Say you’re running on a treadmill whose speed increases gradually and perpetually. It is absurd to think of how you can continue to keep up if only you ran faster. The only way to cope with such a treadmill is to get off it.
We are quick to recognize the folly of running faster on a real treadmill. However, our brains fall for the trap of the hedonic treadmill. We are programmed to think of how if we worked a little harder, if we earned a little more and if we increased our social stature a little, we would finally be happy.
Alas! Those two illusions aren’t too different.