In this article, you will learn about the Law of Familiarity. Most people do not understand this law. As a result, they strive for happiness by pursuing the wrong things. This law also has the potential to ruin your life if you don’t understand it or treat it with respect.
When you truly understand the Law of Familiarity, you will understand where true happiness lies. You will live a more balanced life and experience more variety. You won’t take things for granted.
You have already experienced the Law of Familiarity without knowing it. As you read this article, you may well get an “a-ha” moment as you realize how this law has influenced your life.
Take the time now to get to grips with this law, so you can live a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.
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What is the Law of Familiarity
When you experience anything for enough time, it becomes familiar. You take it for granted and you appreciate it less. This could be a person, place or thing. Here are some examples of the Law of Familiarity in action.
You’ve met someone new. This time it’s your soulmate. It’s so exciting! Like a new adventure. There’s that spark, passion and all you see are their good points. You’re having a lot of fun, whilst learning and discovering more about this new special person in your life.
A few months or years go by and it seems like the spark has gone. Life seems a little dull now. You take this person for granted. You know them inside out, you know everything about them. You’ve run out of things to talk about.
Perhaps you ignore some of their good points and notice more of their bad points instead. That’s the Law of Familiarity in action. The more time you spend with that person, the more familiar they become and the more you take them for granted.
You decide to buy a brand new car. You do your research, choose the brand, model and color. You hunt for the best price. You buy it and experience the thrill of driving this new car home.
It’s got that lovely new car smell. It’s all shiny and new. Over the next few weeks, you take your new car along all your favorite roads. You really enjoy learning how all the new technology and functionality works. You’re driving along, and you’re thinking life is good! You wash it twice a week and keep it clean and tidy inside.
Six months later, you haven’t washed the car for weeks! There are cobwebs on the wing mirrors and lots of junk and clutter inside. Well, that’s the Law of Familiarity in action. You have this nice new car and then over time it becomes familiar and you take it for granted.
Holidays or Vacations
You plan your next holiday, deciding where to go and researching different destinations. You book your flights, accommodation and perhaps some tours.
Two weeks before you depart, you’re so excited about it. You’re imagining this wonderful holiday! You can’t wait to leave the office. You notice that the excitement leading up to your holiday is almost as intense as being on holiday!
You then arrive at your destination and are getting into the holiday spirit. Over the first few days you try out many new and exciting activities and explore the surrounding area. Life is great, and you’re really enjoying being on holiday,
Then after a few days, time seems to go more quickly. You become familiar with your surroundings. It feels more like a normal experience. It’s still far better than being at work, but it’s becoming more normal. Perhaps you miss your friends or some of the creature comforts you have back at home. That’s the Law of Familiarity kicking in again.
It works the other way around too!
The Law of Familiarity applies when you lose something or someone too. For example, the loss of a loved one. Initially, you naturally go through a grieving process where you really miss this person. However, over time it becomes a little easier until eventually, you gain a feeling of acceptance over the loss.
Another example is a chronic health condition. Perhaps one of those annoying conditions that is not life threatening. However, it’s something you now experience that wasn’t there in the past. It might take a while to get used to that health condition, but over time it will become more familiar to you and the new normal.
So with the two examples above, the Law of Familiarity helps you gain acceptance for something that you can’t change. So when you’ve experienced sadness or loss, the Law of Familiarity helps you heal and recover.
The Biggest Problem with the Law of Familiarity
So the biggest problem with the Law of Familiarity. The one that can really ruin your life, is complacency. Here are some examples.
You get a great new job. It’s a promotion and a significant step-up. The first few months are great. You’re really focussed, you work very hard and challenge the status quo. You come up with new ideas, change things for the better and get to know your colleagues really well.
Two years go by and your job has become very familiar. You’re more complacent. Perhaps you come in later or leave earlier. Maybe you take some of your colleagues for granted. You appreciate them less.
Meanwhile, one of your colleagues is champing at the bit for greater responsibility. He really wants a promotion and a new challenge. He believes he can do your job better than you! So who is more motivated? Is it you, or your colleague that wants your job? Of course, it’s your colleague! So you’ve really got to watch out for complacency in your career, especially in more senior roles.
Back in 2008, I was working in the IT department of a law firm in London. They made a few of my colleagues redundant as part of the economic downturn that was starting to bite. Some of these people had been with the firm for many years and had become very complacent in their roles. So it wasn’t a complete surprise to me when I found out that their roles had been affected.
So in your career, it’s important to challenge yourself, move things forward and evolve in your role.
Another area where the law of familiarity and complacency could ruin your life is intimate relationships. Let’s say you’ve been with your partner now for a few months or years and you begin to take them for granted.
Other things in life have become more important, such as your career. You have stopped doing all those romantic things that you used to do in the early days, such as date nights, buying flowers or little treats for your partner.
Perhaps you’re spending less quality time with them. Meanwhile, your partner gets attention from someone else at work. You can see where this could lead to!
Law of Familiarity and Happiness
Any new person, place, thing or experience can bring us joy and happiness. My earlier examples of the new car, relationship or being on holiday show how this is the case.
The problem is that it doesn’t last. Why? because it eventually becomes familiar. So thinking your happiness can only come from something that you don’t have right now is a recipe for misery!
So why is that? Well, because you’re believing that your happiness is outside of your own control. Believing that your happiness depends on some future event, keeps you out of the present moment.
It can also be an excuse for not taking the steps to be happy right now. Let’s say you’re chasing a promotion at work. You believe that the only way to do this is to work long hours and be totally committed. However, while you’re doing this, you’re missing out on all the other activities that you could do in your spare time that make you happy.
Or you’re studying hard to get a new qualification such as an MBA. You want to get this as quickly as possible because you believe it will really help advance your career.
Now it’s true that you might need that qualification to get ahead. But studying super hard could mean that you’re missing out on things that make you happy right now.
When I first moved to London in my early 20s, I was very lonely. I hardly knew anyone. I had one very good friend from university that had also moved to London. However, we would rarely meet up because he was working in the evenings to make more money or he was studying. He was so focused on improving his future that he missed out on spending time with his friends right now. Do this for long enough and your friends will drift away.
So the key here is balance. It’s good to work hard in the present, to make the future better. However, don’t put your happiness on hold to do this. Continue to spend some time with people and on activities that bring a smile to your face.
How to stop the Law of Familiarity from Ruining Your Life
So how do you stop the law of familiarity from ruining your life?
The first way is gratitude. Appreciate all the things that you currently take for granted. These could include your partner, family, career, health, your home or where you live. It could be being grateful for being alive.
Act as if it’s still new and exciting
The second one is to act as if it’s still new and exciting. This is great for relationships. Treat your partner like you did at the beginning of the relationship. Start doing those fun, romantic things that you used to do.
If you feel that your relationship has gone a little stale or turned sour, then here’s a great quote to help you get back on track. It is, “if you were to treat this person as if it was the beginning of the relationship, then there would be no end”.
Pay more attention to the important areas of your life
Also pay more attention to the most important areas of your life. These are typically your career, partner and health. Start being proactive and make positive changes in these areas of life. Remember that you rarely stay still in any area of life. It’s either improving or declining. Getting better or getting worse.
If you don’t pay attention to these important areas of life, you could lose them. You could lose your job or career, your partner or your health. Everything of value requires care and attention. Remember that.
Another great way is to get uncomfortable and seek variety. The Law of Familiarity breeds comfort. Do something different with your partner. If you normally go out for dinner, go to the theater instead.
You could take on a new diet or exercise routine to improve your health. This will add variety to your life and this will make you happier. And you’ll get that feeling of aliveness back! When you take on a new challenge that takes you out of your comfort zone, you get that wonderful feeling of aliveness. It’s the complete opposite of the Law of Familiarity.
So now you know more about the Law of Familiarity and how to stop it from ruining your life. I encourage you now to check in on the main areas of your life. Make sure you’re grateful for those areas and are not taking them for granted. Pay attention and do something today to ensure that you are growing in each of the main areas of your life.
Add some new activities to spice up your life so you feel alive! This will give you more happiness and joy too.
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