Why Happiness is Always an iPhone Upgrade Away From Our Grasp
As society pressures us to have more and be more, how can we learn to go against the grain and appreciate what we already have?
It’s easy to fid your self believing in the idea that life is about accumulation. Accumulating money, accumulating connections, accumulating certificates, accumulating possessions.
Society is geared towards keeping us busy and always striving for more.
We live in a system that greatly benefits from us being stuck on the hamster wheel of growth.
However, if you stop and look around you, how much does this way of living really benefit us?
It creates a society of people chasing after an impossible dream of external happiness, never quite getting there.
Happiness is always an iPhone upgrade away from our grasp.
Even though I’m aware of this, I constantly find myself lusting after something.
A holiday that will make me more relaxed. A workshop that will change my life. An app that will simplify my life and make me happier.
Changing our Perspective
What would happen if we broke free of this growth mindset?
What if we shed our desire to own more stuff?
What if we could clearly see that the empty void will not be filled by the things we are madly trying to stuff into it?
No amount of higher salaries, more beautiful bodies, or cutting edge electronic gadgets will ever satisfy it.
The Supermarket of Life
The other day I was having a conversation with my therapist and we used the metaphor of a supermarket to talk about life.
We spend the first part of our life frantically running down the aisles, Supermarket Sweep style, tipping as much stuff as we possibly can into our trolley, in a race against the clock, filled with the fear of missing out or not being good enough. We hope and pray that there will be something of use somewhere in there amongst the tat and razzmatazz.
But soon we find that the trolley is too full. It’s piled to the ceiling with things we don’t need and it’s impossible to find the things we do. On top of that, the bill is too high for us to even start to think about covering out of our own pocket. We become swamped down and it all becomes overwhelming.
The trolley needs to be emptied. You need to start again, learning from past experience, and consciously selecting the things you really need. But this can be hard. Some people will continue to try and pile items on top of the precarious stack.
Taking time to think about your needs, when all around you the fast pace and flashing adverts continue, takes determination. If you manage to break through and create the space you need, you can pick the perfect ingredients.
Maybe you’ll find you don’t even need to be in the supermarket in the first place.
Breakdown and Breakthrough
It seems it usually takes some sort of breakdown to breakthrough, some bigger than others, but whatever it is that brings this awareness it’s something we all need to go through sooner or later.
It’s only in the last few years that I’ve begun to be aware of the of the cycle of acquisition and start to try and step out of it.
For such a large part of my life I seem to have been on a path of accumulation and fretting over getting on various ladders (career, housing, social, etc). I’m now trying to change that, by focusing on a life of decumulation and breaking up those ladders and refashioning them into a structure that suits my needs.
I haven’t even begun to perfect this. Last week when my iPhone eventually kicked the bucket after a year on life support, I didn’t think I could live without it so bought another one (albeit a refurbished one from Envirofone). I wasn’t ready for a life without Whatsapp and Facebook messenger, however beautiful it sounds.
I still own too much stuff, and unconsciously discover myself coveting things that I believe will make me happier. I’m slowly changing my ways, but it’s not easy to change habits of a lifetime.
Time for Change
When depression is at an unprecedented level in our society, and lots of people struggle to bare the weight of societal expectations, it seems like there is a real chance to create change.
Owning more stuff and chasing superficial goals is not going to heal a society that is fast losing touch with itself.
It can often seem easier to seek answers in the norms that are placed on us by society. But in reality it is often these norms that keep the answers hidden.
The more aware of the situation we are living in and the external pressures that surround us, the easier it becomes to see which things are distractions and which are essential.
The more we are willing to face up to the difficult journey and understand our individual needs, the more we will see the needs of others and the needs of the world around us being met.