Rising Expectations – Diminished returns

One of the biggest laments I have heard over the years from service professionals here in the valley is “it is so hard to keep the clients and customers happy!”  An architect chagrins “Another change order”.   The builder conveys “They don’t like the tile work”.   The sommelier takes back a bottle of expensive wine. Whining about the whiners!  Here we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and lots of money comes to town.  What’s not to be happy about?   It isn’t just the wealthy that struggle with this – it is imbedded in our genetic makeup.

When we spend money on wants rather than needs  (also known as non-essential wealth), we start moving into new territory with our emotions.  Spike Milligan quoted “Money can’t buy happiness, but it does bring you a new form of misery”.  Think of a time when you found yourself waiting in anxious expectation of something you wanted and paid a chunk of change for only to be let down, bummed out, or possibly even pissed off once the item, experience or service was yours.

Welcome to the universal laws of rising expectations and diminishing returns.

The law of rising expectations manifests in that: The more money we have, the more we will tend to pay for goods and services.  The more you pay for something, your expectations of what you are going to get increases.  The greater your anticipation of “this will make me happy” becomes, the more vulnerable and exposed you are to disappointments.

The law of Diminishing returns is revealed when:  The more we pay for goods or services, we will reach a point where the increased expense only increases the disproportion between how much we pay and what we get.  In other words, we are more likely to be let down or frustrated.  It ensures that as we spend more on things, it will not bring us proportionately additional satisfaction.  If I pay $100.00 for a silk blouse, and am satisfied – will I be ten times happier if I spend $1,000 on it?   Personally, no; but I would be ecstatic if I found the $100.00 blouse at 75% off!

How do we wrestle with this never-ending pocket book quest for gratification, happiness or fulfillment?

John D Rockefeller came up with an idea:

“The mere expenditure of money for things, so I am told by those who profess to know, soon palls on one.  They novelty of being able to purchase anything one wants soon passes, because what people most seek cannot be bought with money.  These rich men we read about in the newspapers cannot get personal returns beyond a well-defined limit for their expenditure.  They cannot gratify the pleasures of the palate beyond very moderate bounds because they cannot purchase a good digestion….  As I study wealthy mean, I can see but one way in which they can secure a real equivalent for money spent, and that is to cultivate a taste for giving where the money may produce an effect which will be a lasting gratification…”

The next time we find ourselves disappointed by whatever it is that we have spent our non-essential dollars on, or when we lose patience when our expectations are not met, may we ponder the idea of using your financial resources differently – in a way that could bring greater satisfaction and gratification. Look into your heart.  What makes you angry or elated when you read the paper?  What causes have personally touched your life lately?  What world events trigger tears?  It is in passionate, purposeful giving that we shatter the binds of consumerism, and materialism.  We can tackle our ongoing disappointments with “just a bit more will make me happy” mentality.

The only way to break the laws of rising expectations and diminishing returns is to ask yourself – How much is enough?  You can then put an action plan into place to use your resources to provide true satisfaction and deep fulfillment.

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