Consumerism: the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods. – Merriam Webster
Consumerism is not just the act of buying things. It is a world view.
As a society, we have become preoccupied with buying consumer goods. Not only has this led to millions of lives crammed with stuff, but it has also caused a vast loss of pride that was once found in producing.
Check out this excerpt from an article on the APA website:
In Kasser’s own book, “The High Price of Materialism” (MIT Press, 2002), Kasser describes his and others’ research showing that when people organize their lives around extrinsic goals such as product acquisition, they report greater unhappiness in relationships, poorer moods and more psychological problems. Kasser distinguishes extrinsic goals–which tend to focus on possessions, image, status and receiving rewards and praise–from intrinsic ones, which aim at outcomes like personal growth and community connection and are satisfying in and of themselves.
What is your life filled with? What is it built around? What goals have you established? Where do you place your value?
There is nothing wrong with buying. But there is something wrong when it takes over your world view.
I’m not materialistic, you’re probably thinking right now. But take a few minutes to look around your home. How much of it do you need? How much of it brings you joy? How much of it do you even use?
According to the LA Times, the average American household contains over 300,000 items – and that was in 2014!
Is your life filled with tangible items that have extrinsic value? Or is it filled with life-affirming things that are intrinsically valuable and add to the quality of your life?
The funny thing about extrinsic value is that its worth is determined by outside factors. One day, it might be priceless, and the next, worthless (those of us who have ever shattered an iPhone know this to a cringeworthy degree).
But things of intrinsic value are timeless. They are the things that we treasure our whole lives, the things we pass down to our children. They are things that never lose their value and add to our lives – things like relationships, memories, traditions, and experiences.
In an interview with the Center for a New American Dream, Tim Kasser, professor and chair of Psychology at Knox college, Kasser says this:
In essence, the research shows that the goals encouraged by consumer culture, which are primarily extrinsic, tend to diminish the quality of our lives, our society, and our Earth, whereas intrinsic goals promote greater health and well-being, more social justice, and greater sustainability.
What are your goals? Is your life centered around things that hold no value in and of themselves? Do you become preoccupied and overwhelmed with pressure of getting and buying? And does that pressure conflict with your values and desires?
If so, maybe it’s time to break up with the buy.
Challenge yourself daily to break the mindset of consumerism. Here are some thoughts:
What you want now vs. what you want most.
Is what you want now in line with what you want most? We only get this one life, and the choices you make today will impact what you get to do and be. If you are working, what are you working toward? If you get there, will you be where you wanted to end up? If not, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities.
What do you value?
Your calendar, and your wallet: show me these two things, and I will tell you where your values lie. Where is your time going? Where is your money going? No matter what you think you value, or what you want to value, or what you wish you valued, if your time and money are not invested in those values, then they are not your values.
Where are you investing your time and money? Does your investment line up with your values? If not, be honest about what you value now and what you want to value. Bit by bit, change your lifestyle so that it matches your values, and not the other way around.
What are you doing this for?
One way or another, we all work. The important question is: what are we working for? Here is some food for thought:
Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs. – Farrah Gray
Whose dreams are you building – and more importantly, why? Is it for things that drain value from your life? If so, I promise it’s not worth it.
Is it time to break up with the buy? If so, what steps can you take today to break down a consumerist mindset in your life? Where can you begin to change your lifestyle to align with your values?
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