Last December, I made an important, personal breakthrough regarding my understand of peace and happiness. I wrote about it in my article Why So Happy? If you didn’t catch it the first time around, please read it now, so that the rest of today’s note comes into sharp focus.
This month, I discovered how shopping — yes, something so commonplace and benign as shopping — is actually a strong, negative force on one’s happiness.
The main point of Why So Happy, Volume One was that being grateful for everything you have is a key that unlocks personal happiness. When you appreciate your family, your friends, and all the other blessings in your life, you simply can’t help but be happy.
A new discovery just happened for me. This month, we started to talk about moving to another home, a subject from the past that we decided to revisit. The basic idea is to move to a location that would eliminate much of the time we must spend in traffic today.
I made a startling discovery. Although nothing had changed, the basic activity of looking and shopping seemed to taint what we have today. It seems that longing for something — which in this case was actually not longing for something nicer but rather a more convenient location — decreased my satisfaction with our home that I loved and didn’t question just a few month’s earlier!
Today, we have made the decision to stay put, unable to find a home in the right location at a price that makes sense. Once the decision was made, I found my happiness and calm on this topic slowly returning into my consciousness, albeit slowly.
The more I started to think about this phenomenon, the more I realize that a dark-side of shopping does exist and most people don’t see it. I remembered that a few years ago, I couldn’t say enough good things about my car, yet the minute I visited a few car dealerships, I found myself less and less happy with it, until I talked myself into making a change. I think this happens all the time, and not just with big ticket items. Rationalizing “longing” requires that a person must decide that what he or she already has must not be good enough.
We live in the one of the greatest countries in the world. America is an outstanding place, but it is commercialized to the extreme. Malls, car dealers, stores, TV commercials, and magazine ads are all adept at creating the feeling of longing. Yet, more than ever, I have come to realize that shopping is a torpedo targeting your gratitude, and gratitude is the #1 key to happiness. That means that America, this land of plenty, also offers temptation that sabotages personal happiness.
We all have the power to choose. Choose to be minimalistic. Less is truly more. It is far less complicated and stressful, and I believe it is cornerstone to happiness.
Here is a great experiment to prove this point: make the decision to buy nothing discretionary — and avoid all shopping — for the next three months. When you take buying (and therefore shopping) off the table, I believe you will discover how much more grateful you will be for the blessings that you already have. Once you have felt the power of this discovery on your own life, you will be wiser and hopefully will no longer get torpedoed as often by the evil dark-side of shopping.
I.M. Optimism Man