Last week I was going through my cupboard and discovered I had bought many books which I even forgot I did. I didn’t have the time to get to them. So much so that I forgot I even bought them. But, this didn’t stop me from buying more; after all buying was only one click away on Amazon. I kept buying more. Because I need(ed) more to be happy.
Is this the only thing that I didn’t enjoy due to the lack of time? Or, were there others too? How much (stuff) do we have that we are not enjoying because we don’t have time?
And, of all the stuff we’ve been buying how much did we really need or actually have time for? If we’re too busy to enjoy the life that we hoped we will, by slogging so much, isn’t it a waste?
We work so hard to attain everything that will validate our success (in other’s eyes) that we don’t stop to think if we even wanted them in the first place. So, instead of stopping to define what success means to us and working towards it, we accept the definition of success peddled by society and work towards it. The paradox here is, if we don’t get what we set out to, if we fail, we get to see ourselves as losers and if we succeed, we feel hollow.
When we stop and step back to see our own lives, we realise we don’t need all that we thought we do, to be happy and at peace. Unless we act on this, there’s no getting out of the rat race.
But, even once we identified what we ‘need’, it is not easy to stay with it.
Surfing thorough Facebook once is enough to get our mind tallying our life with that of others and to remind us where we stand compared to them. My friend told me that once when he got promoted after being at a level for two years, he was happy. Until he got to know a colleague got promoted with only one year experience at that level. We are happy with our vacation to the nearby beach till we don’t see our friends’ pictures of their vacation abroad.
My uncle once told me a story of his colleague who was content doing his work. He did what was expected of him and was good at work. He just didn’t have the ambition to move up the ladder. He didn’t want more responsibilities because he knew they would eat up into his private time which he did not want to happen. He was sacked because of this. Not because of his work. But, because he refused to take on more responsibilities. The moral was simple – Whether you like it or not. You have to do more. Have to give more.
So, what do we do? I don’t know. But, some strategies I’m experimenting with:
- Limit social media. Comparison is a game we can never win and in this aspect, ignorance truly is bliss.
- Understand your status in life is not just dependent on your capability but also on luck. We are all after all, prisoners of our birth and not everyone can be at the right place at the right time.
- Block sites & remove apps that tempt you to spend more. Limit visiting to shopping centres. (Am I saying we should close our eyes, bury our heads as we go about in life? Yes. Being aware of how the world is, what everyone is doing, does help. But, consuming and comparing more in the name of ‘awareness’ is counterproductive.)
- Spend time the way you want to. Not chasing after someone else’s dreams, by doing what you love. This reinforces the idea that you are on the right track and also that life is not chasing one goal after the other looking for that elusive happiness but living in each moment. Destination is not as important as journey.
- Find a job that respects your pace. That gives you the space to relax. Sometimes, this requires us to move to smaller companies or accept lesser pay.
- Know the true cost of something. Thoreau once said, “the true cost of something, is the amount of life you exchange for it.” When you look at it that way, you know the real cost of the stuff you just bought.
I found this wonderful TED talk on YouTube. Reminded me of a time I thought I could survive on ₹3K ($50 approximately) a month. Now earning way more than that and yet feeling forever insufficient, I wonder how much do I need?