Ever start working out and a good song comes on, so you turn up the volume. The next song gets your fist pumping, volume up. A few more good songs and then the bass drops, turn it UP! Then you start wondering why your ears are hurting, it’s too loud, so you turn it down and level set.
We experience life not as an absolute comparison to nothingness, but as the relative difference from the day before. Sometimes it’s not even the day before, but the hour before. For example, none of us can sustain any emotional state for very long whether it’s elation or anger because we adapt and adjust to the situation. This doesn’t mean we don’t have major emotional swings with things dramatically change, but rather that over time we keep adjusting and acclimating to our situation.
This acclimation affects us over the long term too. Sometime ago, my boss and I were on a business trip and he was critiquing the rental car. I realized for him who drives a BMW (and now a Tesla), every rental car is a downgrade. For me, who drives a nearly 10 year old Mazda, every rental car feels like an upgrade. Same car, but we experience it differently because of the way we’ve acclimated to our situation. It’s not just cars though. We adjust our expectations around our salary, around our living standard, even our relationships.
Over time yesterday’s blessings become today’s expectations. We were so grateful for our first car. We loved every minute of it and enjoyed even moments in traffic. The freedom to drive where we want to go overwhelmed any other obstacle. We probably felt the same over our first paycheck regardless of how big it was. But after a while, we feel like we want a better car or a bigger paycheck. We grow accustom to our situation. This can lead us to forget the blessings those things are and instead emphasize our lacks.
Maybe it’s time for us to take a moment to level set on our situation. It’s one thing to momentarily recognize our blessings, it’s another to actually step back our lifestyle to remember exactly what it was to live without many of the blessings we enjoy today. Is there something we should fast from in order to level set as we go into 2016? Something we can do to turn down the volume, so that we don’t just remember, but actually experience the many blessings we enjoy.