Break the Cycle of Bigger, Better, Constant Striving

Does this sound familiar? …

There is something that you want, so you work your butt off to get it. You enjoy it for a little while, but soon you find that the pleasure and satisfaction you initially felt is waning. In order to feel that high again, you set your sights on something bigger and better, thinking that this will bring you longer lasting happiness.  The thing you worked so hard to get no longer holds as much value for you and you feel your life just won’t be complete until you acquire this new item of desire.

Thought it might.

This phenomenon is referred to as the Hedonic Treadmill and is the tendency for us to quickly become adapted or accustom to new situations and possessions, returning to a stable level of happiness. This is why that quick boost of pleasure we get from purchasing a new outfit, new car, new home, new cellphone, new jewellery is incredibly fleeting. It’s why we are always setting new goals to achieve, trying to climb higher in status and always be and do bigger and better. Instead of realizing the inability to obtain a sustained elevated level of happiness through the accumulation of stuff, we avert our attention to some new object of desire. We are walking for miles on this treadmill and getting no where. St. Augustine is sited as saying, “Desire hath no rest, is infinite in itself, endless”. Our desires will never be satisfied no matter how much we acquire and accumulate.

So, what is the alternative?

  1. Become less enamoured with stuff
  2. Hone in on what is truly important
  3. Learn to be present
  4. Practice gratitude

Having less stuff allows us to better appreciate what we do have. It is easy to take our possessions for granted when we have so much. By focusing on purchasing things only of quality - not just well made, but of sentiment, or purpose - we are able to fill our lives with more meaning and less fluff. Less is often more. Recognizing stuff for what it is instead of being enamoured by marketing, we are able to choose more selectively the things we bring into our lives. When you are able to realize that stuff is just stuff and only holds the value YOU give to it, you will rely less on things to bring you happiness. No more impulse shopping or trying to purchase your own happiness. It’s wonderful being able to look around a home and be able to notice the beauty, functionality and personality displayed within the room by the objects the owner has chosen. When a home is filled with stuff and cluttered it gives the sense of someone who either has a life in chaos or is disconnected from themselves.

Hone in on what actually brings your life happiness and meaning. Sometimes this may be physical things, but more often it is people and experiences. Surround yourself with people who love, uplift and inspire you. Only purchase objects that you find beautiful, or make your life more pleasurable. Say no to everything else. Be incredibly selective with what you allow into your life. By doing so, you make room, time and energy for the things that are of high value to you. If you value your family above all else, then spend less time at the office and more time at home. If you value travel, spend less money on objects of lesser value, saving it for more adventures. If you value your style, spend your money on quality items that make you feel incredible and less on trends, or poorly made garments that don’t give you that feeling. Get clear on what brings you fulfillment and pleasure, then work out a way to create a life in alignment with these values.

Be present in the current moment. Do not let experiences escape you by being too concerned with the past or the future. Right now is the only moment you can truly experience and effect, so be here. When you truly live in this moment you will be able to better commit the experience to memory and relive it again and again.

Gratitude begets things to be grateful for. The more love and appreciation you feel for the people, things, circumstances and experiences in your life, the more wonderful things will come your way. Not to mention, when we focus on being grateful, we feel more full and don’t require much to be happy. When you realize that you already have everything you need, you are able to step off the treadmill and just enjoy the pleasures of life.

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