“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” ~ Frederick Keonig
"I need this."
My thoughts last week, as I looked for a new bike.
"I’m competing in two triathlons. I want a nice bike!"
July will bring two triathlons in which I’ll compete. It sure seemed like a nice shiny new bike would be just the ticket to success.
Old Hat, New Hat
Growing up, a favorite book of mine was Old Hat New Hat, by Jan and Stan Berenstain. For those not familiar with the book, it’s about a bear who has this old beat up hat. And he thinks it’s time for a new one. So he visits the hat store (do they still have those?) in search of that perfect hat. And he tries on many different hats, hats of all different shapes and styles. And then he sees his hat – the beat up old hat he’s had. And he puts that back on, and it fits just right. Out he goes, no new hat. Just the hat he came in with.
Back to that bike…
So, I tried out several bikes. Oh, they all looked really nice! And there weren’t any scratches on them. All of the latest "technology" there. The first one, though, was difficult to shift. The second one was uncomfortable to ride. The third one, to it’s credit, all felt good. Although I didn’t feel like I was going faster. Was it worth the cost? It sure looked pretty…
How often do we get pulled into something by the superficial?
Ever wanted to go out on a date with the hottest girl or guy you knew? Maybe dreamed about it?
Ever wanted that new car, the one fresh off the lot, sweet paint job, the one you’d look really good in?
Ever wanted that new pair of shoes, they’d look perfect on "you"?
Ever wanted that new "hat", when the "hat" you have is one you really like already?
Think about that for a minute.
Why do we buy the things we do? You. Me. Everyone.
That’s all okay. Some things we need (like food, or transportation). Some things we want (like that new digital camera).
Do we tie our happiness to these "things" in our life, though? Will I be happier when…
- I have the newest car in the neighborhood
- People’s heads turn when I walk by because of the body I’ve "bought"
- I arrive at my class reunion in the latest designer clothes and impress everyone
- Everyone runs over to see the latest "toy" I’ve bought
In short, when our self-worth is tied to materialistic items (and who hasn’t at some point in their life done this?), this isn’t going to bring about true and lasting joy in our lives. That true happiness, the "real" joy – that comes from within. From connecting with our inner beings. And that isn’t the flashiest pair of sunglasses, or a dinner date at the hippest restaurant in town. Not if that’s to provide some immediate joy as we show off our new shades, or dine with the movers and the shakers. It won’t last, these moments of joy. Not if that is the end all to our happiness. Now, if that same dinner out is to also experience the ambiance and to enjoy some deliciously wonderful food in the company of someone we care deeply about, then this experience is very much a spoke in keeping that wheel of happiness within our lives spinning. The meaning behind these purchases matters.
Back to the bike once more…
I left the bike store…torn. And then I came home. And rode my "old" bike. And as I rode it, I thought to myself that this was a comfortable ride, that it goes pretty fast, that the gear installed on it is top-notch, and that it really is a great bike.
I kept the "old hat"…
In no way does this mean that "new" is a bad choice. In my case, where I’m at, and with what I already have – at this time it was really the more superficial I was looking at.
So Where Does That Leave Us?
"Possessions are usually diminished by possession." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The next time you’re going out to buy something, ask yourself "why".
Why are you buying this thing?
And if there’s no good reason other than you will superficially feel "good", then it’s probably time to put that something down, and really spend some quality time with yourself. Away from the distractions of life. Away from the "noise" you’re normally surrounded by. Away from the hustle and bustle of daily living.
Get away and get connected. To "you".
And away doesn’t have to be a physical location away from where you are (although it can be). It can be as simple as setting aside some time every day (or maybe a couple of times a week) where you focus on "you".
True happiness is there…
We just have to find it sometimes, buried amongst all the piles of other things that clutter our lives.