What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word “consumption?”
Bob might think of consuming food. Turkey smothered with mushroom gravy. Mashed potatoes topped with melted butter. Roasted squash with pesto.
Angie might think about consuming alcohol. Loads of it. Beers during the football game. Shots at the bar. Wine with dinner. A martini aperitif.
Gina thinks of oil and gas consumption: drilling in the wetlands, fueling inefficient cars.
Will thinks of home energy consumption: leaving the lights on, failing to caulk or seal drafts around doors and windows.
And I think about financial consumption: spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need.
“Consumption” is a Rorschach test: one word, tons of interpretations. Few other words have so many meanings or apply to so many topics.
Take a second to consider what pops into your head when you hear the word “consumption.” I’m betting that the first thing you think about is a topic that applies to your life in one of two ways:
- You Rock At It — It’s a topic you feel passionately about. Will thinks about home energy consumption because he’s so committed to having an energy-efficient home. He adds insulation to his attic, he screws aerators onto his faucets, he installs motion-activated light sensors in each room. Gina thinks about gas consumption because she carpools with her Prius.
- You Stink At It – Er, that’s my crass way of saying that you recognize this topic as a weakness. Angie thinks about consuming alcohol because somewhere in her subconscious, she realizes she shouldn’t drink so much. Bob thinks constantly about food even though his cholesterol is high and he needs to lose weight.
But there’s a common thread between all the topics that “consumption” applies to: using something vs. wasting it.
You can use food to supply nutrition to your body, or you can stuff yourself silly. You can sip wine – even Jesus turned water to wine – or you can pound drinks until you blackout.
You can use the least amount of fossil fuels necessary to lead a productive modern life, or you can – as my roommate used to do – crank the heating system in your home up to 85 degrees while wearing shorts and a thin T-shirt in January.
You can waste your hard-earned money on knick-knacks, or you can spend on high-value items and experiences that bring joy to your life.
The key to distinguishing wasteful consumption from “value” consumption is to simply be a little more deliberate, a little more mindful.
- Do I really need another slice of turkey?
- Do I really need a third glass of wine, or can I stop at two?
- Do I want to spend this $20 on another sweater, or do I want to add it to my Pay-Off-The-Mortgage-ASAP fund?
Some people over-consume. Others take the knee-jerk opposite reaction and deprive themselves. Neither tactic is sustainable.
But consuming mindfully? It’s simple. It’s balanced. And it ups your quality of life.
So think back to the first topic that popped into your head when you thought about “consumption,” and ask yourself: How can you approach that area of life more mindfully?
by Paula Pant