Author Topic: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE  (Read 2712 times)

WorkingToUnwind

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Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« on: January 27, 2024, 02:17:39 PM »
We're all likely familiar with the concept of hedonic adaptation, whereby we rapidly adapt to new things/experiences and so the thrill of them dissipates and we soon return to our baseline happiness level. The new car only brings joy for so long, same as the new job is exciting for a bit and then we adapt. I've been wondering about how this applies to obtaining FIRE. I guess this question is aimed more towards FIRED individuals, as they've had the experience. Once you finally reached FIRE, did the novelty of the new life phase wear off and overall life satisfaction returned to your set point?

NotJen

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2024, 02:56:36 PM »
It's not novel, it's just my life.

All the same shit, I just don't have to trade 40 hours of my life each week for a paycheck, which gives me more time to devote to things I enjoy more than working.

(FWIW, I have a very high default level of life satisfaction.)

somers515

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2024, 06:49:57 AM »
Great question!  I think your rationale is fair, if you can adapt to a new car and your happiness returns to baseline, wouldn't the same be true of your FIRE life? For me it hasn't and I'm not sure why and I may need to ponder your question more.  I get to spend my time consistent with my priorities all the time.  Last year I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail and it was an amazing experience that I wouldn't have been able to do if I was working obviously. In prior years I've been able to do things and spend much more time with family members that I wouldn't have been able to do if I was working.  It's been a pretty awesome 7-8 years.

I think there is a huge advantage to just the FI part even if you don't retire early.  Once you are FI how you are spending your time is your choice. Maybe the answer to your question lies in that truth.

You might also enjoy this thread/free online class that some of us our taking as it explores the question of happiness and refers to hedonic adaptation etc. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/proposed-mmm-community-learning-opportunity-the-science-of-well-being/

bacchi

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2024, 08:12:07 AM »
A psychiatrist friend once told me, right after college, that it wasn't the 40+ hr/week job that caused me stress but that I was otherwise depressed. (Yes, similar to Peter in Office Space with his therapist.) I ERed and, it turns out, it was the job.

My contentedness is worlds better than it was when I was working for The Man.

WorkingToUnwind

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2024, 08:31:18 AM »
@somers515  It was actually taking part of that class that got me thinking about this. I mean, if lottery winners are no happier a year out after winning the lottery, would someone who achieves FIRE be any happier a year out? I think people who have achieved FIRE would argue yes, and I'd like that to be true (as we're actively saving towards FIRE) but this data has me wondering!

maizefolk

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2024, 09:17:48 AM »
I think there is a huge advantage to just the FI part even if you don't retire early.  Once you are FI how you are spending your time is your choice.

This is something of a double edged sword. Once I hit FI-but-not-RE my stress went down but so did my life satisfaction since now I was working a job that I frequently didn't see the value in by choice rather than because I needed to pay the bills.

Obviously there is a straightforward solution to the issue I ran into. But I would caution people who are hoping once they hit that magical 25x (or 33x or whatever) annual expenses number that their life will automatically feel better without additional, and frequently less comfortable, changes.

NotJen

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2024, 09:41:02 AM »
But I would caution people who are hoping once they hit that magical 25x (or 33x or whatever) annual expenses number that their life will automatically feel better without additional, and frequently less comfortable, changes.

Exactly.  Hitting your number, or even quitting your job (which can be REALLY hard, as evidenced by all the OMY people), is no magic bullet.  That alone will not make you happy in perpetuity.

I would say I am happier now that I'm FIREd.  But, it takes a lot of work.  I had to make lots of hard changes, which is what quitting my job freed me up to do.  I could also have been happier than I was immediately before I quit my job by NOT FIREing, but making different hard changes.

charis

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2024, 09:41:22 AM »
@somers515  It was actually taking part of that class that got me thinking about this. I mean, if lottery winners are no happier a year out after winning the lottery, would someone who achieves FIRE be any happier a year out? I think people who have achieved FIRE would argue yes, and I'd like that to be true (as we're actively saving towards FIRE) but this data has me wondering!

Can you really compare lottery winners to a group of people actively planning for FIRE, though?  I'm guessing there are few folks on this forum that even play the lottery.  They have a plan to build their stash and a plan to withdraw so that their $$ will last for their non-working lives.  I'm guessing lottery winners behave very differently from FIRE group, in their spending.  Such that most of them burn through their winnings in relatively short order. 

FIRE, to me, is similar to working life in that you have to derive pleasure from what you are doing with your non-working time, you just have more of that time after RE.  The other difference from lotto winners is that there is no big payoff or extreme high.

Yes, I have a monetary "goal" and several milestones that are nice to reach, but there's no windfall.

spartana

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2024, 11:11:32 AM »
Great question!  I think your rationale is fair, if you can adapt to a new car and your happiness returns to baseline, wouldn't the same be true of your FIRE life? For me it hasn't and I'm not sure why and I may need to ponder your question more.  I get to spend my time consistent with my priorities all the time.  Last year I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail and it was an amazing experience that I wouldn't have been able to do if I was working obviously. In prior years I've been able to do things and spend much more time with family members that I wouldn't have been able to do if I was working.  It's been a pretty awesome 7-8 years.

I think there is a huge advantage to just the FI part even if you don't retire early.  Once you are FI how you are spending your time is your choice. Maybe the answer to your question lies in that truth.


^^^Pretty much my experience since FIREing 20ish years ago. The newness and enjoyment (and gratefulness) of being able to RE (which is what I choose to do rather then working a paid job) is just as fresh and exciting as the day I pulled the plug on my job. I still wake up every morning thankful I took this path and look forward to what the day brings. So many things to do (including nothing) so little time.

2sk22

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2024, 02:01:08 PM »
I posted about my experiences in FIRE here: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/post-fire/three-year-post-retirement-update/

The exuberance of the first few months of retirement has worn off but my contentment has grown

mistymoney

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2024, 02:26:36 PM »
Great question!  I think your rationale is fair, if you can adapt to a new car and your happiness returns to baseline, wouldn't the same be true of your FIRE life? For me it hasn't and I'm not sure why and I may need to ponder your question more.  I get to spend my time consistent with my priorities all the time.  Last year I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail and it was an amazing experience that I wouldn't have been able to do if I was working obviously. In prior years I've been able to do things and spend much more time with family members that I wouldn't have been able to do if I was working.  It's been a pretty awesome 7-8 years.

I think there is a huge advantage to just the FI part even if you don't retire early.  Once you are FI how you are spending your time is your choice. Maybe the answer to your question lies in that truth.


^^^Pretty much my experience since FIREing 20ish years ago. The newness and enjoyment (and gratefulness) of being able to RE (which is what I choose to do rather then working a paid job) is just as fresh and exciting as the day I pulled the plug on my job. I still wake up every morning thankful I took this path and look forward to what the day brings. So many things to do (including nothing) so little time.

I think many people externalize where they think their discontent comes from. I've read about people delaying retirement because they "won't know what to do with" themselves or their time. To me, that points to a real problem that they need to fix rather than ignore!

With lottery winners, I think that is definitely a special case, and not for the reasons previously stated. As the stories come out - lottery winning can break all your relationships. Everyone you knows feels entitled to a piece of that pie. Some people have been murdered by loved ones for the pot! Or attempted murder and then you live knowing that a sibling was willing to kill you to get that money. Some their children became addicts and even ODed and the person wishes they never saw that money.

Your relations, your friends, your relations' friends - the more you won the uglier it gets. So I think finding fault with lottery winners for not being as cool as Firees is a little harsh. I for one have learned to keep my mouth shut about money with everyone in life except my heirs/children. Even just moving up in my career - where it would be obvious that I am no longer struggling financially as I did for many years as a single parent - I've noticed quite a few people who are only happy for you to a certain level. Once you outstrip them - after being a lower level than them for many years - they really aren't that keen to even know about it. So now I keep my mouth shut about that too.

Lots of people on this forum have mentioned keeping quiet about their numbers because family would expect or ask for assistance. And some have related that after you help a little, the requests keep coming. How much harder for a lottery winner - with the pot size publishized - to try to stem that tide of want and entitlement from everyone.

If I won a huge sum, I'd be super pleased and I'd never tell a soul. I'd enjoy and spoil myself and others, not too far away from my standard of living now.....and try to do a great deal of good in the world, and aim to use it up one way or another. Leave my heirs the money I earned and invested, but not enough money to potential ruin their lives.

The other part of that is that people who are poor, working class, middle class, is very different from people who are rich and their kids live in a rich world. To suddenly be super rich and your grade school, high school, college friends are all at a very different income level is a recipe for relationships to go askew. And for the lottery winner themselves, money management skill may be low and then they run through the money. But that is different than having their lives irrevocably damaged by the money.

LateStarter

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2024, 07:59:02 AM »
I think 2sk22 captured it very well.

The exuberance of the first few months of retirement has worn off but my contentment has grown

I'm probably no longer exuberant, but I am amazingly happy to be retired - 3.5 years now.

Also, classic Stoicism describes a very effective method for dealing with hedonic adaptation = negative visualisation. If ever I feel a bit grumpy, I only have to think about going back to work to immediately remember how great my current life is. Or, listen to friends complain about their jobs, their boss, etc. . . .

Example:
I had to drive in rush hour traffic this morning - something I usually avoid. Slow, busy, queues, stop, start, stop, start, stressy Monday morning faces all around me. I imagined that, like all these people, I was on my way to just another Monday at the office, stay with it - make it as real as possible - groan, what a terrible, terrible thought. Thankfully, no work for me ! I dropped my car off at the garage and enjoyed a rambling peaceful relaxing 10 mile hike home along the canal, over the hill (lovely views) and through the woods. How much nicer is this than going to work ??!!  Retirement felt amazing and fresh again.

I'm certain that the freedom to do whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want will never get old, but it's good to give it a little boost now and then.

2sk22

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2024, 09:09:43 AM »
Also, classic Stoicism describes a very effective method for dealing with hedonic adaptation = negative visualisation. If ever I feel a bit grumpy, I only have to think about going back to work to immediately remember how great my current life is. Or, listen to friends complain about their jobs, their boss, etc. . . .

Indeed, Sunday evenings are one of the best times to recharge your level of contentment - when I remember that I don't have to go to work on Monday :-)

Laura33

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2024, 10:19:12 AM »
I think it depends on the extent to which you have a clear vision of the life you want and reasonable expectations -- and the extent to which your day job interferes with that.

Most lottery winners end up broke and unhappy, because they view money as a magic bean; $XX million sounds like the solution to all of their problems, like it's soooo much money you'd be happy and taken care of forever and be able to have everything you want.  So they go in and start living that lifestyle, start treating friends and family and getting sucked into sketchy business ventures, because that's what they know how to do; no one taught them about the 4% rule, or the joy of passive investing.  IMO, if you play the lottery routinely, you are either bad at math (because the numbers don't actually work in your favor) or a believer in magical thinking (because the numbers don't actually work in your favor).*  Neither one of these personality traits is a recommendation for handling money well. 

OTOH, FIRE adherents tend to be much more logical and practical; we also tend to be well-educated, better at math than the average bear, and somewhat risk-averse (see OMY syndrome).**  In addition, most of us not only have many options, but we're aware of them, because we hang out here and read about stoicism and how everything is a choice and all that good stuff.  So we don't need a magic bean to save us -- and on the flip side, we're highly aware that a big chunk of cash doesn't solve all our problems (even though it does make life way better than not having that big chunk of cash). 

The thing about hedonic adaptation?  It involves hedonism -- it's all about obtaining, having, consuming.  And FIRE is all about learning how to avoid falling into that trap -- learning that consumer things don't bring lasting happiness, that there's always something bigger and fancier, and learning how to manage the parts of ourselves that still want the BrightShiny even though we know it's stupid. 

The reason hedonic adaptation is bad is because it's like a drug, where you need more and more to get that same moment of happiness.  But you seem to be conflating that with the idea that any happiness is fleeting -- that if you enjoy, say, hiking instead of buying nice purses, you'll eventually get bored of hiking, just like eventually those purses don't quite give you that same feeling any more.  That's the logical flaw.  There are real things in the world that can and do bring lasting happiness -- things like freedom from doing stuff you hate, or feeling like you have a purpose in life and that how you spend your days matters.  You just can't find them in a mall. 

Plus, frankly, that lasting-happiness stuff does provide the opportunity for its version of the hedonic treadmill, if you really want to.  FIRE is not sitting on your ass watching golf from your recliner; it's getting out in the world and doing things you care about, without the need to earn a living getting in the way.  And that means effort -- physical and/or mental -- and pushing yourself and growth.  If you always need another goalpost, there's always one out there (although my inability to get to a 250 lb deadlift just pisses me off). 

Which goes back to the idea of how happy you are post-FIRE depends on the extent to which you have a plan, with realistic expectations, and FIRE allows you to seek that higher purpose.  If you really hate working for a living, then not having to do that brings an opportunity for gratitude and appreciation every day.  I mean, really, it's awesome being able to grocery shop at 7AM on Wednesday, when there's no one else there, right?    Or go out to dinner on Tuesday instead of Saturday and have the restaurant to yourself. 

The flip side of that is also why many of us don't actually FIRE when we hit our magic number.  I personally get mental challenge and growth from my work, and I get the joy of trying to help other smart, driven young things learn and grow -- plus there's now much less of my own ego/ambition wrapped up in it, and my kids are grown so there's no daycare/school pickup deadlines, meaning that the downsides of my work for many years are no longer present.  So I'm super happy to continue to work part-time -- and when I'm not, when that starts to interfere with things I want to do, then I'll change things around again.  None of that brings that immediate spike of greedy happiness that you get from buying a BrightShiny -- but enjoying what I do, and knowing I have the power to make my life whatever I want it to be, provides a higher steady-state happiness level than I had say 20 years ago.

The tl;dr is that I think the characteristics that make FIRE appealing also make it more likely that that person will be happy when they get there. 


*Please note that I say this as someone who does play the lottery fairy regularly.  Although now I limit myself to when it gets above $100M.  I had to impose some minimums to keep my magical thinking persona -- I think of her as my little id, running around beneath everything trying to sow chaos and discontent -- under control.

**Note that even though I do buy Powerball tickets, I actually have a plan for what I'd do with the money, and very little of that plan involves things like yachts.  Yeah, there would be an apartment in Manhattan, but most of it is stuff like covering all the relatives' college educations, getting daily personal training at the gym, and having somone else to do my fucking laundry and take care of the house. 

FireLane

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2024, 06:15:43 PM »
I'm happier now than I was before I FIREd, but it's not automatic. Resisting hedonic adaptation is a lifelong effort.

I wasn't unhappy at my old tech job. There were the usual frustrations, like late-night emergencies or endless meetings or obnoxious clients. But as jobs go, it wasn't too bad. Still, as soon as I found out about FIRE, I knew it was what I wanted.

The first few weeks after I retired, I was giddy. It was an incredible feeling of freedom to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I could plan a long vacation or go hiking on a beautiful weekday or spend a lazy summer vacation with my son, and not have to answer to anyone about what I was doing with my time.

But that feeling doesn't last. It can't. Within a few months, that everyday freedom wasn't unusual anymore, it was just my life.

Your brain can get used to almost anything, and once it has, it starts to judge all your experiences in relation to that new baseline. For me, as work became a memory, the thrill of retirement wore off. It got easier to take it for granted, and things that would have seemed like laughably tiny annoyances before FIRE felt like bigger bumps in the road of my happiness.

Eventually, I came to my senses. I realized that I have this incredible opportunity that most people only wish they could have, so I'd better start living like it. That doesn't mean every day is going to be a crazy explosion of joy, but it does mean that when something bad or annoying happens, I try to keep it in the proper perspective.

What's helped me is Stoic-style negative visualization. For example, when I wake up, I make it a practice to remind myself: "Hey, today you don't have to drive to the train, commute in to the office, spend all day sitting in meetings and fixing software bugs, and get home when it's dark, with just a few hours before bed before you have to prep for the next workday. You're retired, and you have the whole day free to do anything you want!"

This kind of thinking helps me anchor my perspective. If I'm at the grocery store during a weekday, I think about how much better it is than being stuck in the office. If I read about a traffic jam or a transit breakdown, I think that I don't have a commute where I'd have to sit in it.

I also try to change up my daily routine as much as possible and do stuff every week that I've never done before. That can be as simple as taking a walk on a different route or going to a new supermarket to shop. Or it can be a brand-new experience, like seeing a museum or a park I've never been to, or traveling to a different city. Variety and novelty keep your brain from getting into a rut.

Kris

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2024, 06:23:28 PM »
Also, classic Stoicism describes a very effective method for dealing with hedonic adaptation = negative visualisation. If ever I feel a bit grumpy, I only have to think about going back to work to immediately remember how great my current life is. Or, listen to friends complain about their jobs, their boss, etc. . . .

Indeed, Sunday evenings are one of the best times to recharge your level of contentment - when I remember that I don't have to go to work on Monday :-)

This. God, I used to hate Sundays. Now they feel super-chill and lazy (and I still actually work, just for myself, and from home).

Metalcat

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2024, 06:40:48 PM »
No, because I did a lot of really good therapy to work through my previous professional identity and its loss, learning to be much more at ease with my life and sense of self, and learning how to be happy.

I LOVED my career though, so it's not like I went from something I hated to freedom. I went from a career that I adored, that defined me, to having to medically retire and relearn how to be myself without that career.

So a little different.

deborah

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2024, 07:09:12 PM »
I loved my career. But there were problems.

I retired 14 years ago.

I really like being retired. It gets better every day.

EverythingisNew

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2024, 02:31:23 AM »
Iím FIRE but my husband works. I call it a stay at home mom to most people!

I would say my stress is not quite as reduced as I imagined because Iíve found new things to obsess over, but overall itís amazing to control my time! I would imagine lottery winners donít wish they hadnít wonÖ itís awesome to have money and time. We still have problems, but overall itís awesome and a gift to have time in life.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2024, 02:40:38 AM by EverythingisNew »

LateStarter

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2024, 07:28:34 AM »
I loved my career. But there were problems.

I retired 14 years ago.

I really like being retired. It gets better every day.

Likewise, I mostly enjoyed my career - I didn't escape from something I hated.

Freedom from anything, even something you enjoy, can be a great relief if that thing requires a significant commitment of time and energy. I love cycling and reading (not at the same time!) but if I HAD TO cycle/read 9-5 every Mon-Fri, I'd very soon get sick of both.

Retirement means there is very little 'HAVE TO' in my life. That is freedom to me - and I love it - and I don't see it getting old.

Metalcat

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2024, 07:45:13 AM »
I loved my career. But there were problems.

I retired 14 years ago.

I really like being retired. It gets better every day.

Likewise, I mostly enjoyed my career - I didn't escape from something I hated.

Freedom from anything, even something you enjoy, can be a great relief if that thing requires a significant commitment of time and energy. I love cycling and reading (not at the same time!) but if I HAD TO cycle/read 9-5 every Mon-Fri, I'd very soon get sick of both.

Retirement means there is very little 'HAVE TO' in my life. That is freedom to me - and I love it - and I don't see it getting old.

That's a big factor.

I had a career that I could scale up or down by the hour, by the end I was only working one day a week.

I think a HUGE barrier to people being able to enjoy their work is that they have too little autonomy. My DH is downright obsessed with the content of his work, when he's not officially "working" he's consuming massive amounts of knowledge related to his job.

But he's on a literal clock, it's so stupid. He'll be done for the day and can't just leave to take the dog for a walk, he has to wait to click a button at 4pm. It's bloody infantile.

IMO, at a certain point in your career, you should earn the trust of your employer that you can tie your damn shoes, metaphorically speaking.

Laura33

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2024, 09:13:50 AM »
I would say my stress is not quite as reduced as I imagined because Iíve found new things to obsess over

IMO, this is the biggest risk to happiness.  As that great philosopher Buckaroo Banzai said, "no matter where you go, there you are."  You can change your circumstances, but you're still you.  If you tend to stress out over the little stuff, you can work your ass off to make the current little stuff go away, but your brain will just find more little stuff to stress out over. 

Most of us here, FIRE'd or not, have some pretty damn good circumstances in life compared to the rest of the planet.  So if we can't figure out how to be happy now, then we shouldn't expect FIRE to magically change things into a life filled with unicorns farting rainbows.  That's really no different than lottery winners -- it's still looking for some big external event (deluge of cash, deluge of time, fairy godmother, discovery that you're the long-lost prince(ss) to a small foreign country, etc.) to solve all the problems. 

Happiness and contentment have to come from inside.  Sure, external events can nudge happiness levels one way or the other for the short-term.  But those external events can't fundamentally change someone who's miserable into someone who is joy-filled.  So if you're, say, frequently overreacting to things that you know don't matter,* the solution is to work on yourself, get therapy, whatever you need to do to give yourself that perspective, so you can be happy wherever you find yourself.

tl;dr:  figuring out how to be happy where you are now is the best way to ensure you're happy post-FIRE.


*Not that I have any familiarity with that myself . . . . 

Mr. Green

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2024, 10:05:58 AM »
I believe humans inherently require variation and surprise in their lives to be the happiest. This probably affects different people to varying degrees. I was miserable at my job. Now six years FIREd, I think a big part of my misery was the monotony. Same drive, same office, same keyboard, etc. And I didn't find the work satisfying to overcome any of that.

Now my life is 80% mystery. We have a toddler so there are certain things that have to happen during the day but beyond that I largely don't know what tomorrow holds. That sense of adventure is possibly the largest driver of happiness in my life and because of that I still wake up in amazement that this is my life now. I hope it never gets old because the feeling is wonderful.

I suspect this was most humans' baseline prior to the industrial revolution. Even farming and homesteading involve significant variation with the changing seasons.

LateStarter

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2024, 01:40:49 PM »
I would say my stress is not quite as reduced as I imagined because Iíve found new things to obsess over

IMO, this is the biggest risk to happiness.  As that great philosopher Buckaroo Banzai said, "no matter where you go, there you are."  You can change your circumstances, but you're still you.  If you tend to stress out over the little stuff, you can work your ass off to make the current little stuff go away, but your brain will just find more little stuff to stress out over. 


I'm not suggesting this as a panacea or suitable for everyone but, in my experience, a simple 'focus on the breath' mindfulness meditation for 30mins daily is very effective at quieting needless and unhelpful obsessive ruminations.
I recently restarted after lapsing through much of 2023 and the difference is very noticeable - and easily worth 30mins a day. I won't be lapsing again.

Highly recommended for habitual obsessive ruminators.

simonsez

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #24 on: January 31, 2024, 10:30:07 AM »
I'm not FIREd but I think a decent amount of time devoted to contemplation about my "situation" has led me to appreciate all types of things, people, memories, ideas, etc. more so compared to simply not taking the time to think and assess.  I like the quote that the exuberance has worn off but the contentment is still there or even grows.

Your example of the new car purchase is a good one.  For me, I think about our 2018 Accord ALL THE TIME and how luxurious it is!  It's our only car and what a great tool it is to assist our lives.  It's a scarce resource so I try to take good care of it and think quite frequently about the purchase and reflect on the value I'm deriving.  We even gave the car a name and have conversations talking about "Arthur" every once in awhile and every road trip ends with a pat on the dash or some verbal appreciation to the vehicle for being reliable.  Yeah, we're weird and I'm okay with that.

This is to say, hedonic adaptation is real but I think can be mitigated or managed to some degree with reflection.  Stay humble and don't take this precious life and ultimately cosmologically insignificant spinning blue marble for granted!  Or in Ice Cube terms, "Check yo self before you wreck yo self" and do it frequently no matter if that is yoga, sauna, painting, fishing, therapy, exercise, prayer, time simply devoted to contemplation, whatever works.

Last night before I drifted off, I laid in bed and thought about how lucky I was just to be able have the ability to lay there on a comfortable mattress while it's cold outside (out of the ~110 billion humans to have existed, how many get to sleep in a comfortable, secure, and heated house every night?!).  I didn't have the best day yesterday and by the end of the day, my "problems" were laughable after 5 minutes of contemplation.  Slept like a baby and woke up and had an incredibly luxurious hot shower.  Thank you running water and electricity!

It's not possible to be eternally grateful for everything all the time and still lead a productive life but setting aside something every now and then has helped me find my center.  I can be tightly wound and I have to find ways to unwind and thinking/appreciating is a major tool for me.

LD_TAndK

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2024, 04:40:43 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

Metalcat

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2024, 04:45:08 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

There's a huge difference between adjusting to luxury and removing a barrier to happiness.

Removing a barrier to happiness, something that is legitimately making ngbyou miserable, will absolutely permanently improve your well being. 

Having an okay car and upgrading to a luxury car will trigger hedonic adaptation, but having a horrible relationship and leaving it won't, you will just be happier.

Likewise, you don't just hedonically adapt to everything that's good, it's more that you adapt to luxuries that aren't actually critical to your quality of life.

If you are lonely and don't have quality adult friends and you make some quality adult friends, that's will radically and permanently make you happier for as long as you have those friendships and they stay healthy.

I also personally don't really hedonically adapt much to being around beautiful nature. I live in two locations, both by water, and I am still struck by the beauty every time I go walk by the water.

Some things legit make your happiness objectively better and you don't really hedonically adapt to that.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2024, 04:51:01 AM by Metalcat »

LateStarter

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2024, 07:52:38 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

There's a huge difference between adjusting to luxury and removing a barrier to happiness.

Removing a barrier to happiness, something that is legitimately making ngbyou miserable, will absolutely permanently improve your well being. 

Having an okay car and upgrading to a luxury car will trigger hedonic adaptation, but having a horrible relationship and leaving it won't, you will just be happier.

Likewise, you don't just hedonically adapt to everything that's good, it's more that you adapt to luxuries that aren't actually critical to your quality of life.

If you are lonely and don't have quality adult friends and you make some quality adult friends, that's will radically and permanently make you happier for as long as you have those friendships and they stay healthy.

I also personally don't really hedonically adapt much to being around beautiful nature. I live in two locations, both by water, and I am still struck by the beauty every time I go walk by the water.

Some things legit make your happiness objectively better and you don't really hedonically adapt to that.

Interesting. I'd never really considered that angle, but I think you've hit the nail on the head.

If we put all the 'good' things in life on a scale going from something like 'fundamentally good for the soul' like freedom, security, friends, etc. to 'trinkets' like a 20 bed mansion, Ferrari, Rolex, etc., it does seem logical that the further you go toward the trinket end the more hedonic adaptation comes into play.

This feels totally right to me, and explains why I hedonically adapt to new toys but my FIRe freedom (so far) never gets old.

Something like freedom is pervasive, it makes everything better, all the time. It's just not the same sort of 'good thing' as a new car.

Mystery solved, for me at least.

Metalcat

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #28 on: February 01, 2024, 08:31:15 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

There's a huge difference between adjusting to luxury and removing a barrier to happiness.

Removing a barrier to happiness, something that is legitimately making ngbyou miserable, will absolutely permanently improve your well being. 

Having an okay car and upgrading to a luxury car will trigger hedonic adaptation, but having a horrible relationship and leaving it won't, you will just be happier.

Likewise, you don't just hedonically adapt to everything that's good, it's more that you adapt to luxuries that aren't actually critical to your quality of life.

If you are lonely and don't have quality adult friends and you make some quality adult friends, that's will radically and permanently make you happier for as long as you have those friendships and they stay healthy.

I also personally don't really hedonically adapt much to being around beautiful nature. I live in two locations, both by water, and I am still struck by the beauty every time I go walk by the water.

Some things legit make your happiness objectively better and you don't really hedonically adapt to that.

Interesting. I'd never really considered that angle, but I think you've hit the nail on the head.

If we put all the 'good' things in life on a scale going from something like 'fundamentally good for the soul' like freedom, security, friends, etc. to 'trinkets' like a 20 bed mansion, Ferrari, Rolex, etc., it does seem logical that the further you go toward the trinket end the more hedonic adaptation comes into play.

This feels totally right to me, and explains why I hedonically adapt to new toys but my FIRe freedom (so far) never gets old.

Something like freedom is pervasive, it makes everything better, all the time. It's just not the same sort of 'good thing' as a new car.

Mystery solved, for me at least.

A lot of us are participating in a thread collectively taking the Yale Science of Well-Being course and it will break down for you the whys and how's of happiness and well being and the different impacts of things that we think make us happy.

None of it is ground breaker revelations, at least not to MMM folks, but it's a really nice curation of the current research on the topic and involves some nice tangible engagement on living a better life.

LateStarter

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #29 on: February 01, 2024, 11:54:08 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

There's a huge difference between adjusting to luxury and removing a barrier to happiness.

Removing a barrier to happiness, something that is legitimately making ngbyou miserable, will absolutely permanently improve your well being. 

Having an okay car and upgrading to a luxury car will trigger hedonic adaptation, but having a horrible relationship and leaving it won't, you will just be happier.

Likewise, you don't just hedonically adapt to everything that's good, it's more that you adapt to luxuries that aren't actually critical to your quality of life.

If you are lonely and don't have quality adult friends and you make some quality adult friends, that's will radically and permanently make you happier for as long as you have those friendships and they stay healthy.

I also personally don't really hedonically adapt much to being around beautiful nature. I live in two locations, both by water, and I am still struck by the beauty every time I go walk by the water.

Some things legit make your happiness objectively better and you don't really hedonically adapt to that.

Interesting. I'd never really considered that angle, but I think you've hit the nail on the head.

If we put all the 'good' things in life on a scale going from something like 'fundamentally good for the soul' like freedom, security, friends, etc. to 'trinkets' like a 20 bed mansion, Ferrari, Rolex, etc., it does seem logical that the further you go toward the trinket end the more hedonic adaptation comes into play.

This feels totally right to me, and explains why I hedonically adapt to new toys but my FIRe freedom (so far) never gets old.

Something like freedom is pervasive, it makes everything better, all the time. It's just not the same sort of 'good thing' as a new car.

Mystery solved, for me at least.

A lot of us are participating in a thread collectively taking the Yale Science of Well-Being course and it will break down for you the whys and how's of happiness and well being and the different impacts of things that we think make us happy.

None of it is ground breaker revelations, at least not to MMM folks, but it's a really nice curation of the current research on the topic and involves some nice tangible engagement on living a better life.

Thanks. I'll have a look.

rosarugosa

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2024, 04:52:06 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

There's a huge difference between adjusting to luxury and removing a barrier to happiness.

Removing a barrier to happiness, something that is legitimately making ngbyou miserable, will absolutely permanently improve your well being. 

Having an okay car and upgrading to a luxury car will trigger hedonic adaptation, but having a horrible relationship and leaving it won't, you will just be happier.

Likewise, you don't just hedonically adapt to everything that's good, it's more that you adapt to luxuries that aren't actually critical to your quality of life.

If you are lonely and don't have quality adult friends and you make some quality adult friends, that's will radically and permanently make you happier for as long as you have those friendships and they stay healthy.

I also personally don't really hedonically adapt much to being around beautiful nature. I live in two locations, both by water, and I am still struck by the beauty every time I go walk by the water.

Some things legit make your happiness objectively better and you don't really hedonically adapt to that.

Interesting. I'd never really considered that angle, but I think you've hit the nail on the head.

If we put all the 'good' things in life on a scale going from something like 'fundamentally good for the soul' like freedom, security, friends, etc. to 'trinkets' like a 20 bed mansion, Ferrari, Rolex, etc., it does seem logical that the further you go toward the trinket end the more hedonic adaptation comes into play.

This feels totally right to me, and explains why I hedonically adapt to new toys but my FIRe freedom (so far) never gets old.

Something like freedom is pervasive, it makes everything better, all the time. It's just not the same sort of 'good thing' as a new car.

Mystery solved, for me at least.

A lot of us are participating in a thread collectively taking the Yale Science of Well-Being course and it will break down for you the whys and how's of happiness and well being and the different impacts of things that we think make us happy.

None of it is ground breaker revelations, at least not to MMM folks, but it's a really nice curation of the current research on the topic and involves some nice tangible engagement on living a better life.

I took the Science of Well-Being course in 2020, and I thought it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  Some of those concepts are indeed quite relevant to this thread.  I retired 6 years ago, and I make it a point to feel gratitude that instead of going off to a day of soul-sucking meetings, I am going to pottery class (or a walk in the woods, or to spend time in my garden, etc).  I do think there is validity to the idea of a happiness set-point.  I've typically been a pretty happy camper, but during the last few years of work life, I was getting very little enjoyment from my work. Now I get to spend a lot more of my precious, finite time on the planet engaged in activities that I truly enjoy.  So I would say I was a happy person both before and after retirement, but I am having a lot more fun now, and I still sometimes feel like I want to pinch myself to be sure this isn't a dream (and that I had fallen asleep during a particularly boring meeting, lol).

Reddleman

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2024, 09:13:35 AM »
To me having a job was like walking around with a big old rock in my shoe making walking uncomfortable and distracting. After taking the rock out I'll get used to walking normally and forget how much it used to suck. But now I can actually walk.

I guess according to the hedonic theory I'll adapt and feel the same level of happiness as before. But I think the absence of a recurring negative stimuli works a bit differently.

There's a huge difference between adjusting to luxury and removing a barrier to happiness.

Removing a barrier to happiness, something that is legitimately making ngbyou miserable, will absolutely permanently improve your well being. 

Having an okay car and upgrading to a luxury car will trigger hedonic adaptation, but having a horrible relationship and leaving it won't, you will just be happier.

Likewise, you don't just hedonically adapt to everything that's good, it's more that you adapt to luxuries that aren't actually critical to your quality of life.

If you are lonely and don't have quality adult friends and you make some quality adult friends, that's will radically and permanently make you happier for as long as you have those friendships and they stay healthy.

I also personally don't really hedonically adapt much to being around beautiful nature. I live in two locations, both by water, and I am still struck by the beauty every time I go walk by the water.

Some things legit make your happiness objectively better and you don't really hedonically adapt to that.

100% this.  I left a job with legitimate burnout, so the benefit was real. 

After a few years of "semi" retirement, I can honestly say that I'm managing hedonic adaptation pretty well.  The key for me has been going after things that most people never tend to adapt to, aka things that are always inherently rewarding and never get old. Just like the quoted post:

1. Spend more time with people you care about/enjoy their company.  I've had more time/energy/headspace for my wife, family, and friends.
My new "job" also is a huge benefit.  It's part-time, seasonal, and agricultural.  But it definitely fills in a lot of the gaps in
2. Physical activity- agriculture is physically demanding.  That rush of doing something uncomfortable and physically challenging, and then resting, never goes away.
3. Socialization- I work with a bunch of people who are all pretty atypical, but everyone can be themselves. 
4. Challenge- Farms always have something else to learn, or some problem to be overcome without spending unlimited time and money.  And since I don't own the business, I can help without the anxiety of being ultimately responsible.
5. Respect/appreciation- I work for a family-owned business.  It's hard to find good workers these days- particularly ones who are fine with part-time work, middling hourly wage, physical demands, and month+ times when there's almost no work and no income.  If that sounds good to you, chances are you can find people who will really value you!  I have a few other job opportunities like this that people have been leaning on me to take. 
6. Staying healthy- While my joints may disagree at times, regular physical labor is probably adding years to my functional physical life.  Just don't overdo it.  When you don't need the money, you can set your own limits.
7. Time in nature- I work with plants, literally.

At least for me leaving typical work is kind of a process:
Stage 1- Enjoying not having to "grind" anymore. Your anxiety drops and you have way more time on your hands.  For many people this becomes kind of overwhelming. 
Stage 2- To continue enjoying it you have to shift to finding the things that actually will continue to make you happy without making you bored.  A "durable" satisfaction.

I think the mistake most people make (I've had a few) is that they think that what will make them happy is what they craved when working- the absence of work, or what they craved when working (more stuff, usually).  If you go the "stuff" route, you're just going to end up with hedonic adaptation.  You really have to shift to activities they are inherently and permanently meaningful.  It's hard to believe after grinding and saving for years that the answer to enjoying not working is not somehow grinding in a different way. 

The good news is most of these (physical activity, socialization, challenge, nature) are available just about everywhere and often either cheap, free, or someone will actually pay you to do them. 

sisto

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2024, 09:37:57 AM »
I still absolutely love being FIRED. The feeling of freedom is amazing. I love that I can do just about whatever I want whenever I want. While sometimes it's easy to fall into a pattern of mundane life, it beats working for a paycheck any day. The hardest thing for me was to realize I don't need to feel bad about not being productive. Someone else mentioned mindfulness and that does really help. I try to accomplish 1 meaningful thing a day and know that it's enough. This is my time and I earned it.

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2024, 09:13:07 AM »
To some extent, I suppose I have become accustomed to retirement as my lifestyle.. But make no mistake, I still, at least 3Ė4 times a week, think about the ease of my life and how lovely it is to not work according to someone elseís schedule.

I fully realized that everything in my life with a timeline and obligations are things I chose. I can stop doing them anytime.  that is the freedom of retirement.

Tass

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #34 on: February 04, 2024, 10:13:06 AM »
My new "job" also is a huge benefit.  It's part-time, seasonal, and agricultural. 

I'm curious to hear more about this job and how you got it.

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #35 on: February 10, 2024, 06:55:54 PM »
I guess this question is aimed more towards FIRED individuals, as they've had the experience. Once you finally reached FIRE, did the novelty of the new life phase wear off and overall life satisfaction returned to your set point?

My take. Initially FIRE feels amazing. Like unicorns and fireworks everyday. A few months in feels less amazing and more normal. A few years in it feels totally normal.

As I say that don't take that to mean it's bad now. Nope. It's still the best decision I ever made and my only regrets is I didn't do it earlier. You just can't sustain a feeling of excitement and novelty longer term. But underneath there is a very solid/stable feeling of happiness, satisfaction, healthiness and security that's not going anywhere.

I will say if you are not a happy person before FIRE you are unlikely to be a happy person after FIRE. If work stress was getting you down that will be gone, but if you didn't have an underlying happiness in your life it's not going to magically appear after FIRE. In fact for some people work was a positive distraction from actually dealing with themselves and FIRE is this horrible experience with too much free time where they can't avoid thinking/dealing with their own shit.

So I would 100% recommend that as you save money for FIRE work on yourself as you can't enjoy all that money if you are not a happy/well balanced person.

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #36 on: February 11, 2024, 11:59:00 AM »
I don't know if it's hedonic adaptation or not, but I am both less tolerant of high traffic times (to the point I will adjust my schedule and route to avoid them) but also more tolerant if I happen to hit some--less likely to break out in road rage.  I find myself more feeling sorry for the idiots weaving through traffic, than being angry.

Metalcat

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #37 on: February 11, 2024, 12:54:16 PM »
I don't know if it's hedonic adaptation or not, but I am both less tolerant of high traffic times (to the point I will adjust my schedule and route to avoid them) but also more tolerant if I happen to hit some--less likely to break out in road rage.  I find myself more feeling sorry for the idiots weaving through traffic, than being angry.

Same.

The idea of traffic bothers me more, like I'm less likely to be willing to do something that will require time in traffic, which uses to not really bother me because it was such a common factor in my life. But the actual experience of traffic doesn't upset me like it used to, because really, where do I need to be in a hurry??

RunningintoFI

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #38 on: February 12, 2024, 07:49:29 PM »
I loved my career. But there were problems.

I retired 14 years ago.

I really like being retired. It gets better every day.

Likewise, I mostly enjoyed my career - I didn't escape from something I hated.

Freedom from anything, even something you enjoy, can be a great relief if that thing requires a significant commitment of time and energy. I love cycling and reading (not at the same time!) but if I HAD TO cycle/read 9-5 every Mon-Fri, I'd very soon get sick of both.

Retirement means there is very little 'HAVE TO' in my life. That is freedom to me - and I love it - and I don't see it getting old.

But he's on a literal clock, it's so stupid. He'll be done for the day and can't just leave to take the dog for a walk, he has to wait to click a button at 4pm. It's bloody infantile.

IMO, at a certain point in your career, you should earn the trust of your employer that you can tie your damn shoes, metaphorically speaking.

This last point is the mega pain point for me these days.  I was a fully autonomous individual contributor who was put on a team managed by a clock punching leader and it drives me up the wall.  I have to keep myself from quitting about 7 times a day - only waiting because my relocation agreement is not cheap and doesn't expire for another 6 months.  Ahh the joys of corporate life. 

dangbe

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Re: Hedonic adaptation in FIRE
« Reply #39 on: February 12, 2024, 09:09:59 PM »
Remember that the opposite of hedonic adaptation is also a thing.  Humans are just adaptable.  Being obligated to work is worse than not having to work, but our minds adapted to the worse situation.  Removing the obligation to work isn't an example of hedonic adaptation but rather a reset to the baseline.  Once you are free of the obligation then you can decide if what you get out of the job is worth staying for or perhaps you'll find you have other priorities you'd like to pursue.