When enough is enough

If you’ve never heard of the hedonistic treadmill, it’s a concept that’s very useful to learn.
As you get used to the luxuries in your life – your sweet townhouse, your car, your stable 9-5 job – you tend to start seeing that as the norm and looking for something better.  Your expectations and desires rise with your income, and your happiness settles back to normal fairly quickly.  Net satisfaction gain = zero.

The treadmill has driven us throughout history to improve our lives and our environment.  Without this drive we would never have grown our own crops, or tamed and bred animals.  But this drive is still present in perfect, modern day – in the rich countries that we live in, causing us to want more.

I suspect this is what has driven me in my career.  When I was a QA I was striving to become a developer.  When I was a developer I was looking to improve my salary and autonomy, and that lead me back to QA (ironically, it paid more at the time!).
It drove me to seek a manager-level role, which I handled OK but perhaps didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would – especially once I had solved the “easy” problems.

I think it’s time for me to say “Enough is enough!”  If I have enough to pay all my bills, save towards an early retirement, and help out with any family emergencies, why can’t I just be satisfied with a comfortable job, doing pleasant work with a fun team?

I had this thought while reading this blog post – the charmed life of a thankful investor:

Rationalizing increasingly risky investments for the prospect of incremental luxuries seems completely unnecessary because you are thankful for the simple things in life that truly make you happy and cost very little.

This can apply to your job as well – if you’re happy and you’re earning enough (After all, earning more than a certain amount won’t make you happier) – why take career and job risks just to earn a bit more.  You’re risking a team that you don’t enjoy being in, a company that doesn’t gel very well with you, or a sudden restructure and being the first on the chopping board.  You’ll earn a bit more, but is it worth it?

Why does earning more money not make us happier?  Maybe because once you have enough to meet your needs, more money can’t buy happiness.  At around US$75k more money doesn’t make you happier day to day.  Getting 10% increases at that point may make you rate your life achievement more, but it doesn’t help with happiness.

Explanation in this Time article here (Google “Study: Money Buys Happiness When Income Is $75,000” if it doesn’t show)

 Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had.  …
Having money clearly takes the sting out of adversities. …
At $75,000, that effect disappears

So here’s to finding a cozy job that pays well and treats you nicely!
And to the hedonistic treadmill never starting up to ruin it all for you!

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