Most people I know express their desire to accumulate… things. This is all well and good, but I’d like to delve deeper and share what I’ve realized about the value of money and the possession of material things.
We’re all aware, surely, that focusing on the accumulation of enriching experiences is a much more rewarding approach to life. No one has ever, on their deathbed, regretted not having more money or more things. So why is it so hard to change our lifestyles to actually reflect this? What I see around me and in myself, at times, screams of hypocrisy and pretence.
We are influenced into believing that with more money, more real estate, more jewelry, we’ll be happier. Of course, it’s hard to be content without our basic needs met – which can mostly be provided by money: shelter, food and water, clothing, sanitation, safety. Past this point though, do we really need to keep accumulating money? Maslow was definitely onto something, but it seems we have forgotten about the next level, and the meaning of self-actualization has been lost to the glitz of money, power and influence.
It has been found in studies that “people who are deeply invested in the importance of money and material possessions score lower in both emotional well-being and life satisfaction.”
At what point is finding money important in our lives healthy, and when does it contribute to lower well-being and satisfaction? The hardest part isn’t in finding significant and relatable statistics or in figuring out what well-being and satisfaction mean to us; the difficulty lies in our capacity (or lack thereof) to see the degree of importance we attribute to money in our own lives.
Most people seem to be after financial stability for the security of their future. While it is prudent and practical to plan for the future of your life and family, I feel the lengths people go through to achieve this future is highly excessive – to the point of turning an otherwise beautiful, joyous and easy life into weekday prisons with only the weekends left for enjoyment. Instead of enjoying the motions of life, we are obsessed with achieving the goals we set out for ourselves – and this usually involves clocking in plenty of hours of work and amassing large amounts of money.
Believing we are happy when we aren’t is one of the hardest rabbit holes to escape from.
Why do work and duty come first while passions, dreams and happiness take the back seat? For Maslow, the self-actualized prioritize and enjoy the journey, not just the destination. I admit, I am too lazy to bother working a job I don’t believe in. I would rather die doing what I enjoyed and starve to death or drown in the ocean than step into some work I didn’t believe was the best use of my time.
But there lies the problem: we always think what we’re doing is the best use of our time.
But have we ever thought that maybe we were wrong about life and ourselves? For reasons too tedious to explain, the more I reflect on the existential question “Who am I?” the more the concepts of money and material possessions lose value. Just like an onion, I see that I lived with layers upon layers of impressions of myself that didn’t serve me but weighed me down to conform with everyone else. Despite not being at the center, having shed some of those layers still does give me enormous amounts of well-being and satisfaction.
It seems a little inquisition goes a long way. What questions have you been asking yourself lately?