On Fulfillment

Continuing in the trend of answering questions posed on the MMM Forums on this blog. The following question was asked: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-did-you-come-to-feel-satiated-with-less/

Basically, the question is “How do you feel satisfied with less?”. Whether that is money, possessions, food, or verbal praise. For purposes of this discussion I’ll mostly stick with money and personal possessions.

I think a lot of this stems from your psychology and perhaps upbringing. I am sure there are other factors like social factors. Mental illness could cloud this as well. Some people are obsessive compulsive. Others have addictions to drugs, sex, or power.

But if the question is how does a normal person get along with less stuff? Then I think it is likely the same answer as how does someone stay in shape, or avoid certain self destructive habits. It’s about discipline. But more importantly, it’s about wanting. People do things because they want to. Every day we make choices whether we are conscious of them or not. It may be as simple as picking out what color shirt you are going to wear, or it could be a complicated decision like buying a piece of real estate, getting married, going to school, etc.

The choices we make all go back to our wants.

No one buys a Big Mac, fries, and a 32 ounce soda for lunch because they need one. They want one. They make that decision. Same with cheating on their spouse, or skipping the gym, or giving the guy that cut you off on the way to work the middle finger. These are all choices.

So how doe we become satisfied with less stuff? We want less stuff because we want something else more. Maybe that is simplicity, peace, freedom, financial security. It’s like wanting 6-pack abs more than another slice of leftover birthday cake in the office fridge.

In fact I think approaching this entire subject from a position of scarcity is the wrong way to go. Instead, I think it should be a focus on what you are really trying to do. What you really want. In the context of this question it is reaching financial independence by saving money and not frittering it away on useless crap. So it’s not about getting used to wanting less stuff, it’s about getting used to wanting more independence. It’s a re-allocation.

And it’s not necessarily a zero sum game. I think part of this is about having a healthy respect for money, and that it can be used as a tool to better your life by purchasing goods, services, and experiences. But it can also provide lasting security if you save and invest enough of it.

I’m not a shrink so if this is something you struggle with I can’t provide mental health advice. Certainly I’ve spent a lot of time trying to analyze myself and my own whacky situation. I think it all boils down to priorities. In that you may find peace.

I’m as guilty as the next person of wanting to buy things. For example, I have been ogling a Rolex watch for years now. Recently the temptation to buy one was really strong. I was checking them out daily. But over time that has slipped and faded away. I realized that I cant justify the $6,000-8,000 expense for a watch right now. I want a Rolex, but at the end of the day, there are other things that I want more right now. I want to invest that money. At some point, I’ll have enough money to where if I still want the Rolex I can buy it, but it makes no sense for me to spend that kind of money now. So it’s not about getting used to less. It’s about getting your priorities together and figuring out what you want more.

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