Recently I kept thinking a lot about how we humans always seem to adapt to new circumstances that we then perceive as the new default. I started thinking about it after one of my cycling runs. I used to do a 40km course through Tokyo and I still remember how broken I was the first time I finished it. When I came home I had to sleep for an hour to let my body recharge. After a few of these runs it was like 40km are nothing. I felt great, improved my pace and learned how to handle my body along the way. Recently I changed my course a little bit and now it is about 60km long. Again, the first time when I came home I had to rest and recharge. The second time I was cycling these 60k they already felt normal and it made me think how we adapt to new challenges, how we can reset our baseline and slowly adjust ourselves towards improvement.
I started to think about all the other ways in which we humans adjust and reset to a new normal and I noticed that this reset is fundamental. We have this reset in positive an negative areas of our life. I am thinking about hedonistic adaptation which is the exact same thing. We get used to some stimulus that feels great and then we need more of the same thing. Unfortunately I experience that every day about sweets. I am sure you can think of an example from you own life. Aside from the positive we also get used to things we generally perceive as negative. Again, the sports example fits. When you start going to the gym or doing other sports, in the beginning you tend to be very exhausted the next day—maybe even sore. However, after a few times you wont even feel bad after exercising. Your body adapted to the micro injuries in your muscles and maybe you don’t even register them anymore. Similar things happen with pain (up to a certain point), small injuries or even light forms of tinnitus will fade into the background over time.
normalize consciously up or be normalized down
As you can see this normalization can happen with many things. Using this knowledge consciously can help you steer your life upwards to a better place. If you let it steer you it tends to lead to slow decay. Mindless consumption and seeking ever greater thrills without getting satisfied will rule your life if you don’t actively head in a different direction. So make use of this knowledge, especially when you do something new or try to improve. After you exercised a few times it will become normal, you won’t feel bad about it and at some point even enjoy it. The same goes for increasing you existing capabilities. Once you become proficient enough in a new task, you can do it almost automatically freeing up your energy to take on even greater challenges—thus slowly making you more capable and ultimately a better person.
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