole is to always treasure what you have. I bought a 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe in 2009 because I really enjoyed the car I test drove. I still drive that car today with 135K miles on it. At least once a week, when I get in, I try to think "I really like this car." Even though it's now 7 years old, starting to get creaky and long ago lost the new car smell, I try to remember what it was like to really enjoy the car. By doing this regularly, I have been able to prevent some of the effects of hedonic accustomization. Reading Stoic philosophy helps too. A Guide to the Good Life is a good place to start.


1996 Toyota 4Runner. Love that car, dreading the day I have to replace it, which also helps motivate me to take care of it (although I still take it on rough roads - that's what I have 4WD SUV for).


1992 F-150. 4.9 straight six. Upgraded to the ZF-5 five-speed from the Mazda which wore out reverse. 300,000 miles strong. Regularly haul 5000lbs of hay with no issues. No plans on retiring it.


Yeah, I agree with you that you can get joy out of old material possessions such as your car, I do so myself. But I wonder if you're applying the Stoic philosophy in the correct way?

I also read a part of the book so when you say you try to think "I really like this car", shouldn't the thought be "Boy imagine I'd lose this car today, or maybe it gets robbed, I better enjoy it before that happens" instead? At least that's what I got out of the book, to excercise "negative visualization regularly.


I think you're most certainly right that the negative visualization is a central part of Stoic philosophy as it's applicable today but I don't think you're example is correct in this scenario. Instead, in this case, I think it's appropriate to not drive the car and/or to remember that no matter how old the car is, it is still far-far better than the worst possible reality such as that where the OP doesn't own a car, or has one in significantly worse shape.

I like to practice this own philosophy in my life to remind myself that no matter how frustrated I am with my possessions or with my work that I could be in a much worse place than I am currently. It also helps, a lot, to be a minimalist because it makes you all that much more appreciative of the few things you have (especially when you own good ones!).


I also apply negative visualization but people don't like to hear about that. :-) I try to do without things, I fast regularly to know what hunger is about (plus it's probably good for me) and at least mentally think about what it would be like to have nothing.


Completely agree on Stoicism and A Guide to the Good Life. Gratitude, as you describe it, goes a long way for life satisfaction.


This is the cheesiest thing on earth but I swear by it: I write a "gratitude list" almost every night, ten items, and it's had a profound impact on my attitude and general well-being. (Not scientific, I know. Tough cookies. It works.) Sometimes it's things as simple as having a roof over my head and a warm bed—usually on days I've seen a lot of human suffering on the street. Other times it's gratitude for reacting calmly to a challenging situation. The important thing is to do it consistently over a long period of time. Focusing on what I have over what I want has really changed my outlook on life.

</cheese>


Epictetus' "Enchiridion", the cheap Dover Publications edition, is all many need in getting started with the stoics.


Or download it from Project Gutenberg. Possibly not the latest translation but should be good enough: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/45109.

Now you can have it with you at all times.

Do the same with the Meditations: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2680

If anyone can link to more readable editions that can be downloaded it would be nice to know.


The idea that you can buy happiness is the great fairy tale of capitalism. Of course, other things equal, you are better off with more money. The problem is that if you choose to maximize income, other things aren't equal anymore.

Sure, more and better experiences can make you happier, but do you have to pay a lot for them for that to be true?

Searching for loopholes is not going to be as fruitful in the long run as choosing to play a different game.


Capitalism is not the idea that you buy happiness. It's the idea that you freely trade with others to get items you need.

It creates abundance - even overabundance for some - and then one can choose what level of consumption they want. Less buying = higher savings = more capital or leisure time so capitalism can actually encourage savings.


Capitalism as a philosophical idea of free trade is far different than how corporate capitalism has actually looked in practice though. Not only in terms of power and information disparities and massive externalities making a mockery of the idea of "pure capitalism" (much as crushing and brutal authoritarianism made a mockery of "pure Communism") but also because advertising is a mind control weapon. I know its popular for smart people to think that advertising doesn't affect them but I can assure you that it is VERY hard to choose what level of consumption you want to live it while you are swimming in a sea of advertisements designed to make you feel unconsciously dissatisfied with what you have. The only experiment I could think of to counter this would be to live mostly off the grid or deep in an "undeveloped" country for a year or two and watch how your consciousness shifts. Otherwise it is like the fish that is looking for the water.


I never said it was.

The 'fairy tale' is the way media and especially, advertising, portray the benefits of consumption. The selling of this idea is a key part of capitalism, not as a concept, but as it's practiced today.


The philosophical position mounted by the author of Ecclesiastes, Albert Camus, and other existentialists is that being rich is nice and enjoying life is good, but the work and sacrifice it takes to achieve wealth isn't worth it. More and more research seems to be backing up this proposition, and why shouldn't it?

Working for even a short season of time at a pace that affects our relationships to those important to us leaves us with lost time. We irrevocably change our relationships slightly and miss out on important events. People say things like, "I'll make it up to them." The problem? You can't make up time to someone! Even if you have a lot of free time in the future, it is likely that your relations will not. Wealth is impossible to share in a socially acceptable way, and so you're left with wealth that only you will enjoy, for the most part.

Edit:

I'm not saying that the drive to make money shouldn't be there, but I'm not killing myself to get there.


Karl Jung also said that the keys to happiness were love and work. Both of which, incidentally, can be deeply engaging experiences that can be had even by the poor.


"Of course, other things equal, you are better off with more money."

This is not always true.

Posessions like money often bring with them envy and jealousy from others, who may try to deceive or hurt you to get what you have.

I recommend watching the documentary "Born Rich" for some relatively benign examples of the social isolation kids born in to rich families suffer, how some of them can't be sure if others genuinely like them or are just after their money, etc. It's also interesting to see how some of them reject their inheritances and try to live "normal" lives, without help from their families.

Then there are the less benign examples in the news all the time, of people getting conned, robbed, killed or kidnapped for their money.

The possession of money can also ruin families and relationships just as surely as the lack of money.


You are right. I overstated the position, which would be better stated as "Other things being equal, you are usually a little better of with a little more money".

Large differences in money kind of eliminate the possibility that other things remain equal.


I don't think everything is a fairy tale. Lots of our true happiness comes from basic things like security, eating well, education and good heath. In the current system, money can grantee you most of that.

An advanced capitalist country probably offers a good system for individuals to work and get those very important things. Without them, there's no happiness.

But, off course, we want more, much more. And after a certain point, it does start look like a fairy tale.


Well that's the point of hedonic treadmill that one has to keep earning more-spending more cycle going to be happy.


Side projects also improve happiness once you have enough money to buy a cart-full of groceries without thinking about it. Writing, coding, performance -- it's all good!


I would like to emphasize that. Building something that some people find useful is satisfying and motivational.


I would expand that to helping people in general. There's definitely a diminishing marginal utility effect to income once you get to a certain point, but you can sidestep that by using your resources to help someone who's on a much steeper part of that curve.


Bollocks. Nothing brings me as much happiness and bliss than looking at my bank account balance and seeing that I have 6 months worth of fuck you money. That no matter what happens, I can bankroll my life for 6 months before I have to fix the cashflow situation.

Anyone who says money doesn't bring happiness has either never gone without, given up, or has so much that they can't conceivably spend it.

Experiences are great. So is plastic surgery. If you can afford them.


Can't recall the source, but there was an article here a long while ago that basically said that basically unhappiness is not just negative happiness, it's a separate metric altogether, and that your overall mood is the combination of your happiness and unhappiness. Under that model, money is rarely good at buying happiness, but it's great at getting rid of unhappiness.

Not sure how you'd describe it, but the "fuck you money" fund to me is more about peace of mind and not feeling pressured into stuff I don't want to do than it is something that makes me actively happy.


I wanted to say something similar. Money can relieve from one kind of pain, the substrate (shelter, heat, food) not the existential pain (passion, love, independence, etc etc). Now the question, is it better to have one without the other.


> Nothing brings me as much happiness and bliss than looking at my bank account balance and seeing that I have 6 months worth of fuck you money.

How about having 2 years of fuck you money? You missed the point of the article. It's not that money doesn't make you "happy", just that there are other things you can buy with money that give you more lasting happiness.


> just that there are other things you can buy with money that give you more lasting happiness.

That makes sense. But I wouldn't prioritize having those experiences above having money. If having an amazing experience put me under my comfort level with money-in-bank, then on the mid-term, they'd make me pretty unhappy. On the very long term, I might remember them as great.

Or I might remember them as dumb because I wasted money and opportunity cost.

But it's possible that I am permanently biased because I grew up with a very everpresent lack of money.


Yep. If we sold our house we'd have 6 years of expenses (2 years without). When we hit 25, that's it, no need to work anymore (4% rule).


I feel people who work on to fill the void of their inner core, will always tend to stay happy.

Here subjects who carried a void of low self esteem, by changing their looks coupled with how they viewed themselves and the world later on, had a powerful effect.

The same could be achieved if you had a good bank balance, and spent it on the matters, which yields good experiences, and in turn changes the way you view yourself and the world. Most of the time, it requires you to stay humble. But usually people don't prefer this. :)


I think the most remarkable bit here is that the way we feel about how we look our is the strongest predictor of happiness and self esteem. I think money vs happiness is less interesting (and we've covered it on HN weekly) than pretty vs happiness.

My 2c: duh. If you draw confidence and security just from looking at yourself, you have an advantage.


Buy a motorcycle. It's a thing, but it gives you experiences.


My friend had several organs replaced, including his kidneys and pancreas (elective surgery). In each case, the organ donor was a recently deceased motorcyclist.


Bikers get to look cool and have fun, plus be a great source of organs. It's a win-win!


Buy a bicycle. It's a thing, but it costs a lot less, is a lot cleaner and safer, and still gives you experiences.


Motorcycles come into their own when touring (IMO). You can tour on bicycle too, but it's a lot slower (i.e. takes up more vacation time to visit the same number of different places) and more effort (especially considering bringing luggage up and over mountains).

I don't have the time to tour from London to Croatia by bicycle, and there's no way I could consider it in any two-week break. I did it last summer by motorbike, and it was nothing to cross multiple mountain passes a day along the way.


I've done both a lot, and there's no way you can compare riding a bike to going 250mpg on a motorcycle.

Of course, like many awesomely fun things, it's quite dangerous, which is why I won't start riding again until I'm 55 or so.


Ever go 50 MPH down a hill on a bicycle in TT position? If all you want is scary, I think this would meet your needs ;)


He was talking about mpg (miles per gallon). He seems to be a hypermiler.


I am sure downhill mountain biking is both safer and more exciting than riding a motorbike fast on a fairly flat piece of road.


Amen to that!

I think you've hit on an important nuance there - buying things in the pursuit of experiences: good, buying things strictly for their own sake: not so good. As long as the pleasure of owning the thing is secondary to the pleasure of using the thing, then all is well :-)


It's the same thing for me with my rather expensive camera equipment. It gives me an excuse to see interesting places.


So does your phone camera if you train yourself to focus on subject and composition.


Very true. I am not saying it's rational but I spend much more time on airshows or on the beach watching birds now that I have spent 2k on a big zoom lens.


We also know that media experiences(movies/games/music) are less susceptible to the hedonic treadmill than objects. But i'm curious, how close does virtual reality(VR) experiences get to real-life experiences on that aspect?


As a data point, I enjoy driving cars on the racetrack. I'm not a professional - just an enthusiast. Simulations are getting better and better but IMHO still not as good as "the real thing".

The highest-level sims (with motion controls) are pretty good. I think this is the best comparison today (~$50K simrig vs $25k car): https://youtu.be/hzAIVzAMNg0

There's the added benefit of not worrying about crashing a $500K race car. :-D

[Edit] The simulation upgrade cycle is its own hedonic treadmill though - gamepad > wheel > full wheel/pedal/seat setup > 3 monitors > VR > motion rig > ???


That's a great example. But what's missing ? just the feeling you're at real risk(you say it's a benefit, but it might be an appeal of real driving) ? or something more ?

And with regards to remembering the experience, reliving it in your imagination later , do you feel any difference between real/sim ?


Can't answer for racing sims, but can for airplane/airline sims. I've done some simulator training (many things are too dangerous to practice in actual airplanes) and I believe I can recall the circumstances of every single crash during sim rides. Every single one, even ones from 15 years ago.

I can't recall the details of every single successful sim ride, but neither can I recall the details from every single "real" flight either. Fortunately, my fourth box (crashes of real airplanes) is empty.


I think the "missing element" probably is risk - even though I never personally feel like I'm in danger. The real, tractable elements that are difficult to simulate are G-forces, the "inertia" of the car throwing you around, the "wind in hair", and sounds/smells. Surprisingly - car simulators really "phone it in" with the sounds.

In terms of remembering the experience - I have much fonder memories of my slow laptimes and small improvements on a trackday than "relatively quick" laptimes on a simulated track.

I've thought about it a LOT (as I've recently had to sell my fun car) and I can't say there's one element that I can put my finger on.


I enjoyed the article right up to the end, when it started to sound like an infomercial for plastic surgery.

I believe that the foundations of happiness are simple: truly love many people, feel gratitude for life, and enjoy experiences like travel.


Believe what you will.

This is SCIENCE!

:P

----

Just joking, but I find the result somewhat intuitive. I've seen first hand how many people (esp. woman - this my anecdote, don't read too much into it) see their value through beauty. So I think the research reflects a statistical reality - even if it does not apply to you.


Reminds me also of the aphorism "The only things you will regret are the things you didn't do" (my emphasis).

Those who decided to have plastic surgery are 'happier' than those who thought about it but decided not to go ahead. Would be interesting to see if a similar effect shows up in other large decisions - eg, people who decided not to buy a house v those who took on the debt; people who decided not to move overseas v those who took the plunge.

In other words, this may have nothing to do with plastic surgery and may reflect a deeper underlying source of (un)happiness.

Me personally, I have just one regret in life: that I didn't rob a bank when I had the chance.

[EDIT TO ADD]

When I was fifteen, I headed in to my local bank to withdraw some cash. Troublingly, my 'local' branch was close to where I was at boarding school, some 100 miles from the branch where my account was established - and it transpired that the signature on my account was still my mother. We'd not updated it since the account was opened nearly ten years earlier.

Maybe they felt sorry for the poor boarding school kid with no money. I suspect I hammed that up a little. Because rather than referring me back to the original branch, the customer service representative headed out the back to see what she could do. For a LONG time.

About fifteen minutes in to the wait, I leant over her desk and noticed, in among the paperclips, a 20 cent piece (this is Australia). I looked around - cameras, probably, but nobody watching.

And so my brain starts ticking - surely I could casually reach out, grab that coin, and pocket it without being noticed. Surely she wouldn't notice on her return - if she even knew the 20c was there. It was a risk ... but for the rest of my life, I'd be able to tell people I robbed a bank!

I probably spent another fifteen minutes pondering the decision. Which was too long - she returned, and the opportunity was lost.

For what it's worth, I was able to withdraw funds legally. She'd had a great conversation with a teller at the originating branch, who it turned out knew my father (everybody does). Based on descriptions of my father, and comparisons to me, my rep felt confident I was indeed who I said I was and changed the signature on the account from my mother to myself.

Now THAT'S a great customer service story as well. Or a tale of social engineering being the weakest link in any security plans.

But for me, nearly twenty years later, it's just the story about the day I could've robbed a bank ... and didn't.


I recently had some counselling, and one thing the therapist spent a long time talking about was self-agency. It was something of a revelation for me. I realised I had essentially been drifting along in life for a long time, allowing decisions to be made for me and avoiding conflict wherever possible. He described self-agency as like a muscle that needs to be exercised, even in small day-to-day ways.

A sense of self-agency seems to be fundamental to good mental health.

>> Me personally, I have just one regret in life: that I didn't rob a bank when I had the chance.

Oh come on, you can't just leave that hanging there. Hope you can share the story without incriminating yourself!

EDIT: Great story, and for what it's worth I think you probably made the right decision. It could easily have ended up being the story of how a bright kid had his prospects ruined over the theft of 20 cents, because of the bank's "we always prosecute" policy and an over-zealous legal system.


Cheers. Re: the Self-Agency stuff, I agree completely. I've personally selected the psychological viewing platform that "I create the whole of my own reality". [1]

The key word is "whole" - with this perspective, I am 100% responsible for everything that happens in my world. I get cut off in traffic - I created that; a song comes on the radio - I created that song.

Now, intellectually, it's complete BS. My brain will never accept that extreme level of self-agency. And I don't pretend I do an amazing job of living it all day every day.

But from a happiness perspective? (Hence referring to it as a 'viewing platform' - one perspective on the world.) It's incredible. Fundamentally liberating because I don't live in a world of blame, excuses, regret, other people letting me down. Something incredible happens - I take full responsibility. Something terrible happens - I take full responsibility.

Perhaps a little too 'out there' for most, but I'm happier than I was before and I believe that self-agency filter I choose for everything is the reason.

[1] See http://www.openup.com.au And yep - I found them through my father. Man that guy knows everyone!


That reminds me of solipsism* : the idea that your own mind is the only thing surely existing and might contain everything else; the universe, other minds within.

* https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism


Sometimes before falling asleep I wonder if the instance of my mind that wakes up is really the same mind or just someone else with the same memories and body as my mind.

Fortunately this doesn't actually stop me falling asleep.


I have a friend who habitually says "goodbye forever" before going off to sleep.

It makes you think.


I'm intrigued by your viewing platform. My brain instantly wants to reject it too. Also, it seems like it could lead to a lot of self-recrimination and beating yourself up. Why should I feel responsible for someone else cutting me up in traffic?

I feel like I'm probably misunderstanding something fundamental. Seeing as we seem to be on the same wavelength I'd like to try harder to understand it.

I have lived in a (self-created) world of blame, excuses and regret. Especially regret! Anything that helps to move away from that can only be a good thing.


The way I've found to reframe that conversation:

For some reason I chose for that person to cut me off in traffic. What message am I trying to send to myself? Or maybe by being cut off now, I prevented myself from being in a fatal accident a few minutes down the road...

The other thing I find liberating about this platform is that you give yourself permission to always take responsibility for things. Someone is angry at you for something? No problem, sorry, my fault, I'll try and do better.

If all they needed was to be heard/acknowledged/an apology, you're all good. I can't tell you how many situations are smoothed over with this one. And if they need more, you're in charge of deciding whether or not to offer it or to do something else.

Very glad to see this come up on here!


Apologies for the delayed response - my email is in my profile, so feel free to drop me a note with yours and I'll send you some links etc that might be of use. Thanks for your sharing in this thread! Jacob


> It was something of a revelation for me. I realised I had essentially been drifting along in life for a long time, allowing decisions to be made for me and avoiding conflict wherever possible. He described self-agency as like a muscle that needs to be exercised, even in small day-to-day ways.

Really interesting. Did your counselor give you any `exercises' to start working on that ? Have you started implementing changes in your day-to-day life ? I am kind of living the same thing at the moment.


Yes, he said to start with simple things like interacting with friends. Arrange to (e.g.) have dinner, pick the restaurant, invite the people you want to spend your time with.

It sounds so trivial, but it hit me like a punch in the guts when I realised I hardly ever do anything like this. I've always gone along with whatever other people have planned, reassuring myself that I'm 'easy-going'.

This is what he meant by 'exercising the muscle'. Get used to getting your own way, getting what you want from the world, and taking responsibility for any conflict that arises as a result.

I guess the idea is that you become accustomed to getting what you want and taking responsibility when the decisions really matter.

Even reading back what I've just written feels silly, and embarrassing to admit to. But I hope it's gone some way toward answering your question.

DISCLAIMER: I'm a complete beginner at this stuff and very much still finding my own way. So please take anything I say with a pinch of salt and consider seeing a therapist yourself if you're still curious.


I know that +1 answers are generally bad form, but I also just wanted to thank you for that comment.

It's something that really does make sense once you think about it, but I would never have thought about it like this in the first place, so this perspective helped me a lot.

The 'exercising the muscle' analogy is also used in "the willpower instinct, which I found quite interesting (though I have to admit it did not help me, because I did not stick with it).


Thank you for sharing that :).


You're very welcome. I found the whole experience pretty mind-blowing, the way a few minutes of talking to this guy could alter my whole perception of my life, past and present. I highly recommend giving it a go, even if you're not feeling depressed or anxious (although I was).


Do you know what kind of background he has ? Master in psychology, psychiatry or psy bachelor ? Did that play any role when you chose to make an appointment ?


I actually just picked someone in my area and he turned out to be very good. I didn't look at his qualifications. I've read stories of people having very mixed experiences with counselling, so I guess there's an element of luck involved.

Sorry I can't give a more satisfactory answer. I would perhaps advise being prepared to try 2 or 3 different counsellors until you find one you click with. If my experience is anything to go by, you'll probably know whether you click during the first session.


It's okay, your experience reflects mine. One of the key point I read some time ago (here on HN) is that one of the best indicators for success in therapy is the quality of the relationship between patient/client and the counselor.

Indeed, it's really important to try different counselors until it clicks. In the long term it'll be less expensive and time wasting to go trough 2 or 3 or 4 then getting stuck with a bad fit.

Thanks again for sharing that.


> "The only things you will regret are the things you didn't do"

I hate that statement. For one it's full of survivor bias. I doubt the person that caught AIDS and died at 30 thought they were glad they decided to sleep with that person.

You gave an example of robbing a bank. If someone robbed a bank and went to prison for 20 years I doubt they were happy for choosing to do it.


The wisdom of old(er) age is simultaneously knowing that and not being bothered by that. I mean the feeling of regret, not you hating that statement LOL.

Its the mid-life crisis types that get all wound up and messed up about the wouldda-shouldda game. Its a bell shaped curve of being too young to have a past to fulminate over, to OMG I messed everything up, to the new definition of the past is stuff that no longer matters.

Due to wildly varying maturity rates this happens somewhere between maybe 25 and ... never.


Very well said. Somewhat tangentially, as I've grown older I come to value forgetting things more and more.


> "The only things you will regret are the things you didn't do"

Demonstrably false. See unhappy marriages for one easy example. Or drugs.


Just because a marriage fails, doesn't necessarily mean it will be regretted. I am glad i am out of some past relationships, but i don't regret them. And the vast majority of drug users don't become addicts, so I they likely don't regret it either.


You're right, of course. But there are some that do, so the general rule is still false.


no edit button for some reason....


I was sure you were going to say the 20c was there as a test, when she came in and found it still there she trusted you ... I'm going to go ahead and assume it was secretly a factor also. Ooh, or perhaps she never called the other branch and made that up ...


TL;DR: Use your money to buy experiences, not things.


I've increasingly tried to adopt the Mr. Money Mustache approach to this idea [0]:

>> Slightly higher on the consumer thrills ladder is the new slogan of, “Don’t buy things, buy experiences! Travel! Take Cruises! Go to all the happy hours!”

>> It’s a nice idea, and it does work to a certain degree: experiences are more memorable than things. After all, your favorite trip still glows warmly in your memory, even while that iPad2 you purchased just a few years ago is hopelessly outdated now and sitting in a storage bin under the shipping boxes from your iPad3 and iPad4.

>> In the mainstream media, the analysis ends there. Spending on experiences is better than spending on stuff, so just spend all your money on experiences and you’re set.

>> But there’s an even more satisfying thing you can do with money, which is rarely mentioned: not spending it.

I don't make a lot of money, and I'm a long way from retiring early like MMM. However I've started to realise that the idea of being completely financially independent (if not 'retired', then at least able to live without working for long periods) is even more satisfying than the thought of exotic holidays.

Of course, there's no right answer to this. If I'm hit by a bus tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be lying in the road wishing I'd taken that trip to California.

[0] http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/04/14/how-to-make-money-...


"the idea of being completely financially independent (if not 'retired', then at least able to live without working for long periods) is even more satisfying than the thought of exotic holidays."

Then you'd better hope you live long enough to enjoy that independence/retirement, and not die when all you've done with your life is hoard money.

There's also the opportunity cost that you should take in to account. Travel and especially living for extended periods in places very different from the ones you're familiar with can really broaden your view of life, other people, yourself, and the world. Those experiences can be literally lifechanging, especially if you have them while young and when your world view is not yet petrified by old age.

Travel and living abroad can also present you with many opportunities, introduce you to many interesting people, help you network and perform beter at work (for a wide variety of reasons that I won't go in to here), etc.

Trying to make up for this by travelling after you're retired won't be the same. For one, you'll no longer be young, so your mind will be different, your outlook will be different, you'll probably not be as open to new experiences or as open to changing your outlook on life. Your body also won't be as up to doing many of the things you'd easily be able to do while young (like walking through cities or the countryside for long periods of time, eat a lot of exotic food, hang out late, etc).

You may also not have nearly as much desire to travel by the time you're older, or if you do you might be more likely to take tours with lots of other tourists than strike out on your own or with a few friends (especially as by then all your friends will have kids to take with them or take care of, or will be retired and more-risk averse themselves), etc.

In short, there's something to be said for living for the moment rather than living for the future, and you might want to get your travelling in while the going is good. Your enjoyment of, benefit from, capacity and desire for travel is likely to reduce as you get older.


I don't think I would enjoy not working. Sure there is 20% crap or so, but 80% of the time I am doing moderately enjoyable things, or at least neutral things.

I think that it is certainly true for some people that they would be happier retired early, and doing volunteer work or so, or working with random things (I think MMM does carpenting or something? On top of running a blog). I also think there are plenty of people for whom that is not true.

I like knowing that I COULD quit. Actually quitting work wouldn't make me happier though, I think. Someone is actually giving me pretty good money for doing things that I enjoy. That seems better than not getting money for doing things that I enjoy, or getting low amounts of money from it. Sure, it does come with those crappy days when I truly dont enjoy what I do, but they are certainly less common than the days when things are nice.


This is a common misconception (love when I get to use that phrase unironically!) about MMM and the early retirement he talks about. What he's really selling is financial independence, as in not having to worry about money so you have the freedom to do whatever you like.

This doesn't mean the stereotypical "retire on a beach somewhere and never do anything again" most people imagine. Instead you don't have to work on anything you don't want to. You can choose what you work on and how often you do so. If you don't feel like it that day, then fine. You have full control over all of your time for the rest of your days.

Want to take up woodworking? Go for it! Want to continue doing freelance coding? You can! It'll only increase your financial independence, and you don't have to take on projects that don't interest you.

It's crazy how most people don't even realize this is an option. Most people are on the old spend all your money, work til you're 65 (or maybe 70 these days) kick. I didn't even realize it until I stumbled upon his blog. Things are sooooooo much better now, and I credit a lot of that to MMM.


You've nailed MMM's actual position. He always talks about his he enjoys doing stuff that looks like work to outside observers.


Exactly. He's even written about the angry emails he receives because people think he's "lying" about being retired and therefore his whole philosophy must be a sham!


The thing is, if you didn't HAVE TO work, you could still spend as many days as you wanted doing what you currently do to make money. But you could also spend as many days/hours as you wanted with the people in your life or traveling the world or playing the violin or just plain sleeping late.


You could try combining the two. Take that time off you get from saving, but use a bit of the savings to travel on the cheap in the developing world.

You get a much better travel experience than you would if you spent all your money on a package deal to Hawaii, and the bonus satisfaction of having done it on $10/day.


That part has been widely discussed. The second one was new to me: buy plastic surgery.


The article only mentions surgery that directly improves ones looks. Surgery that improves functionality such as corrective eye surgery should also be considered, and the cost is far easier to justify. E.g. I have IOL implants to fix my eyesight and it's both useful on a daily basis and still very satisying even years later.


Yes, also other things that improve your well-being/physique should be studied, like hiring a personal trainer (and getting in shape).


Yeah, I got LASIK a year ago and it's probably the fourth-best large purchase I ever made, behind school, travel, and a motorcycle.


The topic of looks was a major analysis mistake in the article.

Given the example in the article of the woman who got plastic surgery, she doesn't get the dopamine hit the day of surgery and now mysteriously years later she's still happy, instead she gets the dopamine hit every time some guy pays attention to her or she gets someones attention, which might be as recently as today, therefore there's no mystery why she's still happy.

Your situation is probably a long term / permanent memory of having vision problems combined with those problems being gone now. The article seems to imply no matter how poor you have been, you'll forget it eventually once you're rich enough, which I find unlikely.


You're making the incorrect assumption that women get plastic surgery so men will pay attention to them. Perhaps some do but many also get it for themselves.


"Perhaps some do"

Ah, we agree then, because a statistically relevant correlation never requires 100% participation. Or lack of 100% participation never disproves a correlation.

Certainly ongoing peer / public recognition is a very significant difference between that example in the article of plastic surgery and the other example provided of buying a, now obsolete, original ipad. An analogous plastic surgery / body mod that can become obsolete over time is obscure, hard to think of, unlikely... maybe a tattoo with the name of a former S.O. Maybe fad piercings.


"ongoing peer / public recognition" is not the same as "some guy pay[ing] attention to her."


If you don't mind sharing, how was the surgery? You seem happy with the results, are there any downsides?

Why did you choose IOLs over Lasik?


Did a quick Google: IOL surgery is cataract repair if I understood what I read correctly. LASIK is repair for myopia. Not sure I used all the words correctly... Is there a word for myopia that includes reading distance too?


I believe it can be both. In cataract surgery, the eye's lens is removed (because it has gone cloudy) and replaced with an implantable lens.

IOLs can also be used in myopia. The implantable lens is placed in front of the natural lens to correct the near-sightedness, like a contact lens but INSIDE the eye. The natural lens is left intact so you don't lost the ability to focus close up (accommodation).

There are also accommodating lens implants, which are pretty new. So a cataract patient can regain their ability to focus close up.


Super nifty!


If plastic surgery works it would seem fashion (which is things) would also work. Feeling like you look great is a good feeling, at least for me. And getting compliments on my look feels great too. Whether or not that equates to more or less happiness than spending that money on some other type of experience I have no idea


I think the implication of the article is that pure fashion (i.e. clothes) tend to lead to adaption, and over time we feel less-happy about them. But plastic surgery seems to provide longer-lasting satisfaction (perhaps because in our heads, a change to our actual bodies is deeper and more satisfying than a new pair of shoes.)


I didn't notice the plastic surgery part. I think the article may not have completely loaded the first time.


I think that meme is a bit overdone, in particular by people trying to sell you "experiences".


Experiences are often the simple things in life that costs very little.


I usually value "things I can use to produce experiences" over "experiences". Seems to be working so far. Memories are fleeting, but things, tools, home improvements, etc. can last for years.


I don't find memories to be fleeting. Shared experiences and reminiscing about them with friends and family bring me a lot more joy than almost all of the junk I'm surrounded by.


True, but those things don't require money. I mostly spend my money on things and my time on experiences. Reversing that would be a waste of time and money to me.


Travel most certainly costs money and those events for me are many of my most memorable experiences.


The part about plastic surgery recipients is interesting and the article isn't that long, everyone interested should just read the article.


That's a bad TL;DR considering most of the articles address a completely different loophole: plastic surgery.


Maybe that's what the article says, but I think it's far better to use your money to create things.


... or plastic surgery.


Generally speaking, use of this model is useful, but it has limits within the bonds of a given person's reality; both real and constructed. The real loop whole is the realization that life is uncertain and happiness is a construct that's self defined, which is to say, if you're happy, you're happy.


Speaking about physical changes to the self, there are probably lots of loopholes still to be discovered by the neurosciences, perhaps even on a molecular/chemical level.


I am debating whether I should subscribe for Nautilus or not, do Prime subscribers get access to contnet regular users do not?


Nope (as far as I can tell)

http://nautil.us/primeuser

But you get absolution from ad-blocking, and it is only 1-2 bucks a month

(also, curious about people downvoting you... Why are you guys downvoting parent?)


Good to know




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