Chasing Possessions: Money and Happiness
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | January 2019
Money can't buy happiness. Possessions falsely advertise happiness. Our well-being demands much more than a new car, a nice house and the latest iPhone model.
We are preoccupied with possessions. Want is king in a consumer driven market. Businesses succeed when we consume. Advertisements for stuff promise happiness through purchase, hinting that pleasure and fulfillment is obtained through possessions. We spend precious money trying to satisfy artificial wants, believing a product will satisfy lack. We spend to satisfy a lack that was artificially implanted through intelligent marketing campaign. We become slaves to things that create their own sense of lack. These things never satisfy feelings of incompleteness. We chase the illusion of fulfillment constantly stimulated to pursue something shinier with the next commercial, the hunt never ends, and fulfillment always eludes.
A popular luxury car commercial pans through a year of family outings, marking the memorable events of family togetherness, and then suggesting the warmth of these moments begins with “a December to remember.” A Christmas gift of an expensive car is rudely suggested to be the foundation of a memorable togetherness throughout the year. While a car may be present during family outings, it certainly isn’t responsible for the success (as long as it doesn’t distract).
"We become slaves to things that create their own sense of lack. These things never satisfy feelings of incompleteness."
Solving incompleteness isn’t satisfied by acquiring things—the more we accumulate the more we want. We already possess enough for survival. Without food, shelter and security, we would suffer. Some possessions add security, others comfort; while some possessions simply add additional stress and aggravations—a weighty and growing debt.
Possessions vary in utility for producing happiness; money in the bank adds security; homes, cars, and clothing lift status and comfort. Possessions are neither good nor bad. A possession may add to our lives in one way but subtract in other ways. Most happiness researchers agree that more money doesn’t always equate to more happiness. However, not enough money for the basics hurts well-being; but as money increases, the happiness gained levels off. The gains must be weighed against the costs. Too much time earning money subtracts time spent creating connections or enjoying meaningful pursuits. Many possessions have reoccurring costs and maintenance frustrations, drawing limited financial or emotional resources.
New possessions provide a spark of enjoyment, but the newness eventually wears off and the possession becomes common, declining in pleasure and increasing in cost (debt, space, maintenance). The more time we chase new possessions, the less time we have to develop other enriching activities of living—endeavors that create purpose and build memories.
Healthy relationships, minds, bodies and futures require time. We must allocate the precious commodity of time wisely. By chasing elusive satisfaction through possessions, we sacrifice balance, leaving us exhausted and unfulfilled. We will never have enough. There will always be more. We can become a slave, or manage this unrelenting drive for possessions, and replace these wasted efforts with better engagements, giving a fruitful life to our futures.