Seneca's quote on happiness resonates deeply with me:
True happiness is…to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.
Why are so many people obsessed with money and materialism?
This is a question that reverberates around my skull for large portions of the day. And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.
We've all heard stories about super-rich people involved in corruption, being sent to jail or being crippled with mountain of debt. What is it that drives so many people to such extremes? What is it that they are seeking to discover by accumulating more wealth? Do they even know themselves?
In physiological terms "minds obsessively fixate on the idea of making money, without considering the consequences of their obsession."
This definition reads almost like a definition of addition: "A person with an addiction uses a substance, or engages in a behavior, for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeat the activity, despite detrimental consequences." (Psychology Today)
Now, please don't misinterpret my thoughts here. I'm not saying that making money is a bad thing in itself. We all need a certain amount if money to fulfill our basic needs of having food, shelter and a few treats every month. But where do you draw the line? Once our basic needs have been met we are usually happy, but how much happier can someone be if they live in a penthouse surrounded by fawning servants? Honestly, I doubt they would be any happier at all.
With increased levels of wealth come more responsibilities such as mortgages, staff, cars, stock market crashes etc. which make us more anxious and hyped up than those with less material possessions. So, why do people constantly push for more money and things when we all know it won't make us any happier than just having enough to meet our basic needs?
As I fast approach forty and have an 8 month year old baby, this question has been bothering me.
For the past 11 years I have - with some help - built up a successful company with a small, loyal workforce. We are well respected for the service we provide and help many people. However, anyone who owns their own business knows full well the stresses that come with the territory. As I slip over the imaginary horizon of young adult into a fully fledged middle aged fella, my attitude towards work/live balance is shifting rapidly.
In the early years, for example, it was head down, struggle and get shit done. Now though, I feel my concentration being pulled in other directions: family, exercise, meditation and poetry. Honestly, I can't see me being motivated to work the same way I have done for another 10 years. At a push, I could stretch to 5 years, for after that I would be more than financially comfortable and able to focus more on the present moment with my family and meditation practice.
I know many people buzz with excitement of making enough for the boat or the vacation penthouse, but, as nice as they are, material trappings, or the thought of them, do little for me.
Flashy people of the world go forth and do your thing. Buy more gold. Buy more property. Upgrade your BMW to the newest model if this is what makes you happy. For me... I just don't feel the need. I would rather explore the inner regions of my mind and, hopefully, become a more grounded and selfless individual.