We live in a culture of excess. Everyday we’re bombarded with advertisements and copy points telling us that we need more. We need the newest phone even though we bought the previous “new” one just last year. We need to surprise our significant other with a new Lexus during the annual “December to Remember Sales Event” ignoring that we did the same thing with the two-year-old car in our driveway just two years ago. And we need to have the best New Year’s Eve plans ever because god forbid we don’t have a crazy story to tell. It doesn’t matter if we have enough because deep down, enough is, simply put, never enough.
We live in a time where success is defined by having more, but we don’t need more, we need less. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. The less we “need”, and the more we start to have.
Don’t get me wrong; the capitalistic, consumer-centric society we live in isn’t inherently wrong, but it is potentially dangerous. The constant feeling of needing the newest, shiniest toy drives us to do insane things like camp outside of a store for days. Forget that whatever it is we’re waiting for will be available next week, we need it now! But why? So we can show it off to our friends and grab some social capital?
Thinking like this does two things: 1) it burns a hole in your pocket - before you know it, your money is flying in all directions with no easy way to stop it - and 2) it makes us anxious and competitive.
Ignore that and live contently with the fact that you don’t need the newest thing (if you want it and can afford it, be my guest. I have nothing against that) you just need something. This whole “keeping up with the Joneses” idea is increasing the amount of stuff we have, but is diminishing our happiness levels. We shouldn’t worry about what Steve across the street has, we should worry about what we have and if what we have gets the job done and leaves us wanting for nothing, we should be happy with that.
If we can do this, we’ll remove all of the unnecessary external pressures surrounding us, and our lives becomes ours. It’s a beautiful thing.
We worry so much, and so often, about what we’re going to do for this and that holiday that we rarely have time to actually sit back and enjoy it. We needn’t worry, though. The “best” things happen organically, not forcefully.
Think of it like a plant. If we expect the plant to flourish, we become more frustrated with every day that expectation isn’t met. We think, “It must be that I haven’t watered it enough, or given it enough sun” and before we know it we’ve either drowned the plant, or scorched it in the sun. The same with our expectations: if we focus too strongly on them, we’ll smother them, almost assuring failure.
Nothing in this world is going to be perfect and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we’ll live happier. It’s not that having high expectations automatically makes for a less-than-ideal life, it’s that unrealistic expectations put pressure on situations that we don’t control.
We’re in the heart of the holiday season and it’s hard to not get excited. But let’s get excited about spending our time well, and being able to enjoy the season with the people we love, and not worry so much about throwing the best party, or having the best things.
Until next time – Happy holidays.