The Greek philosopher Epicurus said: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
This is not to say that we oughtn’t be striving to achieve and have the things in our life that will add more meaning and allow us to live more happy, flourishing and prosperous lives. What it is saying is that if our focus is on ‘when’ we get or achieve these ‘things’, we can tend to ignore, take for granted and de-value all that we have in our lives now.
If you’re on the consumption treadmill, you’re just getting fitter and more motivated to want and have more stuff in your life, and there is a direct correlation with that approach, to lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction.
A recent research study by Jo-Ann Tsang from Baylor University and her colleagues, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences,highlights that people who are highly materialistic tend to find it more of a challenge to be grateful for what they already have and difficult to savour life’s every day joys. The research suggests that people who tend to be grateful and savour life’s joys report higher levels of happiness, optimism and life satisfaction.
What you focus your motivation on just gets stronger, and in this constantly in-your-face-marketing-advertising-have-it-all-now-world, it’s difficult not to get sucked into the spin that without buying that next big thing, you just won’t be able to survive or be happy, or find a partner, or get fit, or lose weight and so on it goes.
Most of this has to do with the trap of social comparison. For many people who have fallen under the spell of constantly needing to be checking on what others are posting about what they’re doing or buying via their favourite social media (it’s called FOMO – the fear of missing out), they are at the highest risk of getting sucked into comparing themselves with others who are posting that they have more, are having more fun, are doing more things, are buying the latest… and this heightens their drive to want more for themselves – and they jump on the consumption treadmill.
Much of this has to do with the simple and yet complex realities of self-trust.
Can you trust yourself not to get sucked into stepping onto the consumption treadmill, of FOMO, of social comparison?
Your future-self needs to be able to trust your current-self… you’re future-self is depending on you to make wise choices today. And the reality is, your current-self will be happier and more satisfied with life when you make wise choices today as well.