The hedonic treadmill – or hedonic adaptation – are psychological terms used to describe the theory that humans have a base line emotional state that we all inevitably return to after events that cause us great happiness and personal gain or mass loss and sadness.
The consumer and capitalist ideals conditioned into and practiced by the majority of westerners is a prime example of this theory. Not a long period of time exists between obtaining a new sports car, a new job promotion or the latest smart phone until the insatiable desire for then next best thing is set into motion.
Let it be made clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire to strive, achieve and obtain. It is our birthright to pursue our passions and embody our dreams and ultimately to optimize ourselves. Yet there is a firm difference between achieving a goal and valuing the outcome in comparison to seeing an endeavor to completion to then disregarding the results in favor of continual and constant progression.
Fortunately, upon reflection of our rich and diverse past, we who inhabit the 21st century have been gifted with many different schools of thoughts and techniques that can help to remove us from this treadmill of unsatisfied desire and place us slowly strolling barefoot in the pastures of gratitude.
The philosophical school of Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens during the early 3rd century BC and was developed and pondered further by philosophers of such magnitude as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. One of the main teachings of this branch of thinking was to ward of destructive emotions through install thorough self-control.