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Ideas are the Only Currency in the New Economy

How to Find More Satisfication in Everything – The Ikea Effect

September 25th, 2011 · No Comments · Ideas

Big Ideas:

  • We get more satisfaction when we exert more effort.
  • Obesity may be linked to how easy it has become to eat high calorie foods.

Mount Everest

Photo by Kappa Wayfarer

What would bring more personal satisfaction to you, being dropped on the top of Mount Everest by a helicopter or actually climbing the entire mountain and reaching it on your own after days of effort?

How about running a full marathon of more than 42 kilometers versus secretly taking a taxing and just running across the finish line?

I think it is safe to say, that most of us understand the value of effort and sacrifice in our accomplishments. We tend to under-appreciate the things we get easily.

The Ikea Effect

One description of this psychological bias is termed the Ikea Effect. Wired Magazine author Jonah Lehrer writes about the personal satisfaction from assembling our own furniture,

Although the furniture might look like crap — I always have a few leftover screws — the flimsy assembly of molded plywood feels like a masterpiece.

Lehrer goes on to write about experiments that show that mice have a preference for food they have to work harder for. It turns out humans are not so different. With the advance of pre-prepared meals and fast food, it has become very easy to get a high caloric intake.

Food stops being something we make and create — it doesn’t require very many lever presses, so to speak — and becomes something we simply ingest. Eating just gets easier. And then we get fatter.

But maybe we’re not just consuming more calories because they’re available at such a low cost. Maybe we’re also consuming more calories because each calorie gives us less pleasure. The lesson of those lever-pressing mice, after all, is that when we don’t work for our food — when it only requires a single press, or a few whirls of the microwave — it tastes much less delicious.

Relationships seem stronger the harder you had to work to make them successful. You appreciate anything you make yourself more highly than that which you buy. Hard work and sacrifice make final accomplishments that much more rewarding. In our convenience focused lives, perhaps we can increase our personal satisfaction by taking the more arduous route.

Action Items

  • Instead of complaining about traffic of your daily commute, how about cycling to work so you get exercise and a sense of accomplishment everyday.
  • Grow your own herbs and use them in the preparation of your own meals. Nothing will be as healthy or delicious.
  • Stop looking for shortcuts in work and life. There is no substitute for hard work and focused effort.


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