People felt richer in the 1950s — when houses averaged 1100 square feet — than they do now, when they average 2000 square feet. There were no VCRs, no microwaves, no cable TV, no PCs, no video games, hardly any dishwashers, and in most homes only the father brought in an income. Yet according to surveys, our reported level of happiness peaked in 1957 and has gone down as our level of wealth has gone up.
The reason is simple: You and I don’t need much to be happy. Most of us are doing too much, working too hard, trying to make “enough” money. But it costs us time. And after a certain point — a point we have all passed a long time ago — you get less and less happiness for more and more expenditure of time to earn money. And that is time taken away from time spent with your loved ones, where a good deal of happiness does come from. Those moments of simple human interaction — talking, playing a game, taking a walk, cooking together — those are the real riches of life.
You’ve been exposed to a barrage of advertising, something like a million ads by the time you’re twenty. And those advertising people are experts on human nature. They’ve read all the studies showing what influences people, and they carefully design their advertisements to pull your attention and then to convince you their product would make you happy. They have been trying to manipulate your values since you were a kid. They’ve been trying to get you to believe having things is what will make you happy.
Most of us are way too busy, and that’s just perfect as far as the advertisers are concerned. We’re out working to earn more money so we have more to spend on products. If we would learn to curb our desire for so much stuff, we wouldn’t have to work as much, so we’d be able to spend more unscheduled time with our loved ones.
You already know this, I’m sure. But the more you hear something the more of an impact it will make on your feelings and behavior. Ask any advertiser. You want more time? You want more enjoyment? There is a way, but it will require a little discipline: Do without. You’ll be a lot richer.
This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.