Materialism and Fulfilment - Do They Work Together?
Think about what makes you feel like you're doing well in life, or what makes you happy, or fulfilled? Now hold that thought....
I was fortunate enough this month to escape the UK for the first time in nearly two and a half years! I managed to get about 3 days away in Spain between finishing one job and starting a new one (I work full time in construction). This trip away was to see my mum, who I hadn't seen for the same two and a half years.
To say that it was good to see her really undersells it. I could go on a long post about family, but with this post I wanted to pick up on something I got a reminder of, and a greater appreciation of, whilst I was out there. So today I'm writing this post to talk about fulfilment, and more specifically, how materialism impacts our feelings of fulfilment.
For the sake of full disclosure, I'll likely pull a good chunk of the core principles of this from Steven Bartlett. This is because I read his book, Happy Sexy Millionaire, whilst I was on holiday and found I aligned with the perspective he now holds on fulfilment.
To summarise his experience and learning, Steven wanted to be a millionaire, with a nice car, attractive partner and to be 'successful', because he thought this would make him happy compared to where he was at 18 years of age. He achieved all this, and (spoiler alert) he didn't find that happiness or fulfilment he craved anymore than when he was 18. He's very open about this at the start of the book so I haven't really spoiled it for you.....
But the title of this is around materialism and fulfilment, so how does that relate to the above? Well, I see the term 'happy' as 'fulfilled' and 'successful' as 'materially affluent'. The story is still the same but with different terms.
So to define a couple things as I see them (not dictionary definitions), materialism being the possession of goods which give the overall impression of value to others and fulfilment being a state of feeling satisfied, whole, complete, like you have achieved what you desired.
How do the two relate? We are given the impression from our typical upbringing and environment that having things of high value will lead to us feeling more fulfilled. The impression being that the greater our external value, the greater our inner feeling of satisfaction will be. There's something fundamental in that sentence that I hope you see, but I'll expand on it near the end....
We crave money, nice cars, big houses, expensive holidays, fine dining, fancy watches/purses/suits/shoes and so on. We crave these things because our environment wants us to, whether that be our families, tv, social media or friends/colleagues. It does make for great marketing really to give the perception of value in a brand and then sell that on at a premium, economies of self-worth (if no-ones ever coined that phrase it's mine! haha). We crave, because others tell us to crave, subliminally, and we absorb it subconsciously...
Back to your thought, do the things you thought about at the start hold value because of you, or because of others perception of you?
Do these material things actually help our feelings of fulfilment??? Now I can't fully comment on this from my own experience because I am not the millionaire with the big house that wears expensive suits. But in reading Stevens book, I've seen the perspective of someone who has done it, and what it meant to them.
To tie this into my trip to Spain. I didn't have my house, my car, any nice clothes, no job/work, and I was out in the middle of the countryside. And, I felt so much more at peace and relaxed. I had the opportunity to practice gratitude more and realised that I wasn't patting myself on the back for the house etc, but for who I am as a person, and the difference I am trying to make, and how hard I work to make that happen.
For me I realised that value is more intrinsic, my satisfaction doesn't come from the materialistic things I own, but from what I do with the people around me, and for being the person I am. Steven realised this too, and found it further through research, noting that people can feel as much as 60% more fulfilled by practising gratitude for what we have, rather than focussing on more more more.
Imagine, right here right now, if you could make yourself happier. Well you can. It truly is all about what goes on inside, and not what we are outside. Now lets go back to what I said earlier 'The impression being that the greater our external value, the greater our inner feeling of satisfaction will be.' External vs Internal. It's as simple as that, and I hope that comes across to you how I see it.
I've talked about my experience, and that of Steven Bartlett and his research, to give you my take on the relationship between materialism and fulfilment, success and happiness. To summarise, you can't feel happier or more fulfilled from having nicer things. On the surface you may feel that way, but in your core it doesn't change.
I also pull from Mark Manson's 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' now, in saying that the highs we feel from materialism (and other things) is temporary. Our very existence can unfortunately be bouncing from one high to another. That's part of the reason time flies, because we chase the next high, and then the next, and then the next, and then it's 2023!
What do I want literally everyone to do?
Appreciate that everything you need is already there, and has been for a very long time. How do you reach it?
- Practice Gratitude - Just 5-10 mins a day to think about what you've done, how capable you are!
- Read Steven's Book - There's so much more to delve into here! (I won't get a cut so this is genuine haha)
- Reflect on Your Values - Our values define us and you'll find the most rewarding values aren't material.
- Help Others - We feel good for helping others, in our core.
- Learn New Things - We gain confidence in learning, and feel more fulfilled in our knowledge and skills.
I hope this helps people see things a little how I see them, because obviously I have the right perspective! I joke, it's just that my experience of fulfilment/happiness has detached me from the material more and more over time. And, after reading Stevens book I felt firmer in my appreciation of materialistic perceptions and fulfilment being two circles of a Venn diagram that don't really cross. If they do, it's only temporary.
Think back to the question at the start, with one leading element of thought. This being that you are enough. I hope you there's less materialism in the answers this time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope it helped give a different perspective on our big world.
Jordan - Founder