Sunday, 21 November 2010

When More Just isn't Enough...

This blog was inspired by Steve Trister. When Steve and I met at a networking event we chatted about the numerous so-called Personal Development experts out there. You know, someone who tells you that if you follow their programme you’ll be able to have a millionaire lifestyle, buy your very own island, in short, have it all. Steve and I deduced that not everyone wants it all. And for some, 'having it all’ is just being happy with what they do have. I’m reminded of a chap I was coaching many years ago who’s ambition was to marry his childhood sweet heart, manage the small bank in his local village and buy a cottage within walking distance of the village. At the time I thought, ‘Is that really all he wants?’ Today that sounds kind of wonderful.

It’s as if we’ve all been brainwashed into believing that more is better and that more will make us happier. Clearly the last three years have shown us that more is actually less. Research undertaken by Gallup, showed that “Once you get above a basic sustenance level – on average, people in rich countries don’t report being all that much happier than people in lower-income countries”. Furthermore, Gallup researchers found that happiness levels “plateaued when people reached an annual salary of £50,000 or $75.000”.

What does that tell us about the state of the nation, or, indeed our state of mind? It tells us that if we don’t hanker after the latest must-have gadgets, the most up-to-date TV, a state of the art mobile phone, or high fashion clothing items or accessories, we’ll feel less worthy. Moreover, we’ll think we’re missing out. We’ve become overly concerned about what others will think of us if we’re not decked out with the latest accoutrements, those trappings that signal recognition of wealth, or how cool someone is.

The onslaught from so-called gurus, who tell us we can have everything we’ve ever dreamed of, combined with the media bamboozling us into believing that what we have isn’t enough, and our ‘addiction’ to thinking that more will achieve more happiness, is just plain wrong. It’s as if we don’t know any more what it is that makes us truly happy because our minds are so full of thinking that more happiness will emerge if we just have more.

Perhaps our brains are so crowded with, ‘I’ll feel happier when I get that new car, new designer outfit, tummy tuck, Botox injections, or luxury vacation in the Maldives, we literally don’t have the space to experience what it is that truly makes us happy. It’s as if the place in our minds that could be at peace would be too quiet and we need the constant chatter in order to feel we are in the loop. Whenever I get the urge to want a bigger and better TV, another beautiful antique wrist watch, or unlimited access to whatever I want whenever I want it, I recall an exercise developed by Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the University Of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Centre.

Here’s the exercise: Close your eyes, quiet your mind and relax your body, then think of five things that you are grateful for in your life. It’s not a cure- all, however, it’s enough to remind us that we are well off in ways that many others in other parts of the world, would consider to be luxurious.

Abraham Maslow's diagram above of the 'Hierachy of Needs' says it all, I think.