in Personal Reflections

The more we have, the less we appreciate

This post started as a comment in response to Colin Wright’s post on Your Money or Your Life. The comment grew long enough that I decided to turn my response into this post.

There are two things that cannot be bought with money: Time and Happiness.

Sure, you might be able to “buy” someone’s time, but you cannot buy back time that has already been spent! Therefore time is an invaluable resource. Likewise, happiness cannot be bought. You can buy things that you think will make you happy, but the happiness itself will always come from somewhere inside. You really don’t need anything external to obtain it!

I find it amazing how many people go through their entire lives thinking that more money equals more happiness. They get stressed and unhappy due to the absence of money and naturally they assume having more of it will reverse the effect. In reality, what’s making them unhappy are the choices they’ve made; the little luxuries they’ve decided are absolutely necessary to live their life (cable TV, cars, expensive foods, tobacco, alcohol, big house, movies, etc.).

All of those things provide a very temporary and unsustainable happiness. As a result, their life becomes a snowballing roller coaster of wanting more and more. The more they want, the more money they convince themselves they need. The more money they need, the more stressed out and unhappy they become. Where does it end? Sadly, for most people it ends with death.

I come from a middle class family. While my perspective is not the same as someone from a lower class family, I can see that the same patterns emerge from one class to the next. The things everyone truly cares about are pretty much the same. One persons’ poor, is another persons’ rich. The family we’re born into often defines the living standard by which we judge and perceive the world around us. But how different is the rich person from the poor person? Do they experience a different kind of happiness? A different kind of sadness? A different kind of love? How about hunger? Do rich and poor people get different feelings from laughter?

I speak as a single guy, with very few true responsibilities. I have no kids to take care of or family that needs to be looked after. I understand that my perspective and ideas may not apply to other situations. Nevertheless, there are many very happy families living with far less than the average family in the United States. Do they experience a lower quality happiness? When their kids laugh and play together, do they experience a lower quality joy? True happiness isn’t something that can be bought with money.

We’re all human. If we really want to be happy we need to look deep inside ourselves for happiness. It’s there. Everyone has it. No one person has less happiness-making-capacity than the next. It’s really tough to forget that all the material stuff around us, regardless of how much importance we place on it, really has nothing to do with our true happiness. That’s a tough pill to swallow when some of us work day and night to afford the stuff.

So what better way to find the true source of happiness than to strip yourself of all things material? I grew up in a relatively rural area, a small town in New Hampshire with a forest and a lake for a backyard. I was home schooled and spent most of my childhood outside exploring nature. When friends would visit for the first time, their impression would always be one of amazement. I never understood that. At least not until I moved away and lived in the city for two years. When I visited my parents on the weekends, I started to feel something I never felt before. Visiting my parents house, the very place I grew up, started to feel like going on vacation! I felt so much appreciation for the place.

That experience made me realize how the little things we take for granted can spoil our entire life. Have you ever come back from a camping trip and felt a little more grateful for having a shower? How about when the power comes back on after being out for more than a day? We should feel that way every minute of every day for the life we have. For working legs, eyes, hands, ears, and mouth. We should be grateful for every second that passes; for each beat of our heart, and each breath we take.

Take a deep breath of air right now. Close your eyes and fill your chest with life-giving air. Appreciate it a little more than you did the previous breath. Do it right now. I’ll wait.

Didn’t that feel good? You take an average of 20,000 of those every single day. That’s a lot to be grateful for!

I’ve decided to get rid of nearly all my material possessions because I know it will make me feel more grateful. I know it will enable me to see more clearly. We humans (yes, even modern ones) don’t need very much to survive. Food and shelter. That’s it. Most of us are fortunate enough to have working feet to help us travel, yet so few of us use them for real commuting. What about money? When we remove all modern-day comforts and really drill down to the bare necessities, we don’t need very much of that either. Of course how much money will differ depending on where we’re living, but most of us live way above necessity.

Find something you own that you haven’t used in over a month. Now find someone that you can give it to. Don’t worry about how much it cost you or why you originally bought it. You haven’t used it in over a month and you most likely won’t use it for the foreseeable future. Just find something and give it away. By giving it away you’ll not only build good karma, you’ll also feel a little more appreciative of all the stuff you currently have.

The more we have, the less we appreciate. The less we have, the more we appreciate. Do you want to appreciate more or less of life?

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22 Comments

  1. Raam,

    I randomly landed on your page and i’ll be honest with ya, great post! it must be a coincidence when i came to my realization on the “want” and “need” and happen to know someone that had expressed similar thoughts, days after. I remember back in the days when I felt that money would solve my problems and once I reached my goal, I’m still unhappy. I am a big time spender and always full-fill the ‘wants’ more then the ‘needs’, nearly a 3:1 ratio, but yet always put my time with the ‘needs’. My original intent was to balance myself financially and later got into a habit of having less and spending time on simple things that are much more memorable.

    I think I should subscribe to your articles, haha.
    Have a good one!

    Ron

    • Thanks Ron! It’s really weird how often we humans simultaneously think about the same stuff… it makes me wonder if forces of nature affect our thought patterns in similar ways, causing us to think similar things.

  2. Brilliant article. Completely agree.

    Currently i’m working on a short film which shows we live in an instant society. We want everything right now. What do you think the pros and cons of this are?

    We appreciate things less? Does this make us less human?

  3. I definitely agree with this post. Emotions are universal. However, the things that cause rich and poor people to be sad can vary greatly. For example, poor people are more liable to become unhappy from things like not being able to buy groceries and not being able to pay rent. Rich people become unhappy when their jet gets grounded or they get cut off from their trust fund. (Being a little facetious, but not much.)

    • Hi Mneiae!

      You’re absolutely correct. Rich or poor, we all have emotions and we all have basic needs. However, each of our perspectives vary greatly. We should learn to appreciate everything we already have, because what we need and what we want are often two very different things and most of the time we already have everything we need.

      Thank you for the comment and for stopping by!

  4. RIGHT ON. I went for years buying “stuff” to make me happy. And now that I’ve gotten rid of almost everything, down to what I can carry on my bike, I’m a million times more happy.

    Great post.

    • Thanks Seth! Experiences are worth so much more than stuff, and usually they don’t require buying any stuff at all! I spent six months traveling through southeast Asia with one bag on my back and the experiences I gained were priceless!

  5. strip off the material things from our life then we would be happy, bullshit! i’m not getting rid of my computer because that i need for my studies for becoming successful in life ,(Tv) i wont get rid of that either it gives me information about the world to be informed for my own benefit if you know what i mean (cell phone) well its not a flashy one but i need that to communicate with people for urgent matters, (good clothes) well you know no one wants to look like a beggar in old tattered rags ,i don’t have a car for transportation yes i have to walk for miles everywhere i go so my legs hurt every day and i’ve become thin too,sorry i mean i was already. Any way these are my possessions if i get rid of these few mentioned i think i’ll look like a beggar or even worse because my father is ill and if he also die’s then i’ll have to beg in streets to pay the house rent because i haven’t got my own house and neither happy family members yes all of them are fucking illiterate dad and step mom both of them and more over step mother hates me, well my own mother died when i was 11.I feel like i’ll go crazy when i think about my future because my father is very sick and if he dies then who’s going to pay my college tuition and how will i get a job in future if im not educated, besides these problems i have many more stress i cant write here cause you people might come to tears, but still, i try to stay happy and calm by telling myself that there are much poor people than me who somehow survive in this world and i also read bible and other scriptures to calm my self down. lastly i would like to say that i have accepted my destiny and fate i am ready for whatever life brings in future because, i believe that whatever happens in this isthmus link of heaven and hell has already been planned and we are all nothing but dust and dust we shall return, “bouncer isn’t it you people wont understand” its philosophy , but anyway i think “you people should stay happy with what you have”, at least your situation is not like a hobo like me is it.

    • Hi Abhijeet,

      I’m not saying that we’ll be happy by stripping away material things from life. What I am saying is that if we look for happiness in material things, we won’t find it. We exist in a material world, so of course we need material things. We need a roof over our head and clothes to keep us warm. There is nothing wrong with having basic material possession. We need to keep ourselves and our families healthy and safe.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. We NEED people like you writing here and sharing their story. There aren’t enough people in the developed world who know what life is like from your perspective. A large percentage of the people who read my blog have a lot more than they need and sometimes that’s the audience I speak to. I’m sorry if I offended you in anyway — it wasn’t intentional.

  6. For example, for me and people around me, more money could help, but there are other things that money can’t buy: Love, courage, real relashionships. For me this things sounds far far away not because of others, because of my mind.

  7. Culture has a lot to do with money being the answer to easy life also if you are brought up to think money and being taken care of is everything what do you expect from someone.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dan.

      Yes, culture plays a huge part in how we view the world around us, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to misuse our potential or consume more than is necessary.

      What we really need to do is foster a culture of happiness, a culture where worth is determined by how well it improves our overall wellbeing. And fostering such a culture starts with us.

  8. hello Raam and folks,

    it is great to read post if this nature and how the universe is always the same for all of us.
    Having more just make us appreciate less and in consecuence be less happy.

    I have search for thing all my life realising as much of you that this does not bring happiness, happiness is inside of all of us and it is easied to get as we tought.

    Great post keep inspiring people to follow the thruth.

  9. What a beautiful article! It’s so true and sometimes I think I’m like a fish out of water with the way I choose to live and think. But, it’s what makes ME happy. Simplicity is the way…

    I noticed this was done in 2009…it’s 2014 now… lol so I hope you receive this, with gratitude :)

    Davine

    • Hi Davine,

      Yes, I did indeed receive it (apologies for the delayed response).

      You’re not a fish out of water with the way you think at all! There are MANY people who feel the same way. Simplicity has a way of simply inspiring change. :)