Surprise Saturday: The Half-Life of Desire

315 km/h - the fastest I’ve ever gone in a car. That’s 195.7 miles per hour, more than twice the highest speed limit you can find anywhere in the United States.

Was it thrilling? You bet. Nerve-wracking? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Maybe.

But if I die without ever driving this fast again, I won’t lose sleep over it.

That’s a big statement coming from someone who basically learned to speak by playing a game called “Name that car.” I grew up with toy cars, posters, magazines, racing games - and I still want a Ferrari. But setting my speed record taught me this:

The half-life of desire is short.

In chemistry, radioactive elements have a so-called half-life. It’s the time it takes for a batch of, say, uranium, to lose half its radiation power. The things we desire in life lose their radiation power really, really fast.

Of course, the quickest way is to attain them. You drive a cool car every day, you get used to it. You see your spouse every day, you take them for granted. Sometimes, achieving our goals is the only way to show us we never needed them in the first place.

But even if you’re not there yet, what once seemed all-powerful and shiny quickly loses its allure. That’s why delaying rewards is often a smart move. You can shrink them in size, and you’ll be even happier when you finally do treat yourself.

To celebrate my upcoming college graduation, I thought about renting a car. I haven’t driven a fast one in a while, so why not take a weekend and hit some cool roads? But the longer I’ve been planning it, the less I want it to be a big deal. Smaller car, smaller time frame. Do I really need three days to just drive around? I think 24 hrs is enough.

We have a saying in Germany: “Nothing’s eaten as hot as it’s cooked.”

It means that, usually, the event you fear won’t be so bad. But it also applies to the events you’re excited about. By all means, have fun. But manage your expectations.

You don’t have to drive at 200 miles an hour to enjoy the ride.


About Surprise Saturday: In the long run, the only good pattern is breaking our patterns. That’s why, every once in a while, we need a shock to the system. An unexpected idea. A creative surprise. That’s what we’ll unwrap every Saturday.

Picasso said he didn’t seek. He just found. Let’s keep exploring.

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