The Hedonic Treadmill

I sent a note to my students on The Hedonic Treadmill.

8 thoughts on “The Hedonic Treadmill

  1. Paresh Shah says:

    Wonderful reading and a great message.

    Stories are so powerful. Paying too much for a whistle – a wonderful way to get the point across – something that we should all keep reading – every now and then.

    For those visually inclined, here is a wonderful sketch by Carl Richards [] –

  2. Anand says:

    I found below article to be interesting on the same topic.

    Technique #5: Don’t Envy the Materially Wealthy – Pity Them.

    Seneca stands upon firmer ground – and seemed to practice what he preached – when he observes that it’s entirely possible to earn a very good living but lead a very poor life. Indeed, he suggests that high living can exacerbate or even cause bad living. For this reason Seneca advises that we restrain our own luxury, cultivate frugality and “view poverty with unprejudiced eyes.” He acknowledges, in effect, that a man can only wear one pair of pants, drive one car and occupy only one bed at a time. Hence he asked in a letter of consolation to Hilvia: “is it not madness and the wildest lunacy to desire so much when you can hold so little?” Seneca also advises that each of us – whatever our wealth and income – live well within our means. In another of his letters to Lucilius, he reckons that “the [poor] man who adapts himself to his slender means and makes himself wealthy on a little sum, is the truly rich man.” Similarly, Ben Graham remarked to Warren Buffett: “money won’t make any difference to you and me, Warren. We’ll be the same. Our wives will just live better” (see Roger Lowenstein, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, Random House, 2008, p. 254).

    So how much wealth should you seek to accumulate? Stoics as a whole advice only so much that will not corrupt your reason and virtue – and no more. Everybody should seek financial independence as a means to inculcate virtues, but nobody should pursue a fortune for the mere sake of riches. Every couple should live within their means throughout their working lives, and use the lion’s share of their savings over the decades to accumulate a portfolio of investments that will sustain them at a reasonable standard of living in their dotage and provide a modest estate for their children. What’s a modest estate? It’s enough to finance a vocation but is insufficient to subsidies leisure. (The other portion of the couple’s savings should during their working lives help to finance worthy charitable causes of their choice. And if you walk, take the bus and skip dessert, etc., often enough, it’ll be much easier to generate the savings that beget charitable contributions.) Everybody, in other words, should do his best, subject to the inevitable vicissitudes of life, to live within his own means so that he doesn’t have to live within others’ means – whether charitable donors’ means or taxpayers, which these days effectively means other people’s children’s means.
    Water when we’re thirsty and food when we’re hungry are natural desires. As such, these basic wants we can relatively easily sate. But the desire for ever greater luxury, which is an unnatural desire, can never be quenched. Hence Seneca advises: any-time you desire something, ask yourself: is your desire natural or unnatural? If it’s unnatural, think long and hard before you try to satisfy it.

    Unless you’re alert, Seneca warns, wealth will use her wiles to outwit your virtues and feed your vices. First she prompts you to desire things that are inessential, then things that are frivolous, and finally things that are injurious to yourself, your family and others. Before long, the mind becomes the slave of the body’s insatiable appetites. Those who crave luxury, like those who commit adultery, must typically expend ever growing – and soon considerable and eventually exhausting – amounts of time and energy in order to attain it. Those who eschew extravagance, on the other hand, can devote this time and energy to simple, rational and ethical ends.

    Stoicism, Seneca wrote to Lucilius, “calls for plain living, not penance.” Nobody, whether he’s rich or poor, should squander his wealth. Specifically, the wealthy should neither renounce nor disparage their wealth; and the non-wealthy should either ignore or pity the rich but not despise riches per se. What, then, to do? Keeping firmly in mind that one day both she and it will disappear, and that using it to finance a lavish lifestyle will likely corrupt her character and make her miserable, the wealthy person should use her wealth to benefit others – particularly the less fortunate.

    Source :

  3. Ganesh says:

    Sir what a timely post!
    I have been contemplating on the expenses, i have gone through over this year and your note surely reminded me of all the things that I am doing wrong & should be correcting..
    Pearls of wisdom….”Luxury vs necessity”… I am surely going to do this…
    Thank you so much Sir..

    Regards, Ganesh Raao

  4. Sir,

    I just want to thank you for introducing two wonderful and amazing books in your previous post as I have just finished them (comments are closed so posting here..apologies):

    1. The Practiced Mind
    2. Upnishads

    Both the books have come at a time when I needed them the most. They have changed my perspective completely.

    Thank you very much for all the guidance.


  5. Noble says:

    Hi Sir,

    Thank you for sharing this timeless wisdom.


  6. The borrower is a slave to the lender, and the debtor to the creditor – Neither Vijay Mallya nor Arundhati Bhattacharya would agree to that statement of Ben Franklin. Sometimes timeless writing becomes irrelevant when crooks rule the world for a while.

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