‘It’s not what we count that counts but what counts is that we should count’- Chip Conley.
Often we tell ourselves that it’s success and achievement or the moment of arrival that inspires and motivates us. We think it’s in the getting, in the stuff.
This is why we have an economic crisis on our hands,
Credit card = ‘I can get the stuff now and then I will be happy’
But, when you stop to think about it, the elation of acquiring something or succeeding at something actually wears off pretty fast. Our new status soon becomes the norm, for we are adaptable creatures, constantly evolving, and are designed to become accustomed to new things, new surroundings, new responsibilities and new circumstances. New stuff soon becomes normal stuff, and herein lies the problem: We go after more stuff!!! It’s like chasing a high or a fix that never really gets us there; it just keeps us hooked on stuff. We are back on that hamster wheel, round, and round, and round we go…
Thanks to our capacity to adapt to ever greater fame and fortune, yesterday’s luxuries can soon become today’s necessities and tomorrow’s relics – David Myers, psychologist.
It’s no different to walking into a supermarket; I’m immediately filled up with that alluring smell of bread and every fibre of my being wants to ravage an entire French stick with my bare hands. Give me 10 minutes and I’ll swear on my life that there is no aroma whatsoever. I have adapted, it is yesterday’s news already.
This 21st century in which we find ourselves has us do colouring only by numbers: Value of our property, income, number of clients, husband’s status, weight, breast, waist and bum size, how many wrinkles and grey hairs we have or don’t have, social standing and quantity of designer shoes and bags. And what with the media and images we have constantly paraded in front of our eyes there will always be someone with more/less of that thing.
We spend our time in the pursuit of our grand climax, the getting of the end result, only to land up experiencing the exact opposite of what we hoped it would bring – we thought it would bring us happiness and joy only to end up in the world of the anti-climax. Back where we started. What a let down. And then to cap it all, we spiral off into a world of ‘what’s wrong with me’ and ‘I can’t’ and sentence ourselves to another lengthy stretch inside our own personal Fail Jail.
And so to the myth:
We live our lives thinking that once we have it all; great job, money in the bank, nice car, good-looking partner (insert yours here) (measure of success that is, not partner) THEN we will have arrived. In fact, more often than not, it is the very moment of ‘arrival’ that signals the beginnings of our discontent. It is the moment we enter the comfort zone and no longer have a place to dream of that the discomfort sets in.
This is where the lethargy, seven-year itch, stress, anxiety and even depression take hold. This is where we are tempted by false sick days, alcohol, comfort eating, chain-smoking or taking the business in a new direction because this one no longer fills us with glee. We have lost our way; feel we have no purpose and our motivation for life wanes like the fading moon, taking our mood, the high tide, our aura, our Chi and our PMT with it. And in those moments not even your fabulous shoe collection will console you. Neither will that bar of chocolate.
Now everything I have just covered you will find consolidated in pretty much any ancient spiritual, religious or philosophical doctrine. The Buddha’s moment of enlightenment came as he sat in silence and stillness appreciating the beauty of a flower and realised the paradox of our material pursuits. Jesus, Zen and Sufi wisdom will pretty much all tell you the same.
So is the solution to take yourself off to a mountain retreat, relinquishing all material attachments? In my opinion that is great (and I have tried it), you will experience an inner calm and peace that is truly profound and magical. But you would not be serving the world or fulfilling your purpose by doing that alone, unless of course your great purpose is mountain goats! And anyway, you can experience calm, happiness, peace and purpose right here, right now, on the bus, in the park, at your desk and even when the kids or your clients are driving you nuts.
It’s a case of doing things upside down:
It’s only when we start to notice and pay attention to the things that really make us happy, the things that feel like play, that we start to feel great about ourselves and get ourselves on a winning streak. Think back to a moment when you were highly motivated and ‘on fire’ you had the X Factor. It wasn’t the pay check that made you motivated it was your motivation that got you the pay check. It is never the right guy that gave you happiness it was your happiness that attracted the right guy.
And wonderfully, as with most things in life, science is now starting to catch up with and evidence that which was prophesied in eastern and ancient philosophies, so let’s take a look from a 21st century perspective.
Is retail therapy actually the anti-therapy?
According to psychologists Lan Nguyen Chaplin and Deborah Roedder John, the answer to that question is yes. They conducted some really interesting studies and discovered that materialism takes root in early childhood and is actually very closely linked to low self-esteem.
In a two-part study, the researchers first arranged for a group of children to complete a standard self-esteem questionnaire rating various ways in which they felt about themselves. They then presented the children with a supply of images and a board to create a collage entitled ‘what makes me happy’. This fun task allowed the researchers to derive the percentage of images each child took that related to material things. The results revealed a strong link between self-esteem and materialism, with children demonstrating low self-esteem being far more materialistically driven than their peers.
The second part of this experiment looked to establish whether it was the low self-esteem that caused the materialism or in fact the materialism that caused the low self-esteem. To test this they arranged for a group of children to write nice things about each other and then these were shared. This simple exercise significantly raised the children’s self esteem and consequently caused them to halve the number of materialistic images they chose when creating a ‘what makes me happy’ collage.
This experiment not only proves that our never-ending quest for more ‘stuff’ is linked to low self-esteem and childhood but also that a simple act of kindness can reverse it. So maybe next time you’re fed up and your finger is hovering above the ASOS app, you should remember it’s a case of doing things upside down and ring your kid sister or your Nan instead – or better still buy them something nice, after all you have enough shoes now!
‘It’s not about having what you want but rather wanting what you have’
So, take a moment to take stock of where you’re at right now – and allow yourself to revel in the accomplishment of it. Begin to measure your success in terms of the distance travelled rather than the mountain ahead, and see how much more motivated you feel from that place!