After crossing the finish line of my first half marathon, I came across this guy who had completed the run barefoot, and that too in just over 1.5 hrs. This was fantastic timing for any amateur — much better than mine, for sure.
Post-run, my friends and I were celebrating, clicking photos with our medals as if we had beaten Michael Phelps in swimming.
But that barefoot guy was just casually chatting with some people — no photos, no celebrations, no triumphalism.
Why was that?
Since it was probably that barefoot guy’s 10th or 20th half marathon, he knew what to expect — no surprise.
Our brain’s reward system is designed to get excited about ‘getting more’, not what we already have. It does this by releasing copious amounts of dopamine when we get a positive surprise.
This reward system seems messed up — why would it make us constantly seek more and feel unhappy? Because it helped our ancestors survive by always looking for more food, more resources.
Unfortunately, what was once good for survival is often no longer good for happiness. Case in point — eating too much sugar.
By taking things for granted and always seeking more, we end up perpetually unhappy.
In fact, when I finished the next half-marathon, I took no photos. I just went home and dumped the medal somewhere.
Happiness has nothing to do with the world outside, but the one inside our brain.