Medium Maximisation – biggest Trap that Hinder Happiness

A ‘Medium’ is something that people get as a reward for doing something. For example, you get reward points for shopping and spending money. But points by themselves do not get you anything. You use the points to buy something which will fulfill your needs and wants.

You work in a company, get money in the form of salary. Money as such cannot be used for eating or entertainment. It can be used to acquire food, clothes etc. It is a medium to fulfill your needs and wants. In many transactions, the equation is –

Effort/Time/Resources → Medium → Outcome

Medium Maximisation

Many research studies indicate that when people are given choices, their selection differs when there is a medium involved.

In a clever experiment, participants were given the option to do one of two tasks- a short one and a long one. For the short task, they would get a Snickers bar and for the long task they had an option to chose one of two chocolate bars – Snickers and Almond Bars. Most people chose the short task.

But then a medium was introduced.

If they chose the short task, 60 points would be given which can be used to get a Snickers bar. If they chose the long task, 100 points would be given which can be used to get one Snickers bar or one Almond Joy. This resulted in people focusing on the points and select the long task as that would maximize the points. But the points here is just the medium. The rewards were same in both experiments but people changed their preference when the medium was introduced.

Must-Read- Money Vs Job Satisfaction

Medium Maximisation

In real life, money is a medium. It helps us get what we want and most of us spend our lives in pursuit of maximising our wealth. This act of pursuing medium is known as Medium Maximisation.  Medium Maximisation is this tendency to focus on the medium instead of the outcome you’re after.”

The medium maximisation effect happens when people are under the illusion that they have an advantage.

Another scenario where medium maximisation plays a role is when there is a choice between two options – one is certain and the other is uncertain but the medium reward is certain in both options. The medium reward increases the attractiveness of the uncertain option.

If a task involves some unpleasant activities and in one state people do not have control over them and in the other, people can control them, in most cases the amount of medium that people earn for tasks increases over a period of time but the utility of the money (return on effort) decreases as they have more of it.

Read – How to Live & Die Like Khushwant Singh

Is it optimum to want to maximize the medium or rather choose what you really want in life?

In a Genie study conducted by Raj Raghunathan, people were asked to name the ‘three wishes that you would want if a Genie appeared before you’. (Please take 30 seconds & write the answer on any paper or electronic device before going forward)

People asked for money, fame, power, success, respect and good relationships. Few people asked for happiness. Though the reason why they were wishing for those things is that they want to be happy. People want a medium to reach their goal and they want to maximize the medium. But money itself does not raise the level of satisfaction. For example, in rich countries, wealth has been accumulated more and more but their happiness has not increased considerably.

It has been observed that many people are not content with life even when they earn a lot of money. It could be because they are not spending it the right way or earning the maximum money is not the best way to get what they really want.


Must Check- Can Money Buy Happiness? YES

Ways to maximize what you want rather than the medium –

Think of Money as a Tool –

Stop running behind money and start running behind your goals. You will be able to manage money better if you are working towards reaching your goals. It will help you to be realistic too. Even investing is just the Medium to achieve your goals – focusing too much on products rather than the bigger picture is another example of Medium Maximisation.  

Use money as a medium for experiences –

When people buy an object they fancy, they are happy. But after a period of time, the happiness quotient goes down as they are used to owning it. But if they spend money on an experience they have wished for, over a period of time the happiness quotient went up as they look back at their experience with fond memories. Spend money on doing things you like – learning to paint or traveling etc.

Use money to make your life comfortable –

Yes, you need to save and invest money so that you have comfortable future. But it is important to have a pleasant present too. List down things that make your life uncomfortable – You might hate driving or you are unhappy that you do not know anything about personal finance and are worried that you are not managing your money properly leading to anxiety. You can spend money on hiring a driver. You can invest in a course that helps you understand finance. You can hire a professional financial planner who can guide you to manage your money at least in the initial phases if not for a long period of time.

When you will be old, what do you think you will fondly remember?

Working 14 hours daily which gave you more money or the times that you were happy. (Top Regrets of the Dying) It is important to distinguish between the medium and the things that give you true satisfaction. Once you have distinguished between the two, you should pursue those things that give you true satisfaction and maximize them.

Please share your views in the comment section. If you liked the post share with your friends – even they should know if they are on the wrong track of Medium Maximisation.



  1. Dear Hemant Ji
    First of all, I am a big fan of you.You write very fantastic. Again This article is great.

  2. Wow!!! Brilliant article. I have read and re-read ” How to Live & Die Like Khushwant Singh”. This article is so so good.


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