Have you seen one of those tare buttons on a weighing scale? No matter how much weight you put on a machine, hitting the tare button resets the scale’s reading to zero.
Drunk people are famously poor judges of their own driving skill. Despite their reaction speeds being substantially slower than their sober selves, their minds aren’t able to discern the difference.
A similar effect results when one is sleep deprived. People who haven’t slept enough often feel fine in the moment. This leads them to burn the candle at both ends, sacrifice precious sleep and damage their health in the long term.
We also know about the hedonic treadmill. Like a spring that is stretched or compressed, our brains often return to a normal level of happiness despite the positive or negative events that happen in our lives. This is why both big money lottery winners and paraplegics return to their base level of happiness a year after their their respective fortunate and tragic accidents.
Our brain comes with a built-in tare button. Undoing this effect requires healthy skepticism, deliberate effort and constant gratitude.