Why We Do Better

Seeking the contrast

Tim Ferriss proposes in The 4-Hour Work Week:

“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.”

Happiness is a vague and unreliable beacon, forever dangling in the distance; excitement is the quality that nourishes us. Excitement takes many forms beyond its initial high-energy connotation. It might be action, thrill, a sense of danger; it can also be deep focus, sublime tranquility, flow.

Excitement is often born from novelty, but a more precise word would be contrast.

This is why purchases don’t imbue a sense of lasting satisfaction. There’s the initial rush of excitement, while you are able to clearly contrast life-before-the-thing and life-after. As time passes, you lose the contrast. You just have life-with-the-thing.

This is why travel lingers high on many people’s lists of happiness-inducing exercises. The contrast.

Also, cleaning an apartment, taking a new job, etc. The contrast.

We usually speak of creating lasting change in order to improve our lives. A more effective aim is to create frequent change.


  1. Mike

    I was just talking about this with a coworker in regards to food. I wondered if we feel more satisfied from eating a variety of foods, not necessarily in just one meal, but over a day or week. When certain foods become too routine, they don’t tend to make me feel full, and perhaps this is because I’ve already got those nutrients in my system. I say me/my because it’s just my personal experience, but it seems logical enough that we’d need a diet full of healthy contrast.


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