Technological progress is a great thing, but it’s not without its drawbacks.
Like no generation before us, we are slaves to busy careers and constant consumerism. Everything around us from our very youngest days encourages us to believe that success and happiness can be measured exclusively in terms of material wealth. Income is placed on a pedestal as the ultimate arbiter of personal worth.
When you take a look at the way most people live and work today, you start to realize some ugly truths about our society. The idea of working for the sake of bettering oneself is a noble one, but in truth, most of us work merely to preserve our current lifestyles. After a lifetime of conditioning, we think it’s normal to define our pleasures by the things we consume and we see no contradiction in racking up years of debt to live ordinary lives. A life spent in the service of debts and financial obligations is not a free one – it’s more akin to slavery than anything else.
If these ideas ring true to you, you’re probably already feeling how inherently unhealthy the modern rat race is. Those subconscious urges that suggest to you that something is terribly wrong with letting your financial status drive all of your choices are worth listening to.
When you truly open your thoughts and look inward, the odds are very good that you’ll realize you crave more than an unfulfilling job, an endless cycle of debt, and a life defined largely by the things you buy. The bad news is that you, like the rest of us, are stuck in a consumerist society. The good news is, nobody is forcing you to be a consumerist yourself.
If you’re ready to turn your back on materialism and get in touch with your soul, these 3 choices might dramatically alter your life:
1) Don’t Work The Job Society Expects You To
Clocking in with an employer and working for them eight hours a day is such a common habit in our society that we never really take enough time to question it. Is this the only way to live? Do we have to leap out of school and into a career like it’s our only option? Is a life of indulgence, free of a job you dislike, only a possibility after you grow old and retire? Separate the obligations imposed on your by society, friends, and family from the realities of your situation. You’re not actually chained to that desk, are you? If your job is eating you up inside, it’s time to quit. Ah, but there are bills to pay, aren’t there? This is where these choices work together, because the next one is also an important shift in your financial thinking.
2) Stop Living (And Buying) To Impress
Nobody actually needs to work punishing, unhealthy hours week after to week to stay alive. We work much harder than we have to so that we can earn more money than we need so that we can spend it on things that might impress other people. The need to accumulate expensive possessions is deeply linked with the warped idea of defining worth – of objects and people – solely in terms of their financial costs. If you want to cut your working hours in half, you don’t have to invent a brilliant labor-saving gadget. Instead, slash your expenses.
Be thorough and ruthless in evaluating your material possessions. How many of them really matter to you? Do you need a brand new car and the loan that you have to take to afford it? Do you really need 2,000 square feet of space in your home? Do the labels on your clothes matter so much that you spend more just to flaunt designer brands?
Although you might tell yourself that your only interest in expensive possessions is treating yourself to the finer things in life, look deeper. Is there really so much difference between watching a $500 TV and a $2,000 one? Are you truly enjoying the possessions you slave to afford or are you enjoying the ego boost you get out being (barely) able to afford them?
3) Rediscover Non-Material Values
Turning your back on consumerism can leave you questioning your own identity. Start by forgetting about any ties between you and your possessions or your lifestyle. Forget about comparing yourself to others. Once you turn away from the exterior world, you start turning to look at your inner self. How is your spiritual life? Do you have a fulfilling relationship with God? Can you feel whole and at peace without relying on external stimuli? How successful are you if you can’t feel good without your material possessions?
Commune with nature, take up meditating, or spend time rediscovering your religion. The more you seek a spiritual connection to the world rather than a material one, the easier you’ll find it to ignore the idea of material gain as the highest and mightiest pursuit. Do you think monks worry about credit card debt?
It’s very telling that this same culture which sacrifices financial achievement above all else is also strangling under debt, eating unhealthy foods, withering under stress, and gobbling down antidepressants. When your society inspires record-breaking numbers of members to commit suicide, clearly you may not be setting your priorities properly.
Giving up on the consumerist world and listening to your inner voice is definitely not easy. It might be the hardest, bravest, most challenging thing you ever do. Once you start down that path, though, you’ll discover rewards you couldn’t even imagine are yours for the taking.