If we pursue a meaningful life, or flow, eudaimonia and happiness tend to be sustainable, and even reinforces them-selves. But if we are on the hedonistic treadmill, running here and there but in reality always being at point zero in terms of living joyfully, then in reality we are just aiming at pleasure (with its hedonistic adaptation which results in declining value in how we perceive the same activities other time).
And, in this case, variety doesn’t really help us; as Daniel Gilbert (Harvard Professor of Psychology and author of “Stumbling on Happiness”) says: “People do tend to seek more variety than they should. We all think we should try a different doughnut every time we go to the shop, but the fact is that people are measurably happier when they have their favourite on every visit – provided the visits are sufficiently separated in time”. He continues: “The main error, of course, is that we vastly overestimate the hedonistic consequences of any event.
Neither positive nor negative events hit us as hard or for as long as we anticipate. This “impact bias” has proved quite robust in both field and laboratory settings”. He also adds: “We are often quite poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future […] we have been given a lot of disinformation about happiness by two sources: genes and culture”. Does this mean we should relay only on scientists to know more about our happiness? Surely not, but we also need to be aware of the effects gene and meme have on our assumptions about happiness. We can “give in”, going in autopilot and relay on what our instincts (and the conditioning we have been exposed to) tell us to do; or we can be aware of the present moment, living joyfully and evaluating what are appropriate ways to act in each situation.