I was just reading an interesting article by Peter Bregman on the Harvard Business Review blogs, called "How to Use Temptation to Strengthen Your Willpower." It first caught my eye because he was writing about a retreat at a place near where I live in Oregon.
But what really got my attention was the notion of "always wanting more" phenomenon (aka the Hedonic Treadmill) that he describes:
We relentlessly pursue things and experiences that we think will make us happier. But once we acquire them, we quickly return to our previous level of happiness. So then we look for the next thing.
This sounds familiar to me, as my love for gadgets is kind of like this, to name one of my "vices." Another thing in his article resonated with me, as well:
Maybe getting the object of our desire isn't what we really desire. Maybe it's the desire itself which we desire. In other words, maybe it's more pleasurable to want things than to have them.
In other words, maybe the quest for what we want is worth more than getting it. In some cases, I think that is certainly true, but we also need to obtain enough of our desired outcomes to drive our sense of progress, as well as to allow us allow us to move to the next phase of our journey.
The big question: when does our questing become detrimental? From my experience, there is a fine line between healthy focus and obsessive / compulsive pursuit, or even an addiction. This is where I find that an objective coach or mentor can be a huge ally - whether it is a friend, coworker, roommate, spouse, or someone else you can trust to be straight with you (like a "sponsor" in a 12-step program).
The other aspect that I really liked about Bregman's article is the notion of using delayed gratification to make the experience more pleasant once you release the tension. I encourage you to read what Bregman has to say - it is really good.