“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”
-Henry David Thoreau
One Good Reason Your Work and Life May Be Unrewarding
I noticed that my personality and thought patterns tend to change when I hang out with friends. The conversations at some point get into who’s getting a new car, who got a raise or a new job with sweet benefits, who went traveling somewhere exotic, or who has got the latest eye-candy device.
Let me say right now: I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with discussing the latest toys or who bought a BMW 5 series.
However, the problem is that as soon as I’m on the way home, I find myself suddenly overcome with the urge for more. My friends have instilled an artificial sense of lack in my own life. It makes me want to trade my 2 year old LG Versa for an iPhone 4. It makes me want to sell my 2003 Nissan Xterra and buy a new Camaro. It makes me want to dump my old Dell and get a new MacBook.
So? Who Cares?
Externally, there’s no problem buying any and all new toys if you can afford it. Externally, things look fine. Internally, an insidious cycle is reinforcing itself over and over, every single time that you are knowingly or unknowingly exposed to it.
Think about it.
- With your friends or family, people always talk with excitement about getting the newest gadgets
- On TV, ads and celebrity tv always instill the idea that you need more: more beauty, more new toys, more technology, more money
- Almost all forms of marketing and advertising we are exposed to on a daily basis want to instill a sense of lack in order to sell something
What that means is that whether or not you realize it, you are being conditioned every single day to artificially feel a sense of lack in your own life.
Enter the Consumer Cycle
The typical life situation for my friends is like this: they graduate college, get a job, pretty soon after get their own apartment, a new car, new phone and new clothes. Five years later? The exact same thing… a job that has changed a little, another newer car, newer phone, newer clothes. Five years after that? The same thing.. only the external circumstances slightly keep changing form.
The reason why this gets really boring, really quickly, is that it provides no internal content for life to thrive on. It provides no real purpose. Think about that for a second. The cycle is self-sustaining. It has no purpose other than to just exist for itself and work as a form of capitalism. It is like work for work’s sake – completely unfulfilling and merely an ends to itself.
Why the Consumer Cycle Does Nothing For You, And Absolutely Nothing For Your Happiness
This vicious cycle sucks (by definition) because it provides nothing inherently valuable to you in the intrinsic sense. It keeps you within the cycle by design. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a sense of purpose and clear goals no matter what line of work you’re in.
This isn’t a mass conspiracy to have you spend all your money or be a slave to the Man, but rather it’s an inherent weakness we have.
We freak out after 1, 5, 10, 15, or 25 years of repeating the same exact cycle over and over because, at the end of the day, we have nothing to show for the time. There’s just an evolution of possessions. Instead of investing time into flow-producing activities, activities with inherent, intangible value, or investing time into learning skills, I see a lot of us stuck in an illusory cycle of only transitory happiness with little to show at the end of a lifetime.
That really scares me.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The resolution here is relatively simple:
- Understand that the sense of lack that media and friends may make you feel is completely artificial
- Find better investments for your time and money
Specific Suggestions For a New Life
I want you to think long and hard, putting yourself 10 years down the road. If someone asks what you’ve gained or learned, what do you personally have to show? If your spare time has been spent only on upgrading to the newest phone, a newer car, a different girlfriend….without anything that actually improves the content of your life, it’s time to start thinking.
Next time you get your paycheck, ask yourself: “how can I use this money so that I’ll remember it in 10 years?” I doubt you’ll be thinking of the latest toy.
If you have a life that has money but is unfulfilling, these are my three suggestions to you:
- Invest your money and time into a hobby, activity, group, or passion. Learn a language. Join a rock climbing club. Start an organization.
- Learn a skill or do something you’ve always wanted. Go learn salsa. Take a course on video game design. Go skydiving and bungee jumping.
- Travel, or better yet, move to another country for a period of time.
All of these provide intangible, inherently rewarding, sticky experiences that will exist far longer than your money will. These experiences are also cumulative, so they provide a form of self-evolution.
I don’t think it gets more rewarding than that.
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