Wastin' Away Again in Dopaminaville
Searching for my lost shaker of enjoyment
Most of us have some familiarity with the hedonic treadmill: we want something and think we’ll be happy when we get it. Then we get it and feel really good… for a few days. But then the novelty of [insert object of desire here] wears off and we realize we feel exactly the same as before we got the thing.
It comes down to this: in the long run, getting new stuff doesn’t make us happy.
But as Keynes said, in the long run we’re all dead.
It occurred to me: If I’m going to go through the dopamine roller coaster anyway1, why not enjoy it? Why not savor it, like a fine wine or (my personal favorite) a margarita?
I don’t mean overindulge - don’t take ten shots of dopamine in a row. That would be the equivalent of waking up in the morning and impulsively deciding to buy a new car the same day. You go to the dealership, pick out the right one, and drive it off the lot. Just like with a night of shots, you get a ton of dopamine all at once, and then you’re hungover.
Instead, savor the dopamine. Spend months researching all the features and benefits of [insert object of desire here]. Read all the forums, talk to people about it, shop around on all the websites. Picture your new life with it. Drink it all up - but not too fast.
Just like with alcohol, realize it won’t make you happy forever, but it will be enjoyable for a few minutes. So instead of bemoaning the experience or avoiding it altogether, just relax and have a good time.
Then, when you finally obtain [insert object of desire here], soak up the dopamine for a few weeks. And then get on with your life.
Some people claim there’s a neurotransmitter to blame, but I know…it’s my own damn fault. Why yes, I do love Jimmy Buffett, thanks for noticing!
Sometimes life’s circumstances compel you to make a dopamine-inducing purchase or experience, even if you weren’t planning to