day 2746: Hedonic Adaptations

“Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.”

I’ve been reflecting on the holistic structure of organizations and how we as workers fit into that structure. When we zoom way out what we see is a “way” that promotes competition, striving and politics.  “That can’t be”, you say as we have been doing all the culture and happiness work to make it not so.  Well, unless your organization pays everyone the same, has as many CEO’s/top positions as there are people and promotes people all at the same time, then there is competition, striving and politics. That is what we are fighting against with all of the efforts but I sometimes wonder if we can ever win the war and instead just tend to celebrate the small battles?  But, it’s still worth the fight and we are better at attacking and defending if we know what we are fighting against.  Let’s remember that no one (or a very rare few) will always be happy for long in the moment and the seat they sit in today.  There is a reason for this and it’s called “Hedonic Adaptation”. Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky defines it this way, “Empirical and anecdotal evidence for hedonic adaptation suggests that the joys of loves and triumphs and the sorrows of losses and humiliations fade with time. If people’s goals are to increase or maintain well-being, then their objectives will diverge depending on whether their fortunes have turned for the better (which necessitates slowing down or thwarting adaptation) or for the worse (which calls for activating and accelerating it).”  This is why the person who is so excited and motivated with her promotion can turn sour six months later when time passes or she sees someone else being promoted.  Yes, it’s complicated but it is the battle we must fight.

I first heard the term hedonic adaption when Alex Constanzo spoke at our church last month.  She used the term in the context of our gratefulness within the situations we live.  It’s a great lesson in that we will only be happy, grateful and continually hopeful if we ground ourselves in the grace and humility of Christ and accept that what we have been given is within His will for our lives.  It’s a question and challenge that we have to ask ourselves daily, especially at work, if we are to avoid being lured into a place of disappointment, frustration, blaming and regret.  God’s will is never for us to be in that place.  He just asks that we return to Him and His grace, love and mercy to reorient ourselves back to perspective we are supposed to have.

Reference: Ecclesiastes 1:8 (New Living Translation)