How much is enough?
We want more, more, more toys, experiences, status, land, power. Everyone knows more of anything is better, every advert tells us what we are lacking and by good fortune they just happen to be selling that exact thing to solve it, even if a moment ago we did not know we even had a lack for such a thing. It must be true, I have never seen an advert that tells me I need less, every newspaper tells me about holidays I am not having or the type of house successful people live in and about the careers and lifestyle of the great and good who I should aspire to imitate.
Whilst we are listening to the advert's advice, the comparing part of the mind is agreeing with every sentiment, “our lives would be better with nicer trainers and yes, I would like to be a more caring person who donates to every charity. We really would be a better person with those things. Look pretty people are doing it.”
It is completely understandable that we wish for better, when I was a child, I looked at the bikes of the older children with envy and desire. It pushed me forwards and when I got my first bike, I learnt to ride it with a determination born out of want, wanting to be a big boy who did not need training wheels. I had pure joy in fulfilling my need to grow up and achieve, but it did not last, I soon transformed that desire in to wanting what the others had. It worked last time, so I reasoned, with a better looking bike, I would feel like I did on my first bike when I first rode it, I will be able to go faster, but in the pursuit for that desire for growth, I got confused and it changed into a desire for more.
And the bikes did get faster and more expensive, until I graduated to cars instead, once again I had a chance to grow and I learnt to drive, but again when the joy had gone, the desire had returned for that first time, and was released after that I had a disagreement with a tree.
Though again it had changed into a desire for the thing rather than experience of growth, which turned in to the roller coaster of hedonistic adaption, the cars got faster, more reliable, cheaper to run, and yet each time the desire returned, a new car is new to you only once and then it is an old car. There could have been no end to it as there is always a better car, the price range is enormous up into the millions, and then you can become a collector if you wish. However lack has no limit, why be a normal collector, when you could have the best collection in the world and at the end of this logic train, you would eventually need to own all the cars in the world, which is quite expensive.
Which returns us to our question, what is enough? At what point did you say, that is too much, yet it is the same ladder of lack and desire, everyone has a different height they are at, and yet the next step always looks so good. Now I have stopped climbing the ladder, and have started looking down, I am grateful to be driving the best car I have ever had, not because it is my perfect car, it has it's faults, but because I remember how imperfect my past cars were, they had more faults. I know it is the best car for me, I remember that it's function is to get me from here to there, which it does on every occasion without fail and every time it does I am grateful. I recognize the costs in money, time to take it on a date with a mechanic and the amount of resources that it represents that could be put to better use, and I look forward to the day when I only need to walk again.
That is just one of the things in my life, the same thought experiment could be run with everything I own, my house, laptop, camera, clothes, holidays. It does not really matter how much stuff I own, I could always think about better upgrades, and the only cure is to change your point of view from the future to the past, so that you can focus on your gratitude for how great things are now rather than how much lack you are suffering from in this moment compared to the future.
Thinking of the future is useful for deciding on what you could be doing for your future self, how you can be growing as a person. However shopping time only takes away from this thinking time, if you are buying cars, toys, which you know with certainty that you will be bored with soon, you are stealing time from getting the things that really brings you happiness.
What the future self wants is growth, we are all grateful for our younger selves for learning to read but who is grateful to themselves for the toys that they brought. More than that what the self wants is freedom, freedom to grow, be and do in the world as it pleases. The good news is that freedom is more possible and affordable than ever, if you are buying toys, you can instead choose to buy yourself a cash machine (stocks, bonds, property, business, any asset that generates income) and if you know what your perfect normal day consist of, it is easy to price out what your perfect life would cost. So when you see the advert or encounter lack in your life, remember when you buy something you are choosing not to buy the most exciting thing that there is to buy, your own freedom, which is the ultimate gift to yourself, as you are buying the opportunity to maximize your growth and live your perfect life. The freedom of time is a luxury that you can be grateful for everyday, yet so few people seem to be able to afford such a life whilst we are living at a time when it is entirely possible.
However there are no adverts that will tempt you in to such a lifestyle, you have to construct your life so that it is the dominating thought in your life, it is the thing you are not buying when you buy that extra pair of shoes. You could set Mrmoneymustache.com as your home page if it helps to keep you on track (he is very good on the tactics of building a cash machine). Though once you have the answer to the question of how much is enough for you in terms of things, money, living space. The real question is how much is enough time for yourself, your relationships, growth, purposeful work, after all the only true equality is time, it is the one thing that you can not buy more of, how you spend it is up to you, however it always a good choice to stop spending time on earning money for things you do not want or value less than your time. When you can say I have enough, that is when the question turns from being about lack and becomes about abundance.