From the forums, landedgentry13 said:

…I have often fallen victim to the “just one more…” virus. If I’m earning 40k in passive income, I tell myself that I’ll be content at 60k. If I have x number of investments, I’ll be content with y number of investments. If I can take a weekend trip to New York City twice a month, I’ll be content with *weekly* trips to Paris. Etc etc. I call this “more is better” influence “the Dragon.”

My particular dragon takes the form of invested assets rather than consumption. My consumption dragon went away a long time ago—not sure I ever really had a big dragon either. If you gave me $1,000 to spend on whatever I wanted, no conditions, I would have a problem doing that. I just wouldn’t know what to do with it.

In terms of the invested assets dragon, I have several. I want to have a $500k net-worth. Once I hit that, I want $750k; then I want $1M. It’s been like that all along. It might just be my biggest source of stress— not being able to rapidly save money, which, rationally, I’m not going to spend anyway. It’s pretty stupid, I know.

This can also take the form of careerism, where people start chasing corner offices, job titles, plastic awards, and other status symbols.

The problem arises because, in striving for something, we get used to associating happiness with progress. In other words, satisfaction becomes dependent on dynamic change—in other words, growth. We always have to have “growth.” What, you’re not “growing?” You might as well be dead, no?

This is ludicrous. We may have thought this way when we were kids, growing taller every year. However, at some point we naturally stop growing in size and, instead, start maturing. We replace size with maturity. We replace quantity with quality. We begin to consolidate what we have rather than reaching for more and more. This naturally happens when the effort to support more size exceeds the returns as maintenance costs keep growing. Logistically, this follows an S-curve.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution. I seem to need challenges. Given a game, I will either not play at all (consumerism), or if I keep winning, I will seek another game. For example, in terms of consumerism, I can easily buy the things I want—too easily; therefore, I try to acquire them in other ways. I barter for them; I buy them used; I only spend money on them if I manage to sell something to pay for them. I turn it into a challenging game.

I don’t know how to turn the “achiever” gene off. I’m sure that without it, this wouldn’t be so much of a problem—or would it merely take another form that I’d be unaware of?

Originally posted 2010-08-25 16:29:05.