We spend a lot of our lives reacting to impulses, offers, and opportunities. Our urges tell us to grab things before they disappear (scarcity). At this time of year we are particularly susceptible. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Shopping, Boxing Day Sales, New Year’s Resolutions etc, the bait is plentiful, and we are ready to bite.
How intentional are you about what you allow into your life? How ready are you to converse with the inner-voice that keeps saying, “do it, you might as well”?
We fill our lives with a lot of stuff without really grappling with whether or not it is going to bring any value to it. When it comes to buying things you don’t need (because they’re on offer), or taking stuff from your friend who’s moving house (because otherwise it will just go in the trash). Gifts, good deals, and ‘it might come in handy one day’ items.
Joy doesn’t come from simply getting whatever it is you want. It starts when you want what you already have. Otherwise no thing will ever bring you what you’re looking for.
Wanting what you already have is driven by active gratitude. This is not platitudinal or passive (it’s easy to appear grateful while also craving more, or feeling like something is still missing). Active gratitude uses, understands, and appreciates, why the present is so valuable (it is all there really is).
If the piece of pizza in your hand turns out to be the last piece you ever eat, would you be satisfied that you truly enjoyed it? Or do you assume there will be more? Are you too busy worrying that there are only a few pieces left in the box and you need to get one before everyone else eats it?
“To have lived long enough depends neither upon our years nor upon our days, but upon our minds.” – Seneca
Not About Deprivation
Minimalism is about being intentional. Choosing what we let in to our lives, and what we can let go of. Not in order to deprive ourselves, but in order to actually appreciate and understand what brings us value and joy. To enhance our experience, not restrict it.
The more stuff we fill our lives with, the less focussed we will be at what actually matters. If life is about the endless pursuit of more (hobbies, relationships, stuff etc), then the value of that stuff shrinks. You cannot truly engage with them in any meaningful way.
“Sale Price is the compulsory price—a fool’s price. Black Friday is all about these traps. “Act now! Limited time only! While supplies last! Like Pavlov’s bell, these clever stratagems incite a false sense of scarcity that clouds our perception of reality, and thus prod us to act on impulse: you might save 70% off the clearance-rack dress you sort of like, but you’ll save 100% if you just leave the store without it.” – Joshua Fields-Milburn
The real scarcity is our attention, focus, and time. We are only here on this planet for a fleeting moment.
It is abundantly clear that it’s worth doing life in the best way we can. Stoics would call this the pursuit of virtue. This boils down to a simple truth: you don’t have to act on every urge and impulse you have. Virtue is honing your ability to choose to intentionally act in the right way because it’s the right thing to do. Rather than taking the easy way because you felt like you didn’t have a choice.
Putting Virtue to the Test
When the deals come flooding into my inbox, and the offers are tailor made for me and my interests, the desire to unthinkingly click ‘buy’ is unfathomably strong. But I remind myself, just because I feel the urge…just because I suddenly feel like I absolutely need this shiny new thing, it doesn’t mean I have to act. Especially on someone else’s terms. My ability to choose is much stronger than those urges to acquire.
I try to put space between that momentary feeling of desire/scarcity, and the action of buying. EVEN if scarcity has been created. I will sleep on it. I will see if I still feel this tomorrow, next week, or even next month.
If I have no urgency for the product (which is likely when it’s only come to my attention because I’ve encountered an advert for it), then the urgency is one way. They urgently want my custom and they’re trying to use my own mind against me.
The truth is, if I still believe this thing is going to add immense value to my life, then it will still be there this time next week. Even if I have to pay full price because the offer has ended. If I’m not prepared to do that then it’s probably not the right one for me anyway.
You won’t miss what you don’t need.
A deal is only a deal if you wanted the thing in the first place. If you’ve saved 50% on an item you’ve put in the cupboard, ‘just in case’ you need it one day, then you haven’t saved 50%, you’ve spent 100% of the price you got it for. If it was ‘buy one get one free’ and you only needed one, why are you taking the second one?
You’re only going to have to find somewhere to put it.