Sometime back, I read this excellent post titled “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed“. A colleague shared it with me because he felt I’d like it. And right he was, because it echoed my own thoughts on how our consumption these days have little to do with our needs. The author in fact, goes a step further to say that the typical 40 hour work week (actually it’s way more) manufactured by big business has reduced our free time to such an extent that whatever we do get is spent less in meaningful, healthy activities and more in drowning ourselves in wanton consumption. While that may or may not be true, I think we have a choice, but one that involves winning a battle within. When we lose the battle, we begin indulging ourselves covering it up with the ‘deserve it/earned it’ argument, and the culture of random consumption lives to fight another day. The author sums it up rather well with “We buy stuff to cheer ourselves up, to keep up with the Joneses, to fulfill our childhood vision of what our adulthood would be like, to broadcast our status to the world, and for a lot of other psychological reasons that have very little to do with how useful the product really is.”
In a larger sense, we tend to live a life that’s not really ours. I cannot help but remember the words of a near-immortal “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.“
In essence, what we consider as motivation from our own self is actually not. I found an amazing/bizarre manifestation of this in the truly unique story of Mike Merrill, who divided himself into 100000 shares and ‘sold’ himself. Known as the IPO man, his investors would earn a profit out of activities he did outside of his job. In fact, his intent behind the entire activity was to raise funds for things he wanted to do, and felt he would make a profit from. What followed is a fascinating story that has resulted in the investors even getting to have a say in Mike’s personal relationships and sleep patterns!
I couldn’t help but think of how similar it was to an ordinary person’s life. It is an extreme case, but when we’re driven by wants and motivations that have little relation to needs, the only difference is that Mike is conscious of his lack of control, while we are smug in our belief that we’re in control. I most definitely am not saying we should be living like ascetics, but the balance does lie in consciously separating needs and wants. That, I believe, is the way to a fuller life. A different kind of more from a different set of mores. I wonder if it’s a coincidence that the term ‘Utopia’ was coined by a person named Sir Thomas More.
until next time, more or less over
P.S. The good news is that increasingly these days, I see people making conscious choices across the board – lifestyle, media, time, relationships. The more the merrier