An interesting paragraph that opens up a range of reading. Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice (HarperCollins, 2004) is a good place to start.
That less pleasant form of commuting has attracted attention in the growing field of happiness studies. People have all sorts of fantasies about what might make them happier, most of them centring on the theme of what they might do if they had more money, or had some specific material possession or other (a Porsche, a nose job, a holiday in Ibiza). By and large, these beliefs aren’t valid. You quickly get used to the new state of affairs and start wanting the next thing up: having that extra £10,000 makes you want a further £10,000 on top, the Porsche makes you want a Ferrari, the nose job a boob job, the Ibiza holiday another, longer Ibiza holiday. This is called “the hedonic treadmill”: we’re all hamsters running on a wheel, chasing a notion of happiness that is permanently just out of reach. One of the things this finding implies is that there is something innate about people’s level of happiness, a “set point”, as it’s called, which varies from person to person. The hedonic treadmill means that most of the things we do don’t move us far from our set point.