Avoid Placing Too Much Security in Material Wealth

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo DaVinci

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher

There’s a great bike ride in Calgary, part of which goes through the rich part of town. House after house is an architectural marvel, huge 3 car garages with BMW’s parked outside and 10 feet tall front doors. It’s hard not to think to yourself: “wow the people who live here must be so happy, they’ve got it made.” It’s a product of seeing celebrities in their giant Hollywood mansions and advertising that promotes the equation:

Happiness = a big house, expensive watch, fast car and wearing a suit 24/7.

But in my opinion, a big house equals more stuff to buy and move, a bigger lawn to mow, more things to break and go wrong, an expensive watch can get lost or broken, expensive cars can be scratched or stolen and you’ll eventually see a faster car that will make yours look like a go-kart.

In other words, putting your faith in finding happiness through the collection of material goods is a dangerous business. Remember: happiness and pleasure are not the same thing. Yes, they may complement one another but pleasure does not create long lasting happiness.

“You can’t substitute material things for love or for gentleness or for tenderness or for a sense of comradeship.” – Morrie Schwartz

You might want to consider instead of buying another expensive watch, use that money to take some good friends for dinner. Donate to a family in need. Save it for a big road trip with some buddies. Strengthen those bonds between you and those close to you. I know as well as anyone that buying something gives a fleeting boost of joy, but it’s never long lasting; and yet we keep buying and spending in order to have a constant stream of short-lived pleasure.

If you can simplify your life, you place less importance on material things and focus more on fostering good relationships and having fun. Less things means less time shipping broken products away to be fixed, less time working to pay off those credit cards, and less stress overall worrying about your stuff.

Here’s a paragraph from the book The Art of Happiness. It is a direct quote from the Dalai Lama:

“Generally speaking, you have two types of individuals. On the one hand, you can have a wealthy, successful person, surrounded by relatives and so on. If that person’s source of dignity and sense of worth is only material, then so long as his fortune remains, maybe that person can sustain a sense of security. But the moment the fortune wanes, that person will suffer because there is no other refuge.

On the other hand, you an have another person enjoying similar economic status and financial success, but at the same time, that person is warm and affectionate and has a feeling of compassion. Because that person has another source of worth, another source that gives him or her a sense of dignity, another anchor, there is less chance of that person’s becoming depressed if his or her fortune happens to disappear. Through this type of reasoning, you can see the very practical value of human warmth and affection in developing an inner sense of worth.”

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