The Pleasure Treadmill

This is the Pleasure Treadmill. 


The Pleasure Treadmill

It’s where a lot of humans live because they don’t know any better. 

We’re critically under-educated about our own happiness and sense of meaning. 

And that’s being generous, because under-education implies that some education is already taking place, (and to be frank, I’m doubtful of that).


For podcast episodes on The Pleasure Treadmill see episodes #014-#015 of the With Joe Wehbe Podcast

Youtube Episodes: #014 Homeostasis and #015 Pleasure vs. Fulfillment


Taking a depressed person to a rock concert

If you take a depressed person to a rock concert, you’ll be sandwiching a brief episode of happiness with depression on either side. They’re happy at the rock concert, but not before or after. 

It turns out happiness is tricky… there’s two sub-types within happiness. 


Pleasure vs. Fulfillment. 

Pleasure is short-term, sporadic and dissipates quickly. Pleasure is sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (like, quite literally). 

Fulfillment is more stable, ongoing and enduring. Fulfillment is much closer to that thing we’d call a sense of meaning. 

Big difference, one that is important to know. 


Enter the Pleasure Treadmill

For those who don’t understand the difference between pleasure and fulfillment, they are often left to question why they don’t feel ‘happy’. The obvious tactic is to chase more of the pleasurable experiences. They ride the pleasure treadmill. 


In fancy terms this is known as Hedonism

The pleasure-seeker takes a very unsustainable approach to filling the emptiness inside. They go from one taxing thrill to another. But no single pleasurable experience sustains us for very long. You are not happy in your forties because you attended a rock concert or had a night out twenty years before!

So the hedonist sees little other option but to up the intensity on the treadmill… cramming in more taxing experiences and raising the level of intensity. Their hope is that they can fill the gaps and overcome the build up of tolerance to their pleasurable experiences. 



More money. More luxury clothes. More plastic surgery. More rock concerts. More sex. More drinking. More drugs, and harder ones. 

Because of the law of diminishing returns, more and more effort and cost goes into acquiring returns that get smaller and smaller in these areas as intensity is raised. 

Eventually we run out of energy, of gas, and fall flat on the treadmill. 



Natural selection is this process that has been working diligently for millions of years to do one thing: help you survive long enough to pass on your genetic material. 

A few things are essential to this process – frequent feeding and sexual intercourse. If doing these things once was enough to fulfill you for a lifetime, well… in the game of Evolution you’d be David vs. Goliath but without the slingshot. 

You need to remember that natural selection does not care about making you happy. It cares about your genes. It uses pleasure to manipulate your behavior towards this outcome.

For this reason, you will not find a good life on the treadmill.


Jumping off the Pleasure Treadmill

Pleasure has its place but is not sustainable. To jump off the pleasure treadmill, to get real movement instead of fakeness, you need to invest in fields that deliver ongoing fulfillment

I have a general rule-of-three; 1) Community and connection with others, 2) Richly defined interests, and 3) Problems that are worth solving

As usual, my frequent and boring advice is to observe the MVL as the perfect starting point.


For podcast episodes on The Pleasure Treadmill see episodes #014-#015 of the With Joe Wehbe Podcast

Youtube Episodes: #014 Homeostasis and #015 Pleasure vs. Fulfillment


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