Growth as a Way of Life

Reference Dependence kills everything.

Your joy at having won the lottery? You adjust your expectation. Gone after a few short months.

Sadness too - your pain at having lost a leg, or lost a job? Shift your reference point. Gone after a few short months, as life returns to normal.

Won a championship? Glory flashes, but then back to the grind. The crowning achievements of our lives, exposed and vulnerable to reference dependence.

We adjust to change. And so achievement becomes hollow as soon as our expectation shifts to be the level that we’re at. Meeting that expectation becomes the new standard.

I wanted to escape. Meeting standard wasn’t good enough, and standard is shifty. And so instead of placing the weight determining my happiness on results, I turned to the first derivative: growth.

Growth has a reference point too. But the beautiful thing is that that reference point barely adjusts. It’s adjustment is slow, and year after year of bliss in exceeding that expectation can follow.

The cultural obsession with growth that we'are immersed in is our water. But what fuels that burn? What's the theory behind the heuristic? Defeating reference dependence does some of the work.

The beautiful thing is that a focus shift to growth turns the day to day object level behavior that drives success into the goal, in and of itself. You can ask yourself about growth on a weekly or even daily basis. The feedback loop shrinks dramatically, and so you hijack the reward cycle that drives so much passion seeking behavior.

And so there is escape. Escape from f(x) to the higher derivatives. To places that reference dependence lags. Accomplishment is fleeting, but growth looks like daily satisfaction.