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Filling Your Glass and Fighting Hedonic Adaptation

There's a concept called hedonic adaptation, which says that we quickly adjust to any increased level of comfort or luxury and cease to appreciate it. Anything good that happens to us becomes our new normal, and we look higher up the ladder, not realizing that we'll quickly adjust to those rungs as well.

The trick, then, is to suppress your hedonic adaptation, while still climbing up that ladder. If you can manage to do that, you can fully appreciate everything you already have, and future accomplishments, acquisitions, etc., will also be fully appreciated.

I don't know if it's fully possible to suppress hedonic adaptation. There's some evidence that zen monks who meditate all the time can do it to a large degree. Even if we're not going to spend all day meditating and will never fully get rid of it, though, we can easily move in that direction.

One strategy I use is to occasionally ask myself, "What's amazing in my life?" For one reason or another, this tends to happen when I'm en route somewhere, either on the subway, walking, or on my motorcycle.

When Is Your Lowest Priority Task Your Most Important?

You know that feeling when you're having a great day, but you forget exactly why it's so great? There's that feeling that something really good happened earlier, and its glow is being carried forward, even though you maybe don't have the original positive event in the front of your mind. I had that feeling today as I parked my motorcycle, ready to get started on work.

As I do when I have that feeling, I mentally rewound the clock to try to remember why I was in an extra-good mood. I figured it out-- I had fixed the tail light of my motorcycle. At first I felt foolish for being so happy about my tail light being fixed. It wasn't even fully broken, it's just that the brake light stayed on all the time. The brake light is behind me, so I never even see this light, making the direct effect on my life roughly zero.

I thought about this for a few minutes, and I realized that there was a good reason to feel happy about the motorcycle light. It wasn't that the light was fixed that was making me happy, it was removing that tiny little pebble of responsibility from my shoe. Almost every day I would think about fixing my brake light, wouldn't get to it, and would remember to remember it the next day.

That's the trap of these low priority tasks that sometimes don't even make it to our todo lists due to their triviality. They take up mental space, they make us feel like we're behind a little bit, but they never feel important enough to prioritize. How can I honestly say that my brake light is more important than working on Sett?

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