consumerism, degrowth, financial independence, happiness, stoicism

Consumerism

It is quite funny, or tragic, the way many people in the developed world choose to live their lives (me included).

We work, making a lot of money for the owners of both big and small companies, and also, some money for ourselves.

We exchange labour for capital.

We work a lot for some money, making other people rich in the process. We are essentially slaves, as we need to work to sustain ourselves. We can also free ourselves from slavery, but to do that, like in ancient Rome, we need to buy our freedom. To do that, we need to reevaluate our relationship with money.

Because, somehow, we are all convinced, that after a month of hard work we have to go out and spend ALL the money we earned, and a bit more. The philosophy of life of the whole western society, and probably others that I do not know, is based in consuming constantly, buy-use-throw.

We are actually convinced, that if we buy that new shiny smartphone or computer, that big house, that nice car. We actually BELIEVE that we are going to be happier than before. The paradox lies on that when we have bought something, and we realise that it does no make us as happy as we thought it would. But then, we forget all about it and focus on the NEXT thing, THIS time it will FOR SURE make me happy ever after.

It is something deeply wire in our primitive brain, but we need to realise that things will never make us happy, it is only simplicity, the way we choose to interact with people and how we decide to use our time that can make us happy. We need to reduce our material wealth and increase our spiritual and social wealth. This is the only way to be satisfied and to save our planet from a sure destruction

 

I am not saying consuming is bad in itself, what I am trying to say is that we reached a point that we consume without purpose.

And there other ways to live.

Advertisements
Standard
consumerism, happiness, stoicism

Becoming a human being

When was the last time you exercised? Or made and effort that forced you to breath heavily and your heart rate increase? I hope it was recently, but you will have to agree that this is not the case in the great majority of people living in the western society. You probably know at someone who will think it is unthinkable to walk up the stairs for a few stories, or that would never conceive cycling for more than 5km, or that the thought of exercise provokes reactions similar to torture.

What do you think, fat bellies and thighs, inability to move or do simple gardening tasks independently without a gas or electrical powered machine say about us as individuals and society? I do not think is a good sign, or the right way to go by.

When was the last time you were in a forest and stopped to contemplate the beauty of the ecosystem? I, again, hope it was recently, but again, you will have to agree that this is not the case in the great majority of people living in the western society. We think reality is concrete and tarmac, tall buildings, big cars and houses with grass lawns.

Again, what do you think, the way we live says about us as individuals and society?

We have become completely decoupled to what it means to be a human being, we treat nature like a toy, we only care about it if we are going to drive through it on our weekend trip. Besides that, we live in our own little (and big) shells made of brick and mortar where we live in, and shells made of steel and rubber that we use to move around.

Do a favor to your health, your happiness, your well being, your community and your planet. Become a human being again. Move, does not matter what, do something, start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, take your bicycle when your trip is not longer that 5km, then 10km, then 15km, lift weights, run, swim, switch from power to manual tools. Experience, again, the satisfaction of accomplishing something with your body and your skills.

Go out breath the clean air of the forest. And most importantly, respect our planet. We only have one, and it is dying.

Standard
consumerism, financial independence, happiness, stoicism

Stoicisim

When we talk about financial independence, we are not talking about becoming a millionaire and be able to own big houses and fancy cars and not worry about money while spending as much as one wants. This for the most of us is impossible, and it does not necessarily bring happiness.

That is why I cultivate the stoic philosophy.

I have practised stoicism to a certain extent for a big part of my life. But I only put the label and seen the concepts in the book “A guide to the good life”  by William B. Irvine. Which I can only recommend. In this post, I refer often to the book and I also add my own thoughts to what it means to be a Stoic.

Now a days, people do not have a philosophy on how to live their life, they merely follow what TV and mainstream media tells to do, feel, consume. I, and many others, believe that this is not the path to happiness.

Stoic philosophy is not something that some old Romans and Greeks talked about that has no meaning today. Essentially, humans are exactly the same as 3000 years ago, our culture and technology has evolved, but our genes are the same. It is therefore that we can learn a lot from the old timers as they used a lot of time an energy to answer to the question on what does it mean to live a good life.

From the Financial Independence point of view, stoicism is specially helpful to fight Hedonic adaptation, this stems from living a live with Hedonism as a philosophy. For example, if a person is used to drive everyday to work, take the elevator or drink Coke on a daily basis. They will believe it is unthinkable or, cause great discomfort, to either take the public transport, take the stairs or drink water. When these things are taken for granted, then one starts thinking of the next thing: get a bigger car, use the car more often, etc.

We confuse good life, with owning things, or spending money. But there is great pleasure to be obtained by delaying gratification, knowing that by one’s day to day choices, you get one step closer to financial independence, while being more respectful to the environment. Stoic philosophy does not deny enjoying the “good” stuff. One can enjoy good things, but needs to be aware that if those things are not available anymore, one could as well live without them.

In any case, it is well known, that when the basic needs of humans (See Maslov´s hierarchy of needs) are covered, higher consumption does not increase happiness, but social relations are.

That said, there are 5 basic psychological techniques described in “A guide to the good life”

  • Negative visualization: What’s the worst it can happen?
    • As Stoic practitioners we should always keep in mind, what is the worst it can happen to us? The car might break down, the house might burn, my wife will divorce me, I will lose my job. All those things are terrible, but it might happen to all of us. It is therefore important to visualize and think how one would feel if that would happen to you.
    • This way, one really, I mean REALLY, appreciates the things and comforts that one has.
  • Dychotomy of control: On becoming invincible
    • ” We can want things that are up to us, or we can want things that are not up to us”
    • There are things that we cannot control, and it is therefore foolish to tie our happiness to those
  • Fatalism: Letting go of the past… And the present
    • We need to let go of the past, we for sure have to learn from it. But there is not point in wondering how the present would be if the past had been different. As when considering sunk costs in investment, we should not loose sleep about how the past has influenced our present, but think what we can learn for the future.
  • Self-denial: On dealing with the Dar side of pleasure
    • This practice, is one of the best for saving money, and it increases ones will power. We should periodically deny ourselves of life pleasures. Not having candy one one feels like it, saying no to a delicious cold craft beer in a warm day or fasting for different periods of time.
    • Besides saving money, we reverse the hedonistic adaptation that most of us have been going through in the consumerist society we live in. It is exactly its reverse, getting used to little and then be mind-blown when after a long period we eat a little piece of chocolate.
    • This kind of pleasure cannot be experience when we periodically fall for all the little pleasures that are on our daily life.
  • Meditation: Watching ourselves practice stoicism
    • To wrap it up, we should be aware on how and when we practise stoicism. What happened to us today, how did we respond to what happened, is that in accordance to stoic principles or not?

I have experience myself, how these techniques and Stoic philosophy have improved my life. The stoic philosophy comprises all areas of life, such as anger, luxurious living, frustration and consumerism but it all comes down to appreciate the small things of life, not let things out of your control influence you negatively and cultivate your will power to live the life you want to life, which is not necessarily the easiest.

 

Standard