When enough is enough: the ‘medium chill’

Got the time?
Got the time?

We were talking the other day about overworked America and Mother Jones’ idea of the “great speedup.” Everyone’s working faster and companies are getting richer, but who’s getting happier?

David Roberts at Grist proposes a cure: the “medium chill.”

The medium chill involves what economists call satisficing: abandoning the quest for the ideal in favor of the good-enough. It means stepping off the aspirational treadmill, foregoing some material opportunities and accepting some material constraints in exchange for more time to spend on relationships and experiences.

It turns out, though, that satisficing doesn’t come easy to us human beings. We have an extremely hard time saying, “okay, this is good enough.” Why?

Part of the reason is that we hate closing off opportunities, and that’s what satisficing feels like. We like to keep our options open in case something better comes along.

But will a better thing make us happier? We’re inclined to think, “of course it would!” But that’s because, as social psychologists have come to understand quite well, we’re not very good at predicting what will make us happy. In fact, we suck at it.

So if we’re chasing the wrong stuff for happiness, and we can’t predict what the right stuff is, how do we get there? How do we get around this moment in American economic history? The medium chill starts with making friends and building better places for hanging out. I think this is the part where you go to the park for the Fourth of July and come home having spent nothing and thinking it was the best day ever. I think.


When enough is enough: the 'medium chill'