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Shaking the Perception of Sameness

“You start earning a million dollars, and you get all the stuff that comes with it. On week one, when you get a nice house with a nice shower, and a nice car, that feels good. But by week two or three, that’s just your shower. That’s just your car. It’s just your house. You’ve stopped noticing all the great things about it. This is a bad feature of human psychology for all the fantastic things in life. Even the best things in life, we will wind up getting used to.” — Laurie Santos, The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish: #139 Laurie Santos

What do we get used to? We relish that first cup of coffee in the morning, but by the second we’re simply maintaining our energy, akin to filling up the tank in our cars. There’s magic in the ritual of making and savoring that first cup, isn’t there? So why does the novelty wear off so quickly on subsequent cups?

Now take out the coffee analogy and insert any other thing that we begin to take for granted in our lives. The place we live, the car we drive, the people we hold most dear. At what point does routine dull our appreciation for the things we cherish the most in our lives? And more importantly, how do we break ourselves of this mindset?

That’s what the Stoics were pushing themselves towards when they reminded themselves that the entire game is temporary. Memento mori, Carpe diem, Amor Fati… not just clever Latin phrases to throw around at parties, but a way of living with awareness. A way to focus on the now and appreciate where we are. Stuff is temporary, people come and go from our lives, good fortune can turn bad and back again in an instant, and through it all each moment remains a blessing.

We humans get caught up in our annoyances, setbacks and frustrations du jour, but perhaps the worst thing that can ever happen to us is to simply getting used to living the way we do. Same job, same friends and family, same lunch… there’s just no savoring when we’re focused on sameness. Like salt sprinkled over an otherwise bland meal, a good shake of Stoicism offers us the opportunity to savor. For this is our big night out, and we ought to celebrate it for the special occasion it is.

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