“Hi, my name is Kathy and I have been addicted to more.” What about you? The good news is that I don’t believe that any of us are powerless against it—but we do need to admit that it is a problem to begin with and be on continual alert to its presence. But what exactly do I mean by being addicted to more, and why is it so important to recognize? Plus, why is our desire for more such an important awareness for a minimalist lifestyle?
Just like most addictions, the addiction to more is the continued, and often compulsive, use of a behavior or substance despite adverse consequences. So just like many substances or behaviors, “more” in some forms isn’t necessarily bad, it’s the continued and compulsive pursuit without balance that often leads to severe unhappiness, financial ruin and all sorts of unintended outcomes. I’m guessing that if you aren’t aware of how ‘more’ is impacting your life, there is a good chance you too are suffering from its addiction.
But what do I mean by more? My definition of more is the continual search for something to complete us and make us feel worthy, loveable and sufficient. That something can be all sorts of material things that are easily seen and/or measured like a bigger house, a prestigious car, a bigger bank account or a higher paying job. Or ‘more’ can be related to intangibles like educational degrees, spiritual understanding or position, being in perfect physical shape, the love of a child, or even needing other people’s recognition. Any time we think we need to be something more, or have something more, or do something more in order to “complete” ourselves and be okay, then we are stuck in the compulsive addiction so prevalent in our world today. Again, it’s not the thing or the concept that is problematic, it is our unconscious impulses that are so destructive to a peaceful and satisfied life.
Making the problem even more complicated is that in most cases our very culture and worldview encourage the universal pursuit of more—at just about any cost. With an economy built around the idea that more is always better—regardless of the outcome, it’s no surprise that this behavior extends all the way down to personal finance and individual lives. We believe that businesses and corporations must always be growing (and becoming more) with both their income and their productivity. Likewise, we grow up believing that it’s somehow un-American to be content and happy with who you are and what you have. We drive ourselves, our friends, our children and our lives with the idea that it is lazy, or unworthy or __________________ (you fill in the blank) if we stop for a moment to enjoy where we are, accept ourselves as we are, and take a break.
Want to know if you have this addiction: Here’s a short quiz that may help:
1) Your child tells you he/she doesn’t want to go college because what they really want is to be is a poet. Do you:
a) Ask them if they are nuts and ask how do they expect to eat?
b) Grit your teeth, let them do what they want, and NEVER tell any friends or family what your child is really doing?
c) Insist they go to college first so they have a way to make money and fall back on when the poet thing doesn’t work out.
d) Encourage them to live their dream as long as it fulfills them and they can responsibly take care of themselves?
2) You are walking by a store and see that perfect something (whatever it is that you collect or absolutely love) on sale at 50% off. You know it is a fantastic price but you also know you don’t need it and really can’t afford it at the moment. Do you?
a) Buy it anyway because you’re saving so much money?
b) Don’t buy it but are cranky and depressed for days without it?
c) Try to guilt someone who loves you into buying it for you so you don’t have to buy it yourself?
d) Accept that you don’t need it and save your money for another time.
3) You are finally in the position to buy a house. You look at a number that you like but one stands out because it is slightly more impressive looking and bigger than what you really need. Do you:
a) Justify to yourself that a bigger and more prestigious house is a better investment?
b) Rationalize why you deserve such a house regardless of the cost?
c) Don’t buy it but regret it for the rest of your life?
d) Don’t buy it by recognizing that a bigger house will stress your finances more than you care, admit you really don’t need that extra space in the first place, and you don’t need to impress others anyway?
4) You’re offered a new job that pays you a lot more money but you have to move to a city/place you don’t really like and work for a company that you believe is untrustworthy. Do you?
a) Take the job because your goal in life has always been to make that much money?
b) Take the job and then go out and buy yourself that expensive new car that you’ve always wanted to offset what you have to give up.
c) Don’t take the job but let your family and current employer know how much you’ve sacrificed just for them?
d) Don’t take the job knowing that you’d never sell your soul to a company you didn’t trust or move to a place you didn’t like just for more money.
5) You start a blog writing about things you really care about. Even though your blog takes a while to draw a small following, you receive a number of benefits from your project that are immensely gratifying. Then a blogging expert recommends you start blogging in a different way that is contrary to how you’ve done it, but guarantees that you will “grow more numbers.” Do you?
a) You make all changes the expert recommends because the whole point of your blog is to have more followers.
b) Ignore the expert, continue to blog your own way, but hire an advertising company to promote your blog to get more followers.
c) Give up blogging altogether and go start a new project that pays better and has a better following.
d) Are open to changes and recommendations, but stay true to yourself and your intentions to your blog regardless of what the expert suggests or whether you get more followers.
6) Your boss invites you to dinner and tells you to feel free to order anything you want on the menu. You normally eat very modestly, but you know you’ve been working extra hard and see this as a perk from your job. Do you?
a) Order the most expensive items on the menu even though you know you couldn’t possibly eat them all.
b) Order extra of everything with the plan to take home leftovers in a doggie bag to get the most from your dinner.
c) Order a normal entrée, but even though you are full and satisfied you cannot resist ordering (and then eating) that decadent dessert—it is after all, a special occasion.
d) Order the same amount of food that you normally do, eat as much as is comfortable and healthy, and just enjoy the company and the fact that your boss is paying for your dinner.
Obviously, the last answer to every one of the above questions is the one that stays true to yourself regardless of the lure of “more.” And even though none of the above may apply to you directly, I’m hopeful that they at least let you know how often, and in several ways, people routinely believe that “more” is better.
I am personally attempting to recognize how many ways I, and others, routinely suggest that “more” is superior to any other action. It is especially prevalent in all advertising, but also sneaks up in our conversations with others and most especially in our expectations of ourselves and those around us. Best of all, when we recognize why we so often choose “more” as a way to feel good—then we can start becoming consciously aware of what it is that we are really wanting in that moment. And as I said above, I think we usually want to really know and believe that we are good enough, worthy and sufficient just as we are. In the end, you don’t have to be more of anything—expect maybe yourself.
Of course, as I said above, there may be times when striving for more is appropriate and beneficial to your life. Going for more is not the problem, making it unconscious and unbalanced is what creates an addiction. Recognizing the trade-offs and opportunity costs of any urge for more helps keep it in check.
I define minimalism or simple living as a lifestyle or practice that puts the focus on enjoying and appreciating the here and now of my life. Whatever I have, whatever is going on, whatever the experience is, can I find meaning, purpose and happiness right then and there? That’s why I see “more” as something that stands in the way of that appreciation by its focus on something other than what is—and therefore a hindrance to anyone who wants to live a minimalist life. Being conscious and aware of how more routinely pops up in your life is a great way to live both Minimal and SMART 365.
Would love some feedback on how the above “quiz” worked out for you? Please share your comments below…