It is the final day of the “Less Things, More Happiness” challenge. As a recap, the goal of each day of the challenge is to test out practices that will bring you happiness (based on extensive science) and focus on minimalism (not having to spend tons of money to do so).
That’s the beauty of happiness. A lot of what brings it isn’t expensive.
Today, was a day of pondering. I watched this interesting TED Talk by Simon Dabbicco, which you can see below:
It raised some interesting points on possessions (or the lack of them). One of them I had thought a lot about already was the topic of possessions controlling our lives. Even if I go outside and say that I only need water, air, and food to be happy … I go back home to all these possessions that chain me down to that location.
Part of me believes I still need the ironing board, iron, space heater, vacuum cleaner, electronic shaver, and everything else in my room. It is tough to lug all of this stuff around. Those who do fall under the category of what I like to call “mainstream travel.” They almost bring their entire homes with them, go for a short one or two week “vacation” to a commercial tourist location, and then come home.
Arguably, these items do make life easier. But it also means that I am truly not completely free to live a happy life without them. These possessions chain me down from traveling.
I thought about it and I came to the conclusion that I should learn to live without them if needed. If I had the money, I could buy these on my journey when needed. Heat to keep my body warm can be provided in other forms, like a blanket or heating of a hotel room. I can buy shaving essentials if need be.
Dabbicco brings up two interesting points:
- Most people fall into the trap of modern life where they buy all these items that they think they need but don’t by working a job they hate. They get chained to their lifestyle.
- The best form of travel is one where you spend little or no money to really experience a location. Avoid the tourist trap of eating the same food at the same restaurants you do at home.
For the first point, I reminded myself that I need to draw the line between possessions I need and can really benefit from versus possessions I want but add little value, that I barely use, and own me. An example you can use is clothing. There are plenty of clothes I have bought that I wear once a year or not at all. They were impulse buys that weren’t as cool as I thought.
Like Dabbicco in his speech, I don’t have anything against possessions or technology. They can be quite useful. Just make sure that I own money and possessions rather than the other way around. For me, one of my biggest obstacles is possessions getting in front of my dreams of travel. For you, it could be possessions keeping you from enjoying life. Warren Buffett has said in many interviews that he knows some rich people who get more anxiety and stress from having to take care of their mansions and sports cars than happiness.
As for the second point, it is more for you travel lovers out there. I have experienced a couple cookie-cutter vacations and it didn’t seem like I was getting the full experience. Most people follow this process of going on a cruise, which is completely commercialized (they have all these shops on there trying to sell you all sorts of stuff). The cruise drops you off at the most commercialized locations. They are tourist-friendly, with tons of kiosks to sell you stuff. Then, you are returned home. It’s artificial.
Rather, I do appreciate the idea of visiting a city and seeing what the real local life is like. By taking my time, as Dabbicco mentions. If you do this, you get to experience the real ethnic food and lifestyle at a cheaper price. You experience the real structures of the area rather than what the top monuments or museums have to show you. If you stay in the middle of the tourist area of the city, you will get more tourist-built food and merchandise for inflated prices. Often, the merchandise isn’t even from the area. It’s funny but you’ll find that it’s usually made in China.
It sounds so obvious but few people do this. Go to any big tourist destination and most crowds buy into the mainstream movement. They go to the Eiffel tower. They stay in an expensive hotel. They go to a recommended restaurant in the middle of the city. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing that (I would like to as well) but that’s not entirely real France. I know for sure, being Chinese, that staying at a top hotel in the middle of Hong Kong is not even close to experiencing how real average Chinese people live.
One thing I disagree with Dabbicco on is his idea that a market-economy that has money as its number one goal is the cause of most unhappiness. Many great companies have provided great value in exchange for the money they have made in the form of tech innovations or increased service. Some put other mission and values before money, like Toms or Zappos. Having said that, I do acknowledge that many companies nonetheless fall into his categorization so there may be some truth there.
It’s a good reminder that money can be a goal of yours but it shouldn’t be a #1 goal at all costs. In Martin Fridson’s book How to Be A Billionaire, a couple of the billionaires profiled mentioned regret for sacrificing family time and relationships for more unnecessary money. Consider some other important values such as time with your children and spouse, making the world a better place, or health.
It’s a myth that you must sacrifice your good health or relationships for money. Whoever came up with the saying, “Money is the root of all evil. Tell me how much money you want and I’ll tell you how much evil you have to do” is completely wrong. It’s wrong because many people who make money provide incredible value. The foods you buy require years of farming and thousands of miles of transportation at a bargain price. The products you get from Amazon provide manufacturing and delivery to you at amazing speeds. The heating, cooling, and plumbing systems in your house eliminate freezing and sweaty moments as well as poop filled outhouses.
I rounded out today’s challenge by watching a couple Dalai Lama videos on Happiness, like this one:
The main thing I got from him was his constant sense of happiness, simplicity, and humor. He is constantly cracking small jokes throughout his talk. It’s a reminder that a sense of humor is a great creator of joy and sign of good mental health.
Also, his simple life is really relevant here. His lifestyle is simple:
- He wakes before sunrise.
- He eats breakfast.
- He meditates and prays.
- He eats lunch.
- He fasts and drinks.
- He reads magazines or newspaper and watches BBC.
- He sleeps for 8 to 10 hours.
His life is simple yet he is so happy. It is a great example that you don’t need fancy possessions to live a life of contentment. In addition, his fasting makes him really appreciate his meals in the morning. Although he eats a very basic breakfast, his voluntary deprivation reminds him to appreciate the small things.
This is a reminder for you to appreciate the small things and deprive yourself a little every now and then to increase that appreciation.
A happy life doesn’t necessarily mean one that requires complex, over-the-top activities or expensive experiences. The Dalai Lama is not eating at five star restaurants, flying private jets, or buying Bugatti’s. Yet he bursts out a hearty laugh every twenty minutes.
After A Couple Years of Reflection, This is All I Need For Happiness
After years of reflecting, I’ve come up with a mantra for happiness you can say whenever I’m feeling poorly. Usually, it clears away the jealousy or frustration, a primary cause of unhappiness.
The mantra goes:
“All I need to be happy is air, water, food, good relationships, mental health, and physical health. I’m grateful that I have these.”
It clears my head because we often get so overwhelmed by all the possessions or achievements we don’t have. It’s a great reminder that I have what I need.
Technically, the mantra isn’t completely true. I’m still tweaking it every so often. My goal is to add in other fundamental happiness-based exercises that don’t cost a lot. What I like about the current version is how simple it is and how clear of a reminder it is that we don’t need much. Everyone has access to air.
A future version of the mantra may go something like this:
“All I need to be happy is air, water, food, mental health, physical health, strong relationships, sleep, exercise, and gratitude.”
As you can see, it’s a struggle getting it just right, as it starts to get wordy, which defeats the purpose of it. Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas for a better mantra.
A Small and Fun Challenge For You
Try simplifying your life to what is essential and most important. Added complexity doesn’t always lead to a more amazing life. When I thought about it, I came up with these essentials:
- Eat nutritiously.
- Sleep at least 9 hours a night.
- Clean my body (brush teeth and shower).
- Do my #1 task that will have the highest impact in moving me forward to my long-term goal (currently, it’s earning more money).
This is hard to do because there are a number of other experiences and success habits I would like to do but are not essentials. This includes firing my first gun at a shooting range, becoming a blue belt in a martial art, writing down my goals twice a day, doing visualization practices, reading, and spending time with my family.
Some of these habits would improve my chances of success, but for the sake of this exercise and an attempt at simplicity, I tried to pare it down to what was essential. It’s a great productivity practice too. When you have a hundred tasks, you get overwhelmed and aren’t sure what to do, which leaves you in a place where you don’t do what’s most impactful and important.
I’d love to hear from you, especially if this spoke to you in a positive way. What did you like and not like about this? What have you learned from this? Let me know in the comments.
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