Tag Archives: Happiness

That Shit You Own Isn’t Making You Happy

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Nothing you can buy will make you happy, except life experiences

Ever bought something only to later realize having it didn’t make you as happy as you thought it would? Beyond a case of buyer’s remorse, there is a deeper realization to be gleaned from an experience like this once a man deprograms his mind from its indoctrination into a cult of materialism and stops chasing materialistic fantasies. Fantasies that what we own makes us better human beings and will bring us happiness are put into our minds by decades of mainstream media manipulation and edumacation system indoctrination.

There’s nothing farther from the truth. Psychological research is beginning to prove just what a farce the consumer economy is when it comes to actually making people happy.

First of all, possessions are a prison of their own. The things we buy are effectively paid for by lost experiences. Which will you remember most on your deathbed? A $2,000 flat panel TV or a $2,000 vacation to an exotic island where you banged twenty-something ass the entire time?

The things we own also own us back as they consume time, energy and even more money as we keep them up, maintain them, and buy larger homes to fit them inside of. Then there are the endless “upgrades” that also consume our money and our lives.

One of the best ways to see how much of our lives stuff is consuming is to look at all the things piled up in our homes. One of the best ways to do this is either to clean out the closet, or even better – to move. I moved several times during my career in the media (before I fled that industry in disgust to create this blog) and I can’t tell you what an eye-opener that experience was.

I had closets, boxes, and storage filled with material things. I wondered why I even bought many of those items as I began going through all that stuff, and I began to think to myself: Man, I would really like to have all the money I spent on this stuff back! I don’t need these things, but I do need the money!

I had to give away, sell (at a fraction of the cost I originally paid) or trash things that cumulatively cost me thousands of dollars when I bought them at retail in order to make everything fit into the moving truck. I slowly started to realize what a waste of money and effectively my life buying things really was, and over time realized the ingeniousness of the minimalist philosophy.

One of the realizations that comes with living the minimalist philosophy is that money buys freedom. And a man has a lot of freedom if he’s not chasing materialistic fantasies and instead uses his income as a wealth-building tool (i.e. saving and investing) and as a vehicle to have lots of interesting life experiences.

Adopting minimalism is one of the most powerful ways men can both take control of their lives and push back against a system that benefits from exploiting masculine utility. Living minimalistically is also an extension of the Going Galt philosophy.

Another important realization is for men to learn to make the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Most people chase extrinsic goals by default, without even realizing what they’re doing.

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Chasing extrinsic goals is like chasing the figurative carrot on a stick

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals

We are told, nay commanded to pursue extrinsic goals our entire lives. It’s as if social engineers know chasing them will drive infinite spending but will never deliver the contentment people seek in their lives. Buying things only brings fleeting pleasure, unlike setting other goals in life.

The key is realizing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic happiness. What is the difference between these two kinds of happiness? Psychologist Tim Kasser, known for his work on materialism and well-being told interviewers:

We make a distinction between two different kinds of goals or values people might pursue in life. Intrinsic goals and extrinsic goals. So extrinsic goals are extrinsic in that they’re goals focused on something external to you. They’re focused on rewards, they’re focused on praise, and they’re focused on getting stuff.

Kasser’s research focused on extrinsic goals like:

  • Money – financial and material success
  • Image – looking good, having the right appearance and a good-looking Fakebook life
  • Status – social status and popularity

None of the above goals brought the subjects of the study lasting happiness, even though the consumer culture we are stewed and basted in from birth tells us these things are what matters and are what will make us happy, competent adults. Myths like these keep men and women toiling away on the hedonic treadmill while true happiness evades them. Extrinsic goals like these stand in direct opposition to intrinsic goals. Kasser continues:

Intrinsic goals are inherently satisfying in and of themselves, because they have to do with intrinsic psychological needs all people have.

So what are the intrinsic goals Kasser studied? They include:

  • Personal growth – trying to be who we really are
  • Relationships – having close and connected relationships with friends and family
  • Community feeling – a desire to help and make the world a better place

Here’s the conundrum.

We found that extrinsic goals are on the complete opposite side of value systems compared to intrinsic goals. They’re in opposition with each other. People who were more oriented towards money, image and status were reporting less satisfaction with their lives. They were more depressed, more anxious, and we found they felt less vital and less energized in their day to day life.

So, scientific evidence is mounting that being slaves to consumerism isn’t helping us as men as much as it is helping the corporate-government complex make fortunes off our backs. The consumer economy is a textbook example of the carrot and stick analogy. Kasser’s conclusion is that intrinsic goals are where it’s at when it comes to happiness.

Intrinsically oriented people were more happy. They reported more vitality, less depression and less anxiety.

The truth couldn’t be plainer than that. And I can testify to the veracity of Kasser’s claims as I have lived the transformation from consummate Beta male consumer in my 20s to minimalistic, laid back ZFG Sigma male in my 30s.

The key was realizing nothing I own was making me happy beyond my basic needs. I also realized some of the wealthiest people I knew were also some of the most miserable and conniving people I ever met. It may be that men like me will always be in the minority, but I can assure you I’m a happy motherfucker since throwing off the shackles of materialism.

There’s no doubt this wisdom could also help millions of other men.

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7 Steps on the Road to Minimalism

Road

40% of happiness is based on activities we choose to do, minimalizing demands on our time and money will help us have more power to choose our activities

Henry David Thoreau had the right idea: I make myself rich by making my wants few. But, modern man continues to drown himself in a plethora of gadgets, cars and McMansions he can’t afford, going to work at jobs that increasingly demand more than 40 hours a week out of his life and mentally and physically drain him, taking the joy out of living. Ironically, drowning our sorrows with stuff only makes us feel even more sorrow when we have to watch money come in and money go out every month, powerless to stop the machine.

Do we really  own the things we buy or do they own us? Today, it would appear most people are slaves to fashion, slaves to gadgets, slaves to fancy cars, and slaves to their McMansions. 2,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Confucius told about the virtues of not judging our self worth with what we own:

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

In the 21st century, there has been an underground movement away from lives of consumption and consumerism, one termed minimalism. Contrary to its name, minimalism is not about deprivation. It is about focusing our energy on things that really make us happy. Since cutting down from the fancy apartment and two new cars I “owned” when I was a materially rich but financially broke cog in the corporate wheel, to today fitting everything I own into 3 suitcases with money in the bank, I must say there is truth to that statement. I am focused on things that really matter to me rather than acquisition. The Minimalists blog goes on to explain the concept of minimalism:

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

You do not have to go live in a cave or in a yurt to benefit from minimalism.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. Want to own a car or a house? Great, have at it! Want to raise a family and have a career? If these things are important to you, then that’s wonderful. Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.

With the basic concept of minimalism explained, here are 7 ways we can simplify and minimalize our lives.

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Minimalism is about focusing on the things that really make us happy

The List

7. Stop doing so many things at once. Work follows people home, and they’re often chatting with friends, checking work emails, doing household chores, and several other things at the same time. Health Day reports this is one of the most insidious drivers of stress in our lives, and cuts the quality of the work we are doing.

“Because of all of the new electronic gadgets like cell phones, tablets, and other personal digital assistants, multitasking has exploded,” says David Meyer, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. “Doing several tasks simultaneously may seem like the height of efficiency – and it would be, if a person had more than one brain. In the real world, multitasking actually wastes time and reduces work quality,” Meyer says.

We are no longer living life as much as we have turned it into a problem to be solved or a product to be purchased. Slow down, unplug, take time to stop and smell the roses. Downshifting to a less hectic lifestyle can help reduce stress and improve overall quality of life. For most, this will mean creating a long term plan to first extricate themselves from debt slavery, then downshift to a life they can more easily afford, with the eventual goal of working less in a pursuit one truly enjoys but that might not make as much money. One of the bright spots is once this goal is realized, the newly minted minimalist can tell their boss to Take This Job and Shove It.

6. Cut screen time. We now spend an average of 11 hours a day on various electronic screens. Between the computer, tablet, TV, and smartphone, 68% of our waking hours are spent immersed in fantasy, mental masturbation, or working on screens. This is obviously too much time and it is taking us away from family, friends, the outdoors, and other worthwhile pursuits. Here are the average times spent on various devices, as reported by Nielsen.

  • Live TV: 4 hours, 51 minutes
  • Radio: 2 hours, 43 minutes
  • Smartphone: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Internet on a PC: 1 hour, 6 minutes
  • Time shifted TV (Tivo, etc.): 33 minutes
  • Game console: 13 minutes
  • DVD/Blu-Ray: 9 minutes
  • Multimedia device (tablet, etc.): 7 minutes

Of course, as with any study that averages usage your mileage may vary. Personally, I have not had a television in my home since last year. Anything I need to watch, I can watch on my tablet or PC. Going by the average, that has freed up around 35 hours a week (almost a full work week!) for me to read, write, and research.

5. Kill debt with a vengeance. Because of consumerism and materialism, which has implanted the idea of buy this and you’ll be happy into the minds of the masses, most people are financially totally out of control. Nearly half of all Americans would not be able to pay their bills if their next paycheck didn’t deposit, and two-thirds do not even have enough in savings to cover a $1,000 or even $500 unexpected expense or emergency. Rather than making excuses, what it really comes down to are priorities. Statistics tell us 81% of households below the federal poverty line somehow have managed to acquire cell phones and pay the bill each month.

4. Possessions are a prison. Too much stuff drains our bank accounts, our energy, and our attention. There are also the hidden costs of ownership of each item we buy, and often one purchase leads to another and another of endless accessories. The most valuable things in our lives usually aren’t things, but experiences. A quote from the Classic Grumpier Old men film, flawlessly delivered by the great Burgess Meredith illustrates this idea.

Well, let me tell you something, Johnny. The first 90 years, or so go by pretty fast. Then one day you wake up and you realize that you’re not 81 anymore. You begin to count the minutes rather than the days and you realize that pretty soon you’ll be gone. And that all you have, see, is the experiences. That’s all there is. Everything! The experiences! You mount the woman, son. Or else…send her out to me.

Ask yourself, when in life have you felt the best? Perhaps on vacation, free of the burden of things and obligations and clutter. It’s just you, the beach or a backpack, and a girl or some friends. Why not adopt that mentality every day?

3. Declutter. The average American is bogged down with an incredible 300,000 items in their homes! Get rid of something you don’t need every day. Fill a trash bag full of junk that is cluttering up your home and your life each week. Have a garage sale. Donate stuff to Goodwill. It is important to make the mental transformation towards realizing that junk we own is not making us happy. Declutter 101 instructs us on how to get started:

At the outset, adjust your vision downward from the big (cluttered) picture, to zero in on one small, solvable clutter problem. Clear one counter, de-clutter one shelf, or bring order to a single drawer.

For me, nothing felt better than watching space open up and junk going away once I started the decluttering process. And contrary to my worries, I didn’t miss any of what I tossed.

2. Live off only what you need. In 5 short years, I went from being in debt up to my eyeballs to saving 66% of my income. I stopped chasing the fantasy put into our minds by advertising, conspicuous consumption, and product placement in everything from local TV to movies. The 1999 film Fight Club (based on the novel of the same name) contains some fantastic quotes about this concept:

We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.

We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

After being run into bankruptcy by being socially conditioned to chase a consumeristic lifestyle, pedestalize women and finance their wasteful spending, and trust that my employer would be there only to be kicked to the curb when their revenue went south, I discovered:

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

Bankruptcy, that word Americans are so terrified of, actually turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to change my habits, stop buying crap I didn’t need, stop being a walking wallet for women, and start living on cash. The end result? A 180-degree turn in my financial situation in just a few years.

1. Become un-busy. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist tells us the personal and societal cost of turning ourselves into what Herbert Hoover aptly named Happiness Machines, cogs in the wheel of a waste economy:

But is the state of busy really improving our lives? Certainly not. Statistics indicate 75% of parents are too busy to read to their children at night. There is a rising number of children being placed in day cares and after-school activities. Americans are having a hard time finding opportunity for vacations these days. 33% of Americans are living with extreme stress daily. And nearly 50% of Americans say they regularly lie awake at night because of stress. This is a problem. We have become too busy.

Not only can we downshift with the things we choose to buy, we can also downshift with what we choose to do with our time. An important word to learn is “No.” No, I won’t work at a job that requires more than 40 hours a week of my time. No, I don’t need that new tech gadget, the old one works just fine. No, I won’t bring my work home with me. No, I won’t watch so much television. No, I won’t let advertising make me run myself to death trying to finance a lifestyle, girlfriend, or wife that I cannot afford.

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Psychological studies of happiness reveal it his very little to do with material circumstances and everything to do with freedom

Less Stuff; More Time, More Money, More Freedom

These 7 steps are a good starting guide to a downshifted, less materialistic, but freer lifestyle than we have been conditioned to pursue. For making these decisions, you can expect nothing but criticism and derision from the sheeple. But, Dave Ramsey, Realtalker he is explains the genius of this philosophy:

If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.

Rather than being consumed by overworked, underpaid, and material worshipping people, we can choose to pursue lives that free us to pursue nobler things that are more fulfilling and give us intrinsic happiness. Chinese writer Lin Yutang reiterates the wisdom that other men quoted in this article have given us:

Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.

Take control of your life. Do not let materialism, debt, overwork, or women take it from you.

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