Hedonic Adaptation



Scripture teaches us to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). The writer of this passage reminds Christ followers of the resulting emptiness that comes from pursuing the things of this world. Not only is it foolish and short-sighted, it is unfulfilling. Beyond the obvious spiritual reason the things of this world are unsatisfactory, our lack of fulfillment also is a result of hedonic adaptation.


Adam Grossman shares the following:

A friend described once joining a business associate on his private jet. It was a great experience. No lines, no checking bags, no airport security. But my friend made this observation: His associate, who regularly flew this way, was so accustomed to it that it didn't seem to be a thrill for him. That is hedonic adaptation. You might see it as a bad thing—that even the thrill of a private jet ultimately begins to wear off. But I think there's another, more useful way to look at this phenomenon: Many people get trapped in a cycle of striving toward financial goals—for example, the next bonus, a new car or a home renovation. But hedonic adaptation tells us that our lives won't suddenly and permanently transform when we reach those goals. To be sure, there's enjoyment when we initially attain a goal, but eventually our happiness level tends to revert to its usual level. And though that might seem disappointing, I think it's useful to know. It's a reminder to enjoy the journey rather than always looking ahead to the next goal.


This truth is a reminder today that, as Pascal shared, we all have a God-shaped vacuum in our heart that nothing in this world can satisfy!

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