A lovely little picture popped up on my Instagram feed the other day. ‘Travel is the Only Thing you Buy that Makes you Richer’ – Said Internet
Then beneath a rabbit reading with his feet dangling off the edge of a cliff next to his tent it said ‘LOL, there are also books’ – Said Zayts
It got me thinking… There are loads of things we can and do buy that make us richer.
Not only is the idea that travel is the only thing that we can buy to make our lives richer a privileged and elitist sentiment, it’s also just kind of wrong.
I do understand the sentiment. I get the thought behind it. But it’s pretty short sighted and ironically consumerist. It’s the product of a consumption mindset. The consumption mindset of someone who has enough basic levels of wealth to be able to make that call.
I used to think retail therapy was a load of nonsense. The idea that when you’re going through or have been through something hard you go shopping to make it all better. I still think this is a load of nonsense if you’re seeking long term satisfaction… BUT I do think there are things we can buy that make us richer.
I believe that retail therapy has a place when we buy stuff that carries meaning. And I believe that there are other things we can buy that make us richer…
Like buying a gift for someone. No strings attached.
There are studies that show when we give to others we feel better in ourselves. When we know we are bringing joy, love or support to another person it sparks a reaction in the middle region of the brain (the pleasure bit).
Dunn, Aknin, and Norton carried out research into this and found a strong link between giving and happiness. Clearly this can become a slightly murky topic when we move to a line of thought that says ‘give in order to be happy’, but we won’t go there.
Gifts and donations are both things you can buy that make YOU richer. Not only that, they make others richer and the world at large once the seed of giving is planted.
Like buying stuff to make stuff.
Another thing we can buy that makes us richer is stuff to make stuff. My life becomes richer when I buy a notebook, guitar strings, a new piece of musical equipment to play with. Why? Because these are tools and resources that enable creativity.
Creativity is something that when it’s shared can make us richer as society.
The value of society can usually be seen in the quality of its culture. What are we building, making, creating? How do we see the world and how do we bring an intrinsic sense of value to the collective life of society? To build we need materials. Materials usually need to be bought.
I mentioned the difference between pleasure and enjoyment in a recent post about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Flow. This is an important distinguishing feature when we consider retail therapy. In the context of this ‘richness’ concept we might say that enjoyment = richness.
Like buying ingredients for food.
A few months ago I started baking our own bread. I identified shop-bought bread (and its MANY ingredients) as one of the biggest contributors to my inability to lose weight. So I went out and bought some flour, yeast, and salt. I’ve never looked back. It’s the most intrinsically enjoyable process.
It brings a great deal of inner delight to eat bread that has been made by my own hand and to know that it consists of nothing but basic ingredients. It brings richness both to my own body, and also to my spirit – the results improve with every loaf I make.
This can be experienced whenever we cook from scratch. The process of creating a meal and then eating what you’ve made brings a deep sense of richness and satisfaction. There is also a richness drawn from the progress and improvement experienced over time as you develop your skills.
Like buying the work of our makers.
Zayts mentioned books. I would add music, films, entry to performances, galleries and museums. The list goes on. When we spend money on the products of our culture’s makers we are enriching our own lives and culture more broadly. We are contributing to the potential for more making to happen. Everyone wins.
When you buy an album, go to a show, see a film etc you are enriching your experience of the world. You are also contributing to the potential future production of more. You can feel satisfied that the richness is not just experienced for you as an individual but it stretches further and deeper into society more generally.
It’s not simply about your own individual experience as a result of the money you’ve spent. We are in it together. Every consumer choice we make has profoundly far reaching consequences that stretch way beyond that which we can see.
Our choices may seem like individual choices but they are actually a part of a huge and intricate ecosystem. Some choices destroy value (buying and demanding a more disposable society – like fast food, and fast fashion in clothing, trends, and technology – stuff that requires poorer and poorer labour conditions and massive areas of landfill to dispose of yesterday’s fads).
We need to feel the impact of our choices. To know that we can make good choices and that we don’t have to succumb to the pressures of a growth driven economy that desires and perpetuates a valueless society. We can choose to invest our money in things that matter.
We can transcend this idea that we spend to be happy, and choose instead to use our money as an investment into real inner growth of us as individuals and as a collective.
With that in mind I believe there are a great many things we can buy that will make us rich.
Over to You
Travel is not the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. What do YOU buy that makes you richer? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.