I’ll go right out and say this first. I’m a flaming minimalist. While everyone is out chasing the latest fashions, electric cars, or Hublot watches, I take pride in not owning a car, wearing vintage clothes that I bought for 99 cents, and never taking off my $100 G-Shock watch. Does that make me better than you?
It makes me different, that’s all.
There’s nothing wrong with owning nice things, but if you think this article is about money, or material things, your wrong. This is going to be about what I feel those things take away when we chase them, and make them ends goals, rather than a means goal. But first let’s define what the heck I just said.
Means VS. Ends
Simply put, a means goal is a way of reaching an end. There are many different ways we can depict this, but for this article we will use a car.
Let’s say you just got your drivers license and it’s time for you to buy a car (end goal). There are several different ways you can get a car. You can rent one, you can buy one, you can lease one, or you could even enter into a contest to win one (means goals). The first three obviously require you getting a job first, and the more expensive the car, the higher paying job you have to find.
Here’s where people mess up. The purpose of a car is to get you from A to B to C, and then back home to A. That’s all. We all have different tastes, I’m not saying you should get a clunker and throw $500 of repairs into it every month. What most of us do is buy something that has us living BEYOND our means to depict “status.”
A Near Life Experience
I had a girlfriend in my early 20’s who had a perfectly good car. It never broke down, was easy to maintain, stylish, and she didn’t owe a cent on it. It got her from A to B and so on. However, she graduated from college, got a “big girl” job and the first thing she did was buy a new car. Same make, same model, the one she traded in was just a couple years older, that’s all.
Soon after that the bills came. More money for insurance, plus the car note she didn’t have before. Complaints about not having enough money were heard on a weekly basis, and because she had the “new” car, her friends wanted her to drive everywhere. Credit card debt started to pile up because with the new job, she also needed new clothes. She needed to “look” professional, and that meant designer everything. No more shopping at GAP.
Right about now, you’re thinking, “Everyone does this, what’s your point?” Relax, we’re not there yet.
What’s Your Intrinsic Worth, Worth?
Marcus Aurelius was the last of Rome’s five good Emperor’s. He Ruled from 161 – 180 and was a staunch advocate of Stoicism. His book, Meditations is a collection of his very deepest thoughts on love, life, and the cosmic. Even though he was at war most of his rule, you learn of compassion. Even though his wife cheated on him while he was away and he knew it, he came back treating her with love and respect. You might think he’s foolish, but to me, it’s admirable.
“You cannot be harmed by the law of another.” He says. “Where is the injury then?”
“In your sense of judgment.”
“Form no judgment, and the injury disappears (book 4, line 39).”
This is pretty heavy stuff. It’s a denial of the ego, and thought forms. Now we are getting closer to the point, but I still urge you to wait for it.
About 7 lines previous, Aurelius states, “A man’s interest in an object should be no greater than it’s intrinsic worth.” I want you to reflect on that every time you’re about to make a big purchase, or buy something you want, but don’t typically need. Ask yourself, “What is this new pair of jeans worth to me intrinsically?” Extrinsically we already know we can post it to Facebook, twitter, and Pintrest and get a bunch of “likes.” Our friends will be impressed for sure, but at what cost?
It’s Never Enough
The pleasure of what we enjoy, is lost by wanting more. I took one of my professional football players on a volunteer vacation to Costa Rica. He was a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins and you can read the article HERE.
We stayed in a remote village where the houses were the size of your garage. They had tin roofs and when it rained, you couldn’t hear yourself think. Only two people in the village had a car, and they were sort of community. If you needed it, you just asked. One day, my athlete looked at me and said, “It’s amazing how happy these people are, and they ain’t got shit.”
And there’s my point. Happiness can never be an end goal obtained by “stuff.” No matter what you buy there’s always going to be the next version, something with more buttons, or something a little bit lighter, or clearer than what you have now. We lose the happiness we had with that object, and chase the happiness we think we will have when we get the new object. But it’s never enough, and here is where the sickness lies.
Deep within, our soul is dying. It is at this point that we must practice contentment.
In an article published by Paul Levy called, The Greatest Epidemic Sickness Know to Humanity he talks about a disease the Native Americans used to describe White man called “Wetiko.” The short meaning is “someone who takes more than they need.” In part two of his article he goes into much more detail about how it relates to American society.
“The wetiko bug influences our perceptions by stealth and subterfuge so as to hide and obfuscate itself from being seen. Like a higher-dimensional, alien form of psychic foliage, the wetiko germ implants its seeds into and takes root and germinates within our mind, distracting and deviating us from our true vocation, calling and spiritual path. The alien, and alienating, effect of the wetiko virus, the very thing we need to see, is disguised by the way we think, perceive, and give meaning to our experience.”
He then goes on to say,
“They themselves don’t have the slightest clue about their own pathological condition. Wetikos don’t experience themselves as needing help; for them other people are always “the problem.” They usually don’t mind their disease, or even recognize it, because it is all they know, and their leaders and the very society they live in encourage them in it. They neither have an appreciation of their disorder, nor do they realize how truly sick they are.”
“full-blown,” wetikos are arrogantly puffed up with their own self-importance, i.e., “inflated.” Instruments for evil, wetikos are arrogantly, ignorantly and self-righteously convinced they are in possession of the truth and working for the highest good. It is as if they are unable to know that what they are doing is evil, unable to register their actions as anything other than good.”
Is My Point Becoming Clearer?
If you’ve made it this far, you may be reassessing your lifestyle right now and I don’t blame you. This isn’t a right or wrong article, I’m writing it to create space, provoke thought, and maybe have you entertain the idea of reflection.
Is that new house really going to make me happy?
Why do I feel like it will?
What is missing in my life that I feel this purchase will mask?
Those are the real questions behind why you’re doing what you are doing, or why you’re justifying what you want to buy.
Vishen Lakhiani is the owner of Mindvalley Academy. He wrote a wonderful book called The Code of the Extraordinary Mind. In it he describes how we should spend money on experiences, rather than things because that’s what our spirit truly craves. He says the best strategy is to make experiences, and traveling means goals, but not tying happiness to it as an ends goal.
That is to say, “I’ll never be happy if I don’t make it to India!”
Now the problem with this is that most of us use the excuse that we don’t have enough money to travel because we are buried under a mountain of debt. As our assets depreciate, and inflation rises, which it does every year, even if we were to sell everything we would still owe money on what we bought.
And that’s the wetiko trap. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. The Hindu’s (oh jeez, he’s quoting hinduism now) don’t see financial success in this life as a method of liberation. The only reason we took on birth in a human form is to work out our Karma and go to God.
The purpose of our life is for our spirit to experience richness, not for our bank accounts to become rich.
This means forming stronger bonds.
Telling the truth more often.
Living with integrity.
But that’s too difficult to do, it’s so much easier just to go out and buy something.