Living The “Good Life”: On Possessions

We all want to live the “good life”, but what does this mean?

It seems like any person you ask, you get a slightly different answer on what they believe defines the good life. Within this definition, people tend to create distinguishable lifestyles, objectives & goals to reach this ideal destination in their life. In this post, my intent is to write on comparing materialism against minimalism to reveal how these two ways of thinking about possessions generally define people’s perception of the “good life”. From this possessions perspective, I will then finish off this post by writing a section on how I think that this good life is somewhere in between these two ideas. In a later post, I’ll will write about specific objectives & goals that people tend to mention when defining what makes their life good.

Materialism

One common viewpoint that people give is what I call the “materialistic” view on attaining their ideal life. In this view, people are driven by objectives such as purchasing a large home, acquiring an expensive car, buying expensive clothing and so on. I’m positive that everyone knows of at least a few people that would fall into this category as people that have this materialistic mentality are quite common.

Is there anything wrong with this view? Absolutely not – we humans have the ability to choose what ultimately makes us happy and I am in no position to judge if people choose this way as their life goal. However, I think that there are a few potential drawbacks to this way of thinking. One, if people are constantly chasing materialistic items to define their ideal life, these people will likely chase this materialism for their entire life to constantly meet these objectives. This task can prove to be difficult to maintain as these material requirements will likely go up as they purchase more & more expensive items to maintain their level of satisfaction. Two, the very nature of materialism forces people to compare themselves to other people. Without comparison, how can a materialistic person determine that what they own is truly better than what someone else owns? This notion of comparison is a dangerous way of thinking as it can potentially lead to an elitist and  selfishness viewpoint on other people. Lastly, the act of comparison might make other people feel worse about themselves when they listen to a materialistic person explain what they own.

Minimalism

A viewpoint that isn’t as common as materialism is minimalism. This is essentially the opposite of a materialistic view, in the sense that these people seek the bare minimum in how they attain the ideal life. In this view, these individuals tend to own small houses, a basic car that gets them from A to B and  only owning the absolute necessities required in life.

The minimalist lifestyle does present a few advantages over materialism in the sense that people don’t need to constantly purchase items to keep themselves satisfied. Additionally, another potential advantage to this lifestyle is that these individuals have more time to focus on other aspects of life as they likely have more time from the lower cash flow requirements. Despite these benefits, I believe that even the minimalist lifestyle does present a few drawbacks. One weakness could be that these people might be forcing themselves to live a in a way that is against their inner will just to show other people that they can achieve this lifestyle. Another drawback might be that people that live this way could become disconnected from society as they may perhaps miss the latest technological trends that everyone is talking about, or they might not watch the latest movie that is the talk of the office. This disconnect might not necessarily be a negative as these people might actively choose to live this way.

My viewpoint

Looking at this idea of the “good life” from a possessions perspective, I firmly believe that people would be happiest if they were mindful of their purchasing decisions. I would define mindful purchasing as primarily buying goods that are necessary to meet life’s requirements and occasionally purchasing something nice by weighing the benefits compared to the drawbacks of the purchase. If we’re mindful and actively think about the things we buy, I think there are many benefits to be had. One benefit is that we could eliminate our need to consistent need in buying more expensive items to satisfy ourselves by thinking about why we want to make the purchase at all. Since we’re still buying something nice once in a while, we would not be fully disconnected from society as purchasing a few items still allows us to stay in touch with people. Most importantly, being mindful of what we buy allows us to constantly look within ourselves to see what we truly desire to maintain a sustainable & happy life with the right kind of belongings.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I will also write on the specific objectives & goals folks mention when they define the good life. With this combination of possessions & specific objectives – I think we’ll be able to paint a good picture of this life and what varying forms that it takes on.

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