The Rule of Diminishing Marginal Return

There is a well-known law in economics called the ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’, which states that as consumption of a good or service increases per unit, the satisfaction derived from consuming an additional unit or more will lead to a subsequent decline in its overall utility. In other words, the more you consume, the less satisfied you will be with each additional product or service you purchase. The first thing you buy, use, or consume will be the most satisfying but the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th unit of the same item you utilize will not be as useful and could even not satisfy you at all.

This fundamental law in basic economics is one that is worth memorizing because it makes total sense. The first chocolate bar you consume will be delicious and fulfilling. You may not be satisfied with just one chocolate bar so you may end up eating another one since the first one was so tasty. However, anyone will tell you that the 2nd chocolate bar will not be as tasty or satisfying as the 1st one and you may even end up with a stomachache from eating too much chocolate if you are not careful.

The ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’ does not just apply to economic principles but goes far beyond that in terms of being applied to human psychology. The act of consumption, I would argue, is not just an economic one but also applies to the psychology of choice and how we live our lives. Everybody is a consumer in one way or another whether it’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food we eat each day. Without any consumption, we would not survive but it is our choices that define our consumption habits and how we behave not just as economic actors but as human beings.

In a psychological context, instead of calling it the ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’, I would refer to it as the ‘Rule of Diminishing Marginal Return’, which is similar but discussing more how it’s a rule of life that the more we buy of something, the less return on that investment we will get out of it. The first of something whether that’s the purchase of a new car, a first trip to a new country, or the first time you try a new cuisine. These experiences will captivate you and do its job of putting your happiness level to a 9 or 10, but it’s a rule of life that it won’t stay there. While the memory of that experience will provide you with satisfaction and joy in its remembrance, your psychological state will revert to the norm of being level in terms of happiness or satisfaction with life. You may try to buy or consume more of something to recapture that feeling of happiness but that would actually be counterproductive in the long run and actually create false expectations compared to the first time you purchased or consumed that activity, experience, food, or drink.

How do you avoid the marginal returns of consuming, buying, or eating too much? Well, that is not easy to do but that is part of being a mature and responsible adult. You must have enough willpower and be able to reason with yourself that one more plate of food, one more drink, or one more car will not do the trick in giving you happiness. You must realize that your base level of happiness as a person won’t change as a result of consuming more and it may end up backfiring by causing your satisfaction to be lower because you consumed too much in the first place.
Being able to limit your consumption and controlling your vices will make you better off. If you can master your desires or your urges, then you can focus on bettering yourself or making you happier through more sustainable means. If you are working on personal projects, devoting yourself to a volunteer cause, or working on improving yourself mentally and/or physically, that kind of satisfaction will have a higher return on investment than just mindless consumption.

Consumption of goods and services may spike your happiness and satisfaction levels in the short run, but that kind of joy is short-lived and can often feel isolating if you are not sharing in that joy with others. That is why a meal with friends or family is often much better than eating by yourself. It’s why travelling with a close friend will generate more memories than a trip by yourself. It is not wrong to sometimes treat yourself to a nice meal, a nice trip, or a new gadget but shared experiences will make you happier and create more memories than those times that you were on your own in consuming.

One should carefully watch what they consume and monitor how much per day, per week, per month, and even per month they are consuming whether that’s food, drink, goods, etc. Everything in moderation is a good way to be as an adult and if you want to abstain entirely from consuming something, then that is an admirable thing to do as well. The worst thing you would want to do is to become overindulgent or overly reliant on a consumable good to make you happy or give you long-term satisfaction in life. You know better than anyone else the limits of your consumption and that true happiness is derived through shared experiences in life and of challenging yourself to be a better and more developed person.

In the long-term, I believe you get increased rather than diminished return through producing instead of consuming, by challenging yourself mentally and physically, and sharing yourself with others whether that’s through a good meal, a volunteer experience, or a worthwhile group project. All the chocolate and ice cream in the world won’t add to your happiness but would rather detract from it. A bowl of ice cream or a chocolate bar will satisfy you for a few hours, but you eventually will be back to that same level of happiness homeostasis that you had previously.

Instead of looking to keep yourself content or happy all of the time, know that happiness is not everything in life and that you benefit more from the hard work and the struggle that you put yourself on a daily basis than of just sitting on the couch and eating ice cream until the end of time.

When you get to that 2nd or 3rd bowl of ice cream, you should realize that you’re starting to get a stomachache and that you should stop yourself before you get sick. The diminishing marginal return of trying to seek out happiness through ice cream should be counteracted by getting off the couch and into the gym to start working out those extra calories you just gained.

By embracing the struggle of a gym workout and burning off all that ice cream, you’ll be sacrificing that short-term happiness for that long-term struggle but eventual satisfaction of improving yourself physically as a person and making yourself happier and healthier in the long-run as a direct result of your choices and decision-making. You should not be afraid to indulge a little bit every now and then but remember that life is better experienced in moderation and you should always watch what choices you are making as you go through your life as both a consumer and a producer.

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Daily Discipline

“Discipline is the hardest yet most important personal trait for an adult to develop.”

Discipline is the hardest yet most important personal trait for an adult to develop. In previous articles such as A Wealth of Knowledge and A Lifetime of Learning, I covered the importance of learning new things and making them apart of your skills and abilities. I want to continue on a similar note for this article on the topic of ‘daily discipline.’ We often think of having discipline in terms of avoiding that delicious piece of chocolate cake or making sure you don’t procrastinate when you’re studying for a test. However, discipline is so much more than that as a concept. The best definitions for discipline in my opinion focus on controlling one’s behavior and honing it towards a certain goal you have in mind.

Another definition that discipline is often associated with focuses on training yourself mentally or physically in order to do an activity or go through an experience. Discipline can be one of these definitions or both depending upon the context of its’ usage. It’s not difficult to obtain basic discipline when it comes to controlling your food habits or in participating in an activity that can happen on a weekly or monthly basis. However, the real test of discipline is making something a daily habit or being able to do something positive for yourself on a daily basis that takes some effort.

The first kind of daily discipline is committing to do something every day that will benefit you either mentally or physically. The key to improving or reaching your goal is to do it every day. If you want to see rapid gains in your abilities, you have to commit to it each day for as long as you can. For every person, this is a little bit different depending upon what goal you’re trying to reach and what activity you want to focus on.

The activity could be lifting weights to get stronger by committing yourself to do it every day or at least every other day. Even if you’re not lifting weights, you could be doing push ups, sit-ups or squats. More generally, you want to be doing some kind of exercise every day for an hour and you should see results if you’re disciplined about it. The ‘daily’ part of the discipline factors in because you won’t see much improvement if you’re only exercising once a week. The same goes for playing sports or doing martial arts. You won’t improve much in soccer if you only play or practice once per week. You won’t become a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu if you only train once a week.

When it comes to mental discipline on a daily basis, there are a variety of ways in order to accomplish this. Being able to sit down and read from a book each day for thirty minutes or an hour straight without stopping is a good example. Concentrating on learning a new language every day consistently whether it’s focusing on grammar, vocabulary, speaking, and/or writing it is key in order to make progress. If you want to develop a new academic skill like getting proficient at coding or statistics, you need to be able to sit down and work on those skills consistently for at least an hour a day. When it comes to these mental tasks, one day per week is simply not going to cut it. Similar to physical activities, in order to become proficient at mental activities, you really need more than just monthly or weekly discipline; you need daily discipline. Daily discipline takes a serious amount of effort and hard work which means that it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re able to prepare yourself both mentally and physically, you’ll be able to make progress and reach your goals.

The second kind of daily discipline is not just doing the activity but doing it well. What I mean by that is that you have to be concentrating solely on that activity. You should not be checking your social media, texting your friends, or watching Netflix at the same time. This kind of discipline takes narrow and complete focus. It’s simply a fact from my own experience among other people I’ve read about is that you have to be working on the one mental and/or physical activity at a time in order to achieve the most gains. This is the hardest part when it comes to having discipline because there are so many distractions in today’s world so that it can be difficult to focus only on one task at a time.

However, I’m telling you that it is completely possible and you need to have a strong sense of self-control in order to be able to do it. Daily discipline is not for everybody and it’s going to take sacrifices. If you really want to achieve something great, you really have to dedicate a lot of time and effort to it. Unless you are a natural-born genius who excels in all areas of life, you won’t be able to achieve your goals unless you’re dedicated to it 100%. If you want to do something badly enough, then you need to put the time and effort necessary into it in order to become great at it.

To use myself as a personal example, I’ve written over one hundred thousand words on my blog at this point. I would say that I’m a good writer but I have a long way to go. I’m humble about my abilities because I’ve read some truly excellent writers who have a lot more dedication to the craft than I do at the moment. I’m hoping to change that in the future but to be a great writer; it takes serious discipline, focus, and a canny ability to make observations about the world in a succinct way. I still have a goal to become a great and renowned writer but it’s going to take a lot more time and effort on my part. I have to be committed to it and to keep practicing which is what this website is for.

As I mentioned in the previous article, The Passage of Time, time is precious and it is fleeting. You have to choose what you devote your time to. That being said, if you have a serious goal that you want to accomplish or a physical / mental activity that you want to excel at, you need daily discipline. An hour a day every day of the week will put you on the right track more so than just an hour per week total. If you would rather binge watch Netflix or play games on your smart phone, then that’s the choice you make, but if you want to really excel at more things in your life, you’re going to need serious discipline and it’s going to have to be daily discipline. Good luck.

The Art of Traveling Solo

The famous English author, J.R.R. Tolkien, once wrote in his poem “All that is gold does not glitter” a line that should be noted for its’ truth and its’ profundity. The 2nd line of the poem states, “Not all those who wander are lost.” This is a fitting statement for those of us travelers who have stepped foot in another city or country being completely on our own. It’s not something that can be easily done and requires a bit of mental fortitude to be able to enjoy it despite the inherent challenges.

While most travelers like to go from place to place in packs, big groups, or in guided tours, I believe that it is necessary to try out traveling alone especially if you have prior experience in traveling to other cities and countries. Once you are comfortable with the art of traveling itself, I think it’s a good idea to challenge yourself by traveling alone. I won’t choose to judge you if you decide to never try it by I respect any fellow traveler more when they tell me that they have been by themselves in a new country for days, weeks, months, and even years at a time.

In order to travel alone successfully, I would recommend that a person be able to adapt or inherently have a few traits or characteristics that will put them more at ease with the idea. First, you have to be comfortable being alone. You have to be able to embrace the solitude of your thoughts and to be more observant of the world. This is a hard thing to accomplish for strictly extroverted people who thrive off of the energy of being around others. However, if you’re a strict introvert or fall somewhere in the middle of those two broad categories like myself, then you won’t find traveling solo as hard as pure extroverts. Sometimes, you will have to be alone in a restaurant, in a museum, or in your train/plane/taxi.

I think there’s a benefit to this because then you’re more likely to focus on the place you’re traveling to and be able to better absorb the culture, customs, and especially the food/drinks of the new place you’re traveling to. When you’re with your friends and family on a trip, you’re often wrapped up in what they’re thinking, what you’re going to do with them for the day, if they’re having a good time or not, etc. With friends and family, you’re in a mini-bubble that’s hard to break out of. When you’re traveling with another person or a group in general, you’re less likely to appreciate other aspects of the trip. How can you focus on the sheer beauty of the Coliseum in Rome, Italy when your close friend is trying to discuss the latest Game of Thrones episode with you?

Some critics of traveling solo also forget about the fact that you will still meet people during your travels to new places. You’ll only truly be alone if you never open your mouth and be social. It’s easier now than ever to connect with new people and make new friends due to the wonders of the Internet. Due to the popularity of websites like AirBNB, Couchsurfing, and the ubiquitous amount of hostels in every part of the globe, even if you travel alone for an extended period of time, it’s still easy to meet people due to the sharing economy’s emphasis on affordable, shared living spaces.

I also couldn’t forget the sheer amount of other opportunities to have language exchanges, expat gatherings, and to just make the effort to open your mouth to someone and start a conversation. I find that it’s easier to meet people on the road than it is when I’m at home because they’re curious about where you’re from, how long you have been traveling for, and what you are doing in their country, etc. and you’ll also be curious about the same things.

During my recent trip to Santa Marta, which was done solo, I was able to befriend my kind AirBNB host from Bogota, hang out with the locals at a bar, and practice my beginner Portuguese with a Brazilian woman from Rio de Janeiro. When you’re traveling alone, you really have to put yourself out there and be more social. That’s not easy for a lot of people but it’s important to try it at least once. If you have any kind of social anxiety or shyness, you’ll be able to overcome it more and more due to solo travels.

Traveling alone is something that you have to ease into over time. I think it’s wise to start with a day trip to a nearby city where you don’t know anyone and then eventually work your way up to visiting a new country by yourself for a few days or a week. Personally, the longest that I’ve traveled by myself for has been about two weeks. I’d like to eventually reach that level of a month or more on the road without anyone holding my hand. Traveling alone forces you out of your comfort zone and mentally challenges you. You have to navigate a new city and country, practice the language by yourself, and be able to handle flights, trains, and buses without the guidance of others.

While this is not easy and takes practice, you’ll feel more confident and sure of yourself as a result. The times where you could have been taking selfies with your friends or partying until the wee hours of the morning are instead focused on having a nice coffee by the river or taking your time in an art museum by going through the galleries at your own pace. Traveling solo is a good time to be selfish as you can set your schedule, your own destinations, and decide where you want to go and when you want to go. There’s nobody holding you back and that’s quite liberating. I often get a feeling of true freedom while traveling alone that’s not easily replicated.

Even if there was no one else physically with me, I have nice memories of my past solo travels. The moment when I woke up on my train to Krakow, Poland in the early morning to open my window to see fresh snow on the ground and the sun rising as we entered the train station. The feeling of pure relaxation as I enjoyed a nice mid-day cappuccino with a view of the Prague skyline in the Czech Republic, and the absolute quiet I felt as I sat on the beach in Parque Tayrona, Colombia and heard nothing but the soft, sea breeze and the waves splashing against my feet. These are the memories that I will cherish and never forget. That is why I enjoy the art of solo traveling.

Hitting The Gym: A Test of Willpower

It's easier now than ever to stay in shape but why do people still refuse to hit the gym? It's a test of willpower.
It’s easier now than ever to stay in shape but why do people still refuse to hit the gym? It’s a test of willpower.

 It’s a constant struggle. The motivation and perseverance needed to go work out after a long day at the office, school, etc. It’s become such a growing part of our society especially with the modern amenities, the number and size of these gyms increasing day by day. As I get older, it’s becoming more and more apart of my weekly routine as my daily opportunities for exercise and fitness are starting to decline due to sheer laziness or the business of my schedule.

It makes me miss those days before college where I would participate in mandatory gym class during school and then do varsity sports after classes ended. I think that despite the crowded treadmills, overworked weight-lifting machines and the sometime obnoxious guys who live for the gym experience 24/7, it’s not such a bad routine to get into for those who don’t really partake in it yet. It relieves stress, clears your mind and makes you stronger.

 People do a lot of things to make themselves feel good, why not add going to the gym to that list? It certainly would lead to a more fit and happy world in a sense especially if it’s not too expensive and could appeal to anybody. Who knows? You might just like it so much that you go four-five times a week and become super-strong. Personally, I don’t recommend doing that. My body usually gets sore and aches if I go more than twice or three times a week and that usually means you’re doing something right. The hard work of running, lifting, jumping, stretching usually pays off if you put in enough effort into it which is the main reason going to the gym is worth your time in the long run.

 My point is that most people in this world do not have the luxury of going to the gym or even having access to one let alone affording a membership. It is a luxury we often take for granted in our advanced society but those who are lucky enough to have the means to do it should not hesitate to indulge every once and a while. There are two extremes today when it comes to the relative fitness of the world. Obesity rates and the number of overweight people are increasing at an alarming rate within the developed world while there are still a billion or more people out there who starve and suffer for a daily ration of food each day.

This goes to show that Gyms are not for everyone and that not everyone needs or should go to the gym. I do see them becoming more central to certain people’s livelihoods who can’t live without them do to their busy schedules or lack of other means of exercise. The gym is not for everyone but it should be in a way. Gym class was my favorite in my elementary school and it was a great opportunity to mingle with my friends. Exercise is good for you and while the modern gym is not as accessible or as affordable as it should be, it’s a step in the right direction in terms of giving society the means to improve themselves physically and mentally if they so choose to.