Then There Were 10D Glasses — Recommended Reading

Bryanton, Rob. Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking About Time and Space. 2006, Oxford, UK: Trafford Publishing.

For thousands of years, we had the rich inner pictures we perceived from elaborate storytelling.  Then there were the 2D images in black-and-white then in color on the big movie screen.  Now we have 3D images popping out at us, from screens big and little.  In Imagining the Tenth Dimension, Bryanton jumps way past 2D and 3D to 10D, inviting us to imagine the 10D reality that physicists tell us we live in, and possible implications of that 10D reality.

For the timid of mind, Bryanton starts by warning the reader that, “anyone wanting to dismiss the levels of detail we are imagining in these pages as ‘too extravagant’ would do well to keep in mind how extraordinarily, inconceivably extravagant we already know the universe to be” (p 5).  “All of these theories [of physics, such as string theory] tell us that it is the harmonics of superstring vibrations happening in the tenth spatial dimension that create the basic laws that define our reality–the strength of gravity, the charge, spin and nature of subatomic particles…It is the energy of these strings’ vibrations which is converted into mass” (p 5).

Bryanton walks us quickly through the initial build up of the dimensions, showing that 0D is a point, 1D is a straight line, 2D is a split, a branch into two lines, creating a plane, and 3D is a fold, which is “what we move through to get from one point to another in the dimension below” (p 11).  Instead of adding a third dimension to space, creating a volume, like most do, Bryanton uses the fold to start us thinking about how we perceive reality differently from different dimensions, a mechanism he uses in the subsequent dimensions.  So, the third dimension is how we can jump from one point to another in the perception of the second dimension.

He now repeats this pattern with the 4D being a line, which connects two points or states of existence of the 3D being.  Two different states of you, for example, connected with a line, as perceived from 4D.  5D is a split, branching into different possible lines.  You know one of those lines, which you live on as time, because that is the one you lived on, in your 3D experience of a 4D reality, branching in 5D.  Which branch you experience is a function of choice and circumstance. 6D is then a fold into different worlds of branches you, as you experience yourself, did not take.  The pattern then repeats, with 7D being a line of all possible timelines for the universe we experience, 8D is a split, and 9D is a fold.  10D consists of the vibrating strings that make up existence, according to string theory.

This is how Bryanton builds up an inner image of the experience of 10D reality.  For the rest of the book, he looks at some implications of this image.  Such as, what or who chooses the path we take at each branch in the 2D, 5D, and 8Ds?  Is it you when you are aware, conditions when you are not, or a higher-order existence?  He then explores the notion of time.  Does time exist as a separate thing, a dimension, or is time what we call the experience of movement through the changing of energy states?  If existence is full of energy everywhere, and energy moves, through power and work, then maybe the higher order dimensions of energy shifting states is what we call time, in our 3D experience of reality.  And we only experience one line of shifts in form–our time–because that is the one we experienced.  Time is what 3Ders, like us, call the experience of 4D.  Bryanton also explores why the speed of light is constant, while Einstein found all other speeds to be relative.  “In the ten dimensions as we’re imagining them, the speed of light is defined by interactions in a higher dimension than the one we live in.  This is how it can be independent of how we move in the fourth dimensions.”

Through these explorations, Bryanton leads us to choice. “As creatures with free will, we are constantly moving through the fifth dimensional paths that are available to us, selecting one of those paths as our personal timeline…a life-changing decision or event that breaks old habits and old patterns will certainly direct a person’s life to a new trajectory, making other future paths more likely to be followed from that point on” (pp 118-119).  Awareness matters.  Choice makes a difference.  And this is the link to ecosynomics, that choice makes a difference in the agreements we consciously enter, and that these agreements change everything.  And, as I explored in an earlier blog, you already know all of this, from your own experience.  The question is whether you use what you know to choose the agreements that influence the interactions that determine the experience and outcomes you achieve every day.  With Bryanton’s enjoyable read, you have 10D glasses with which to perceive the multi-color, multi-possibility universe of choice before you.  It is your choice whether or not you put on the 10D glasses.


Your Wishes Come True

“That’s what humans never understand…They’re so seduced by the material world, they think that’s what’s real.  But all the things they touch and see and measure, they’re just—wishes come true.  The reality is the wishing.  The desire.  The only things that are real are beings who wish.”

— Orson Scott Card in Magic Street (2006 Ballantine Books, New York, p. 350)

Get Real! More Real.

When we look into the world, we see stuff.  Technically we can call what we see “resources.”  There is a big debate about which resources are “real.”  A more nuanced debate asks, “Which resources are ‘more real’?”   Things we can touch.  Specific outcomes — nouns.

Are nouns, enhanced by the dynamic development of the noun over time (verbs), and future possibilities (light) more real?  Are the plain nouns more real, or are the enhanced nouns more real?

Or are the possibilities to which we dedicate most of our creative efforts more real?  Think about the time and energy that goes into building the house you designed, way before you ever lived in the house.  Are the possibilities that we develop over time, into something we can touch, more real?

The Noun Perspective.  When we focus on productivity and wealth, the “real” factors of nouns that are here now can possibly be enhanced by specific verbs and light.  This is the formulation of classical political economics.

The Light Perspective.  When we focus on sustainable growth, the “real” factors for disruptive innovation are possibility, development, and outcomes.

If you are going to get real, which perspective do you take?

Do You Extract Value, Create It, or Release Its Potential? — Part 2 — Levels of Reality Included

If you prefer higher vibrancy, energy-enhancing experiences to lower vibrancy, energy-depleting experiences, then our survey research in 93 countries and field research in 9 countries suggests that you also prefer agreements that include the possibility, development, and outcomes levels of reality.

In a previous blogpost, historians showed us that there are two types of political and economic institutions, to which we added a third, based on our field research with positive deviants.  Political and economic institutions tend to be based on value extracting, value creating, or value potential-releasing agreements, three different theories of value.

Now I suggest how the value you experience connects with these theories of value.

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Value-extracting agreements.  The focus is on extracting value from another party in the moment of the exchange.  These agreements and institutions see how much resource there is and try to appropriate as much of it as possible.  To determine the value of a specific resource, as it is exchanged at a specific moment in time, economists like Alfred Marshall created an extraordinary tool, the supply-demand curves, which allow you to estimate the value (the price) at which two parties are willing to exchange a given quantity of the resource.  This insight on price now lies at the foundation of market-based economic theories of value exchange, according to Nobel laureate in economics Paul Samuelson.  To find the value in the moment of exchange, the supply-demand curve looks at the exchange right now right here.  This formulation embraces the outcomes-noun level of reality, what is available now here.  This limits the analysis, not allowing for realities that change over time and space or over possibilities.

Value-creating agreements.  The focus is on creating value by leveraging the dynamics of value amongst multiple parties with multiple, interrelated resources.  These agreements and institutions look over space and time at the net effect of the resource’s inflows and outflows, which are connected to the ebbs and flows of other resources.  By seeing these dynamics, they are able to look over time to leverage the creation of value in resources, and thus be able to assess the net value for each party of any given resource at a specific moment.  Tools like Jay Forrester‘s system dynamics mapping of resource dynamics assesses each resource, its inflows and outflows, the connections amongst the resources, and the overall dynamics influencing them.  To this tool, my colleagues and I added tools for qualitative and quantitative strategic analysis of the dynamics.  This formulation embraces both the development-verb and outcomes-noun levels of perceived reality.  This dynamic structure limits the analysis, not allowing for seeing the potential in new possibilities.

Value-possibility-catalyzing agreements.  The focus is on the latent value potential that is available, that can be seen.  These agreements and institutions look at the potential available in the people and resources around them.  What is possible?  What can we say yes to?  They are able to see the potential, as well as the pathways for developing that potential over time, and the outcomes that will result along that pathway.  This focus embraces the possibility, development, and outcomes levels of perceived reality.  To work with the dozens of groups we have identified who work with these value-possibility-catalyzing agreements, we developed the Agreements Evidence Mapping tool, which maps the agreements that explicitly work with each of the three levels of perceived reality (possibility, development, outcomes).

Coming back to where we started, in this post, if people seem to prefer higher vibrancy experiences to lower vibrancy experiences, they also seem to prefer agreements that embrace more of the perceived levels of reality than less.  Connecting this with the historical observation about political institutions that support value extraction, value creation, or value possibility catalysis, it seems that people would prefer value-possibility-catalyzing agreements to value-extraction agreements, as they go hand in hand.  Yet, we still live mostly in value-extraction systems.  Why?  What do you see?

4 Scenarios of HUGE Success

Huge success is the game.  What rules of the game are you following?  And what resources are you playing with?  The perennial questions.

I observe four very different approaches to these questions, and few people realize that they are playing under one of these four very different scenarios.  The four scenarios vary by whether you are using the same or different resources and processes as the bulk of humanity and by whether you assume the same or different realities as the bulk of humanity, as shown in the figure below.

4 scenarios of processes and realities 040615a


“Best practice” followers (Q1). Is this you?  You might be a “best practice” follower if you use the same resources and the same processes that most everyone else does.  You look to see what others in your industry and in your local area are doing, and you take on their best practices.  You are always doing the best you can to keep up with the pack.  You probably provide good services and have good relationships with your suppliers and customers.  And, you are often worn out; fatigued from the constant demands on your time.

The common story describes the groups in this scenario as market followers, the somewhat-risk-averse majority of folks who take up new resources and processes once they have been proven by the innovators and early adopters.  The common recommendation is that these groups regularly benchmark themselves against best practices in the industry.

The Ecosynomic story describes groups in this scenario as living predominantly in the reality of outcomes, focused on improving the performance of the proven capacities they already have.  This is the things or noun level of reality.  Some groups in this scenario are also dipping their toes into the strange waters of the reality of development, learning, and capacity building.  Our research at the Institute for Strategic Clarity finds that this scenario describes the experience most people have in most organizations and communities.

What can you do if you are living the scenario of the “best practice” followers?  Ask yourself, “Is this the best experience and are these the best outcomes that I know are available to our group?  Are we capable of better?”  If you know, somehow, that your group is capable of more, you might explore the Harmonic Vibrancy Move process, which guides you to finding the processes and agreements that you prefer.

“Great” performers (Q2). You might be a “great” performer if you tend to be on the leading edge of innovating and adopting new resources and processes.  You are often described by others as being among the best at what you do, keeping ahead of the pack.  You are proud that you provide great services to your customers and have great relationships with your suppliers.  You often experience exhilaration at your many successes, while combating continuous burn out from always running on all cylinders.

The common story describes groups in this scenario as innovators and early adopters, pushing the edge and redefining how they play within the current game.  Many of these groups are described in the “great companies” categories of business journals and books.  They are finding much more effective and efficient ways to do their work.

The Ecosynomic story of this scenario describes groups that use different tactics in the same game.  They are looking for the leading edge, usually within the same sandbox, always asking, “How do we do this better?”

What can you do if this scenario describes your reality?  Would you like to push much further, achieving much better outcomes (the destination) and much better experiences along the way (the journey)?  You might explore the results and experiences people are having when they change the foundational rules of the game, playing with different realities than everyone else.

The “amazing” needy (Q3). You might be one of the “amazing” needy if you are a magnet for amazing people.  Everyone marvels about what you are able to do, who you are, and the principles that guide your life and work.  You have great relationships with almost everyone, from your customers and your fellow employees to your suppliers and others working in the same industry and region.  And, you always struggle to stay afloat.  You never have enough money.  Many people try to help you stay afloat by recommending processes or resources (“I know a great fundraiser.”) that you don’t feel are quite right for your culture, but you are not sure why.

The common story describes the groups in this scenario as inefficient at best, and just plain odd.  While these groups work hard to do some great work, they just don’t follow good practices, as evidenced by their consistent struggle to stay afloat.

The Ecosynomic story of this scenario suggests that groups in this scenario are operating, often unconsciously, from a completely different reality than the bulk of people.  They have embraced, for some reason, the realities of potential, development, and outcomes, all at the same time, giving great importance to healthy relationships in all five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  They have also accepted “common” practices for how people decide what resources they have, who decides how to allocate those resources and how to enforce that decision, the criteria used to allocate the resources, and how people interact.  These common practices usually limit the abundance-based culture you want to live into, capturing you in a scarcity-based process and experience.  In this scenario, we find many frustrated social entrepreneurs who don’t know there are others who have figured some of this out — how to live this culture from abundance-based practices.

What can you do if you are living this scenario?  By making explicit the deeper assumptions about reality embedded in your processes, you can see if they are aligned with the deeper assumptions in your culture.  If they are not, then you can use the Harmonic Vibrancy Move process to identify agreements, processes, and structures that others have discovered that do align with your abundance-based culture.

The “weird” mavericks (Q4). You might be one of the “weird” mavericks if you are extremely clear and persistently dogmatic about your vision for a better way of engaging in the world, with a heavy focus on developing and sustaining very strong relationships and outcomes.  You are often described, equally by those who know you and those who don’t, as a maverick, who won’t play by the rules of the game; a weird ruler breaker, who when successful has changed the entire game everyone else plays.  While you have great relationships, within your culture, you feel all alone in the world, without peers that recognize the seeming obviousness of what you are doing.

The common story is that people in this scenario are outliers, thus they don’t fit in the norm, and are discarded from normal analysis.  They are far from accepted practice.  Their practices look weird, and while they have proven to be lucky over and over again, they are not to be imitated.

The Ecosynomic story suggests that this scenario is not odd, weird, or lucky, rather that these people are discovering the new normal, the reality we all want to live and don’t see how.  Our research now shows that the reason these groups are hard to understand is because they are playing a different game, a game where you can sustain high levels of success in your outcomes and experiences.  We have documented over 20,000 groups living this way, right out in the open, and we have met 77 of them in the past five years.  It is not weird, it is different.  Different realities driving different resources and processes that lead to different outcomes and experiences, the outcomes and experiences we all want.

What can you do if this scenario is your reality?  In the 77 groups like this that we have met, most are quite unconscious of what it is that makes them so successful.  By looking at their own agreements through the four lenses of the Agreements Evidence Map, they have been able to consciously choose their agreements, and how they want to improve on them.

Is Greed Amoral or Immoral?

Greed seems to rule the day.  A Google search shows tens of millions of “greed in news” stories, using greed to “explain” what is not working in political-economic systems today.  I suggest that to be able to do something about this greed that so preoccupies us, we need to understand it a little better.

In that vain, I ask whether greed is intentional (cause) or unintentional (effect).  Is greed the cause of the behavior, meaning the greedy want to be greedy and act accordingly, or is greed the effect of the behavior, meaning it happens when people act out normal behaviors within certain contexts?  If it’s a cause, then we need to address the intentional cause.  If it’s an effect, then we need to address the unintentional cause.

From an Ecosynomics perspective, I suggest that some of what people call “greed” is intended or chosen, and most of that perceived greed is unintended, a resultant of not paying attention.  Here I want to nuance two subtleties, the level of reality perceived and the level of moral awareness.

Level of reality perceived.  In earlier blog posts, I have made a distinction between the things-outcomes level of reality of here-now and the development-motion level of reality over time.  At the things-outcome level, what is available in the moment seems to be scarce.  Greed at the things-outcome level covets what it does not have.  This is the Oxford English Dictionary definition of greed, an “intense or inordinate longing, esp. for wealth or food.”  At the development-motion level, what is available over time depends on net effect of the ebbs and flows in the network of resources.  Greed at the development-motion level manipulates the consequences over time and space to achieve one’s own ends.

Level of moral awareness.  To oversimplify a complex field of inquiry, philosophers suggest three broad approaches to morals-ethics.  Morals-ethics, in general, invoke a development-motion level of awareness or reality, suggesting that one must look at the intentions in one’s actions and the consequences of one’s actions over time.  Three broad approaches have evolved in moral-ethical philosophy: virtue; deontological; and teleological.  Virtue-based approaches focus on the importance of one’s intention or character in the moment of decision, asking, “What person should I be?”  Deontological approaches focus on how well an action conforms to a set of duties, “What should I do, in this role?”  Teleological approaches focus on the consequences of an action, asking “What should I do, to maximize the net positive impact of my actions?”  These three approaches all look at the intention and character I bring to my actions, looking over time.

One last distinction, between immoral and amoral.  Immoral is directly not moral, being contrary to established moral principles, to the fundamental agreements in one’s context.  Amoral is non-moral, neither moral or immoral, simply lacking moral sensitivity.  So a person can be aware (immoral) or unaware (amoral) of acting contrary to accepted morals.

Putting these three distinctions together, greed can be a cause or an effect, at the things-outcome or development-motion levels of perceived reality, in an immoral or amoral fashion.  If the three morals-ethics approaches (virtue, deontological, and teleological) invoke the development-motion level of perceived reality, people perceiving reality only at the things-outcome level must not be aware of the development-motion invocations, thus acting amorally, without sensitivity to the moral framings of intention and consequences over time.

What to do.  This rather abstract framing, suggests a practical approach to dealing with greed.

Differentiate whether one is dealing with someone who is:

  • aware of their behavior (they are conscious of it and have chosen it) with contextual clarity (they understand the context of intentions and consequences)
  • unaware of their behavior (they are unconscious of it and have accepted it as the only given possibility) with contextual obscurity (they do not understand the context of intentions and consequences)

Engage with the one acting greedy.

  • If they are aware, then they are acting contrary to moral-ethics, an immoral greed.  In this case, one must address the greedy behavior of the individual.
  • If they are unaware, then they are acting with insensitivity to the moral-ethics, an amoral greed.  In this case, one can bring awareness to the individual, believing that awareness might shift the behavior, or address the context, changing the agreements in the system.

This differentiation of awareness of levels of perceived reality and levels of morality enables us to see whether what seems to be greedy is an intentional, fully aware behavior or an unintentional, fully unaware behavior.  In the first case, the individual knows what they are doing and that needs to be addressed directly with that individual.  In the second case, the individual does not know what they are doing, and this opens up the possibility of increasing their awareness or changing their context.

Is Slowing Down Unsustainable Practices Enough? – Recommended Reading

Ehrenfeld, John R., & Hoffman, Andrew J. (2013). Flourishing: A Frank Conversation About Sustainability. Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books.

Is slowing down unsustainable practices enough? Not according to a retired MIT professor and a University of Michigan professor. Trashing the environment at a slower rate is not the same as improving the environment. Not even close. To clarify the difference, I recommend reading Flourishing: A Frank Conversation About Sustainability (Stanford Business Books, 2013). Long-standing voice for sustainability John Ehrenfeld and his co-author Andrew Hoffman take a strong stand on what is sustainable behavior and what is not.

While acknowledging the benefit of reducing the behaviors that wildly deteriorate the environment, the authors argue that reducing a negative is not the same thing as increasing a positive. Throwing fewer pollutants into the water is still polluting, and is not the same as throwing no pollutants in the water. They find that green-washing language in many businesses today obscures the fact that the business’ actions are not increasing positive-sustainability as much as reducing negative-unsustainability.

Ehrenfeld defines sustainability as, “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on the Earth forever.” To point at the major problems with current ways of greening sustainability, Ehrenfeld and Hoffman focus on the cultural myth of perpetual growth, and on many of the corporate social responsibility solutions that are wrong-headed, at best reducing unsustainability. They suggest that to refocus on increasing positive-sustainability will require that people start by re-examining what it means to be human – what we are and what we want – and where humans are within the whole of the social and natural world.

What is the Ecosynomic lens on this story? Trying to reduce unsustainable practices only at the “things-outcome” level of perceived reality does not necessarily change the unsustainable practices at the “development-motion” level of reality, which sooner than later generates the things-level problem. Furthermore, when we are not working and being more sustainable simultaneously at all three levels of perceived reality (possibility, development, things), we are not realizing a more sustainable world, rather we are fighting the unsustainable things-world we are realizing. Said another way, if we imagine an unsustainable world at the possibility level, through our beliefs and myths, and we bring it into being at the development level, then no matter how hard we fight it at the things level, the unsustainable world will continue to show up. To change this, we therefore need to change how we see a sustainable world in all three levels of reality – in possibility, in development, and in things. To do this, we need to see (1) how we perceive the experiences and outcomes we desire through the five primary relationships, and (2) how to change our agreements to achieve these experiences and outcomes. Our free on-line survey is a tool for looking at how sustainable your agreements are, and the Ecosynomics framework shows how to see and choose the new agreements. The hopeful news is that it is possible to envision and enact a sustainable world, and that we have identified tens of thousands of communities and businesses that are doing just that.

Abundance in Relationship ≠ Excess

I say “abundance.” Some hear possibility.  Others hear excess, waste, unlimited growth, or limitless-infinite consumption of more things.  To be clear upfront, I completely agree that we need to stop wasting resources and greatly reduce excess.  I have worked on those issues tirelessly since the late 1980s.  As a matter of fact, that is the point I want to make: we need to stop wasting resources and greatly reduce excess.  And, I find that the current discourse on reducing waste and excess tries to do it in exactly the wrong way, by pushing on scarcity.  To cut to the punch line, if you assume scarcity and try to reduce waste and excess, you create it.  If you assume abundance, in relationship, then the waste and excess go away.  They never come into being in the first place.  I see it as an issue of how to voice what is actually meant and wanted in “don’t trash the planet” sustainability.

While there are an infinite number of intellectual definitions out there today, I define abundance and scarcity through your own experience.  In the experience of abundance, you experience infinite potential, the energy-enhancing possibility in how to relate to what may come and what is showing up.  In the experience of scarcity, you experience the energy-depleting lack of what is needed here now.

When we assume everything is scarce in the world, we see abundance as excess, using too much.  Our research suggests that when assuming scarcity for everything, one of necessity ends up in a collapsed state of relationships.  There just is not enough experience of my own self, of the other, of my unique contribution to the group, of the outcomes we manifest and the resources we have and value, and of the access to creativity we cherish.  There just is not enough of anything, a state of collapse.

When we assume abundance in our experience in the world, we see abundance as being in relationship, in all five primary relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  I can choose to be fully who I see myself as, now and in the future, you and I support that potential and growth fully in each other, contributing the best we can to the group, out of possibility, development, and outcomes levels of reality, working with the creativity available everywhere in everyone all of the time.  There is more than enough, depending how we are in relationship.

This brings me to three different definitions of abundance, depending on the levels of reality one perceives.  Abundance at the things-outcomes level means having enough right here right now.  This is abundance-in-sufficiency.  Abundance at the development-motion level means a net positive rate of flow, where more comes in than goes out.  This is the United Nations definition of sustainability.  This is abundance-in-positive-net-flow.  Abundance at the possibility-light level means infinite potential.  This is abundance-in-potential.  I have found, in hundreds of conversations in dozens of countries, that people commonly experience all three levels of abundance, abundance of possibility and development and things, of light, motion, and matter.  Abundance-in-potential, abundance-in-positive-net-flow, and abundance-in-sufficiency.  All three.

Now back to the question of why to define “abundance” in the first place.  I see that defining terms guides us to a more fundamental understanding of the “how” and the “why.”  The “how” lets us see what we can do.  From our experience, we know that starting with the assumption of scarcity limits what can be seen, while starting with abundance invites creativity.  What can be seen from abundance about being in sustainable relationship (abundance in relationship) is far greater than what can be seen from scarcity in minimizing excess.  The “why” brings in one’s intention, the purpose for engaging in the how.  As we have seen in previous blog posts, it is much easier to motivate from possibility than from lack.

Give Yourself Abundant Treats-lite

Making something a treat makes it special.  When it is not a treat, we get tired of it, even the things we think we love.  So say researchers Dunn and Norton in their review of research on money and happiness (Dunn & Norton, 2013, Ch 2).  Based on the wisdom of this observation, the common suggestion is to limit yourself.  Said another way, scarcity of what we love is better than abundance of it.

Ecosynomics suggests an alternative perspective.  Is giving yourself a treat about (1) limiting how much you can have at any given time (the lack of things in the moment) or (2) living into the co-existence of possibility-development-things of the treat?  “The French use the verb se réjouir (to rejoice – to have joy again, to be delighted) to capture the experience of deriving pleasure from anticipating the future.  The se réjouir period provides a source of pleasure that comes free with purchase, supplementing the joy of actual consumption” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 80-81).

“Our tendency to derive more joy from things coming to us in the future than from things already received extends far beyond toys.  In a study of more than one thousand people in the Netherlands, vacationers exhibited a bigger happiness boost in the weeks before their trip, rather than in the weeks afterwards.” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 81; Nawjin, Marchand, Veenhoven, & Vingerhoets, 2010)

So, when you approach a treat from the perspectives of the future potential, the experiencing of it, and the actual thing, then you give yourself an abundance of treats.  This is completely different than trying to maximize your enjoyment of the treat by making it a scarce thing.  While the amount consumed, in the moment, might be the same whether starting from abundance or scarcity, the human experience is not, at least according to this research.


Dunn, Elizabeth, & Norton, Michael. (2013). Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Nawjin, Jeroen, Marchand, Miquelle A., Veenhoven, Ruut, & Vingerhoets, Ad J. (2010). Vacationers Happier, But Most not Happier After a Holiday. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 5(1), 35-47.

To Be or Not to Be, Happy with Money, That Is the Question

Dunn, Elizabeth, & Norton, Michael. (2013). Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Most experiences of money do not increase happiness.  Some do.  So say 2002 Nobel laureate in economics Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues (Kahneman & Deaton, 2010; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, & Stone, 2006).  In their new book Happy Money (2013), professors Dunn and Norton show us the research that explains why.  From an Ecosynomics perspective, this research shows that happiness comes from the experience of potential and development and things, light and motion and matterthe interweaving experience of all three levels of perceived reality.  The lack of happiness comes from valuing only the things level of reality.  Dunn and Norton say it so well, that I use quotes from their book to explain the observation.

Only the Things Level.  What happens when people experience money only at the things-matter level? “Material purchases offer clear, concrete benefits, explaining their appeal.  We can see them in front of us and hold them in our hands” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 22).  And the value we experience, in terms of increased happiness, fades quickly with material purchases.  In many cases, we derive more happiness from the anticipation of the purchase than the actual purchase.  “Why do we fail to recognize that consuming later can enhance enjoyment?  Research shows that when something nice is available immediately, the “power of now” dwarfs all else” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 90).  “It’s difficult to overcome the power of now, but it’s possible to harness this force” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 102-103).

Both the Development and Things Levels.  What happens in experiential purchases (over time) versus material-transaction purchases, when both the development and things levels of reality are perceived?  “Research shows that satisfaction with experiential purchases tends to increase with the passage of time, while satisfaction with material purchases tends to decrease” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, pp. 23-24).  “Because the benefits of experiences are often more abstract than the benefits of material goods, it’s easier to appreciate the value of experiential purchases with the psychological distance that time provides”  (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 23).

And the Possibility Level. “The ability to generate pleasant thoughts about the future is a hallmark of psychological health…Anticipating good things produces a distinct pattern of neural activation in the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain linked to the experience of pleasure and reward” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 82; Knutson & Peterson, 2005, p. 310).  “The same region of the brain that responds when we anticipate something good (the nucleus accumbens) loses interest once we’ve gotten it” (Dunn & Norton, 2013, p. 86; Knutson & Peterson, 2005, p. 310).

The authors suggest five principles of happy money, making choices about how we spend money on experiences we have in all three levels of perceived reality (possibility, development, things), and not just the things level.  They provide the research that shows these five principles will increase the happiness we derive from the use of our money.  I highly recommend Happy Money as a very accessible journey through the research that shows how to get the most value of one’s experiences around money.


Kahneman, Daniel, & Deaton, Angus. (2010). High Income Improves Evaluation of Life But Not Emotional Well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16489-16493.

Kahneman, Daniel, Krueger, Alan B, Schkade, David, Schwarz, Norbert, & Stone, Arthur A. (2006). Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer?  A Focusing Illusion. Science, 312(5782), 1908-1910.

Knutson, Brian, & Peterson, Richard. (2005). Neurally Reconstructing Expected Utility. Games and Economic Behavior, 52(2), 305-315.