The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

Do you ever feel like it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s never enough? That was my life for a long time.
Most of my life my actions have been motivated by two things: Recognition and comparing myself to others

Sounds awful, I know, but that’s my truth. Every time I felt recognized, or I felt I was good at something compared to others, I wanted more. There were brief moments of satisfaction, but they never lasted very much. I have been suffering from anxiety my whole life because of this.

I thought that the anxiety and the feelings of dread I felt were because I wasn’t enough, but they would all fade away if I had x, y or z. It didn’t matter how much people appreciated me, or how good I performed in school. There was always an excuse for my feelings.

If only I had this, if I only achieved that, then I’d be happy
When I have done x courses, or learned these abilities I will have proven my value.
When I get more friends I’ll be happy.
When I have better grades I’ll prove my value.
When I have someone to love, I’ll be happy.
When I’m able to live on my own I’ll be able to relax.
When I enter college I know I’ll feel better.

I was constantly looking for something to fill the void with, the “eureka” reason for why I was constantly feeling stressed and burned out.

But even if you get what you want, after you get it, you start to take it for granted. That’s the hedonic treadmill right there. You suffer because you don’t have something, you get what you want, you get used to it, and you start suffering for not having something else.

There is always an excuse for why you’re not happy right now. It makes you feel you’re not enough, and feeling anxiety and discomfort. All of that accumulates, and you start acting cold, and pushing away others from your life.

It gets harder and harder. Your identity slowly crumbles under the weight of self doubt as you feel you’re never good enough. You start failing on things you could do easily in the past, like math, or programming. You start feeling awkward and anxious with your closest friends. And every time you get worse you reinforce the idea of being a failure. To the point you struggle to get out of bed.

Social interactions deplete your energy significantly. And as your self esteem is based on external validation, your sense of self crumbles further. This triggers defensive responses.

The constant attempts to reset the cycle fail. You have pushed away a lot of people from your life, you don’t want them to see you, it hurts to be seen.

But there’s something interesting that happens when you stop. When it becomes too painful to keep running on the treadmill, you can discover you like to study complex topics out of pure curiosity, without external validation, or comparing yourself to others.
And when you stop trying to fit in, you can discover the real you that hides behind a crafted image, and you can start expressing yourself in ways you thought to be dumb in the past, and you can allow yourself to be more open and emotional.

Who would have thought? The anxiety and the negative feelings mostly start fading away, you start being more empathic, and for the first time in a long time you allow yourself to cry. Your feelings and emotions stop being a black box, and they start being something more of a clockwork. It’s still hard to understand, but you can debug it.

If you struggle with the feeling that you’re not enough, or simply that you will not be happy until you get something, or you reach a certain milestone, I have good news for you: you can choose to get off the treadmill. You can stop today.

I know that for some people this sounds impossible. In the past, many close people told me to stop being so demanding with myself, but in my mind, I saw that the same way as giving up. So I thought I would be a failure if I had to lower my standards.

Listen, you are not a failure for giving yourself a break. Anything you get or achieve won’t have any meaning if you do it just to prove something, and or if you don’t enjoy the process. If anything, being in peace with yourself as you are will give more meaning to anything you want to do, because the motivation won’t be trying to grow your ego, or trying to fill the void.

You don’t need to wait for it to become painful to get off the treadmill. Stop making excuses for why you’re not at peace with yourself today

This doesn’t mean at all you stop trying to be better. It’s hard to suppress that voice in your head that asks for improvement. And you can even weaponize that. But stop thinking the next thing will make you happy, because it won’t.

This is just my hypothesis, but I think that constantly chasing your next goal without enjoying the process is a recipe for an unhappy and mediocre life in the long term.

There will always be another stone in your shoe that will make you uncomfortable. So stop getting angry because of that. That’s just reality. Don’t fight it, embrace it, and learn to live with it. Find small ways to make your shoes more comfortable, and enjoy the little things, even if it feels stupid at the beginning.

I will always be thankful to all of those who were there for me when I was struggling. And I’m sincerely sorry to everyone I hurt and pushed away in the past, especially these last years