January 2004. I had been in the financial business for five years. Having spent the first four on the institutional side, he was a newly minted financial advisor, building a business from the ground up with no salary or stipend. And then came our first child and the decision to eliminate our only predictable income stream.

I remember watching the checking account drop into double digits and comparing a looming pile of bills to a ragged pipeline of new business, not wanting to voice a recurring dream out loud:

If I only had a guaranteed salary of $X with an annual cost of living adjustment, I’d be fine with that for the rest of my career.


Ha! Looking back, I’m glad the genie didn’t come out of the bottle. But that didn’t stop me from returning to a new and improved version of the Daydream in January of 2009.

Business had been good and income stable, but now with two kids, a puppy, and a very recent home renovation to accommodate our growth as a family, I was comparing our household budget to the daily headlines announcing a financial crisis that was brewing. starting. rivaling an event that will not be named since the late twenties with the initials GD As the stock market plummeted, uncertainty reached its peak.

If only I had a guaranteed salary of $Y with a bank account of $Z, that It’d be enough.

Have you ever had these kinds of conversations with yourself? and have you ever No expanded your definition of enough in the future?

If so, you’re not broken.

Why is it never enough?


Apparently, we are wired for dissatisfaction. The social scientist and professor at Harvard Business School, Arthur Brooks, Explain that “satisfaction, the joy of fulfilling our desires or expectations, is evanescent.”

Evanescent. Wait, isn’t that a band name? (Close). Brooks further explains that contentment “is the greatest paradox of human life. We crave it, we think we can get it, we catch a glimpse of it and maybe even experience it for a brief moment, and then it’s gone. But we never give up on our quest to get it and hold on to it.”

This is partly explained by a term most of us learned in high school: homeostasis. Our body is always looking for balance, so when we experience ups and downs, something is trying to bring us back to normal.


A biological example is evident in the consumption of alcohol or other recreational drugs. The experience was never more vivid than the first time, thanks to the dopamine rush in the brain’s pleasure center. Thereafter, more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same result because our bodies are naturally creating less dopamine to balance the external influx. Our bodies effectively create a new normal.

It works the same way for our emotions, Brooks instructs. “When you receive an emotional shock, good or bad, your brain wants to rebalance itself, making it difficult to stay at high or low levels for long.” Especially in the case of positive emotions, he writes her. “That’s why, when you achieve conventional acquisitive success,” such as the pursuit of money, power, and prestige, “you can never have enough.”

What can we do?

So is contentment lasting, sufficient, just elusive, or is it impossible? While we may be fighting an uphill biological battle, fortunately, there are steps we can take to find genuine satisfaction. Let’s consider a trio of possibilities that you can apply as soon as, well, now:


1) work with science. If we’re wired for achievement, let’s give ourselves more opportunities for that endorphin rush. One way we can achieve more is to do less, what productivity guru Cal Newport calls “Einstein’s principle.”

Another way is to break larger goals into smaller chunks. each member of my company’s The senior leadership team has some goals set for the year. But then we each set a single quarterly “rock” (thanks, Stephen Covey) that’s made up of three 30-day milestones (thanks, Gino Wickman), and we meet weekly to discuss our progress (or lack thereof). ) in meeting those objectives.

So, we can get even more satisfaction from our daily activities, since Daniel Pink reminds usthrough the identification and search of our MIT, the most important task, every day.


2) i want less. Because achieving and accumulating more can never satisfy, “the secret is to manage our desires,” says Arthur Brooks. “By managing what we want instead of what we have, we give ourselves the opportunity to lead more fulfilling lives.”

One of the best no-needs strategies I can recommend is a short exercise in examining the cost of our wants. As my good friend, Pat Goodman, taught me: “You can’t just want what you want; you have to want what your desires lead to.” Whether you’re considering one more cocktail after a night of fun or a new purchase, this wisdom is eminently applicable.

You can’t just want the cocktail unless you also want the brain fog the next morning. You can’t just want to double the square footage of your home; you have to want to double your mortgage payment (perhaps triple with rising rates!) and double the cost of utilities and maintenance.


Our desires tend to present themselves as uncompromising temptations, but there is no such thing. And stopping to consider the cost of our desires can have the effect of diminishing their power in our minds.

3) count your blessings. If Arthur Brooks is right that our “satisfaction equals what we have divided by our wants,” he makes mathematical sense that we can increase our satisfaction by decreasing our wants. But isn’t it also possible to increase the value of what we have, without actually having more, through the practice of gratitude?

The power of gratitude is worn out for a reason: because it works. I asked Brian Portnoy, author of several best-selling books and founder of the consultancy, shape wealthwhose mission is “funded satisfaction for all”, if there is anything we can do to be happier.


He replied: “Contentment begins with gratitude, with the observation that there are good things in the world and that we are blessed by them. This is not always obvious or easy; life is hard. But stopping and reflecting on the good is a power within everyone’s reach, that we can all use, at least from time to time.

Ironically, I began writing this article in a state of discontent, lamenting to my wife that I was struggling to find an optimal zone of focus, having been “kicked out of my home office.” He didn’t even need to say anything before I remembered that my oldest son had just come home from his first year of college, we are lucky enough to have his lovely girlfriend staying with us for a few days, and allowing my office to act as a guest room, you can have some privacy and a comfortable place to sleep.

The most important people in my life, together.

What more could you want?


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