Values Added

I’m a Seltzer Guy

I am not a car guy. 

By my estimation, a good car is one that I rarely have to think about, including (and especially) when I am driving it. 

I’d rather think about the people I am driving with or an audiobook if I am not so blessed. 

I am not a watch guy. 

When I wear one, it’s a Timex. Spending a lot of money on a watch doesn’t change the time, and wouldn’t make me appreciate it any more than I already do.

I don’t buy fancy clothes or fly first class. 

I pay $20 for a haircut at a neighborhood place. The results aren’t special, but that’s fine; I don’t have much hair to cut anyway. 

But when it comes to Seltzer, I go all out. 

I am a seltzer guy. 

My family and I made the decision to venture into the world of sparkling water during the pandemic to elevate home life in a small way during a tumultuous time, and have yet to go back. Every time I open the fridge, I feel grateful, and every time I crack a Spindrift, it reminds me of the good in my life. 

What to do when you get a raise

When someone is lucky (or skillful) enough to get a raise, I recommend taking part of the new money, perhaps one month’s worth (divide the annual raise by 12), and doing something lovely. 

Depending on how much their salary has increased, it could be a nice dinner or a vacation. Of course, over time, the raise will help the person achieve bigger financial goals, build additional stability and flexibility into their spending plan, and make more of a difference in their family or community if they’re spending and giving in alignment with their values. This same advice often applies to bonuses or gifts, though I suggest they set the splurge at more like 1%. 

I try to follow that advice in my personal life as well, and when Becca got a raise–she’s excellent at her job–and I got one, too, we considered fun gestures to celebrate. We decided on a seemingly modest one: to buy several cases of Spindrift and be less sparing about when we drink them. Until then, they had been a special treat, but we decided to allow them to slide to being an everyday drink. 

The hedonic treadmill

Turning a special treat into a common occurrence is usually a bad idea. We are wired to adapt to everyday moments or events in our lives. What used to bring joy (or pain) eventually brings less and less if we experience the event frequently enough. This dynamic is famously captured in the idea of the hedonic treadmill–that we habituate after good and bad. 

The good news is that we can turn tremendous, painful changes (e.g., an injury, losing a loved one) that feel impossible in their aftermath moments into normalcy the longer we experience the “new normal.” The terrible news is that our enjoyment of nice, new things also dissipates, often fairly quickly. 

This trend was famously demonstrated in studies of lottery winners and accident victims who became paraplegic. Research shows that when most people buy cars, they are briefly happier, but the car quickly becomes a normal part of life. This adaptation removes its happiness impact, and many people then seek out the next emotional peak of wanting – and acquiring – something new. 

So why isn’t the Spindrift like the new car? 

First, our family’s dedication to Spindrift purchasing may actually be an example of a smaller-scale hedonic treadmill at work. If that’s right, we will eventually adapt to these purchases, and they’ll lose their appeal. 

It’s a relatively inexpensive way to learn the lesson if that’s the case. 

Buying a new car is expensive, and then you are stuck with it until you take a loss to sell it. Likewise, if you think, “If only I had a much bigger house, I’d be so much happier!” you have a pretty expensive idea to test. 

You may be right, though the research shows us that it is likely that we are we overestimating the ability for large purchases and “more” to help us unlock that next level of joy. Regardless, it’s costly to find out if the new house would be transformative and if we are wrong, then it’s also very costly to end the experiment. 

With Spindrift, though, I can stop the experiment at any time and for no additional cost! 

Gratitude is the best way to resist the power of the hedonic treadmill

The hedonic treadmill means that we tend to revert toward our standard level of life satisfaction. Most things we can do to alter that level only move it a little, and the improvements are prone to backsliding. 

One of the best tools for raising satisfaction is gratitude. But it can be hard to remember to focus on gratitude. 

Having specific rhythms and memory triggers helps me practice gratitude.

When I walk in the neighborhood, I try to remember to reflect on how much I love living in an accessible place.

When I finally reach a quiet moment after everyone in the house has gone to bed, or when I’m watching my kids play at the park, it’s easy to reach for my phone to fill the empty space. I try to use this instinct to mentally prompt myself: This is a special time; savor it! 

I don’t always remember, but when I do, it helps.

What does all of this have to do with a Seltzer? 

I have managed to map gratitude onto a beverage. 

Wherever I grab one–whether grapefruit, nojito (lime and mint), or blood orange tangerine–it reminds me to slow down a moment and focus on gratitude. It’s very expensive compared to tap water but not compared to a car or even to many other ways to be consistently mindful. To me, the gratitude is well worth the cost. The taste is a bonus.