Facing up to my privilege

My friend Emily is one of those special people who can give constructive feedback without making you feel like shit.

We were WhatsApp-ing, and I was asking her what she thought of my posts. Amongst lots of feedback, was this:

“I don’t know the relevance of this, but I read something interesting about minimalism as an aesthetic being ‘a privilege’, and how only people who have money can afford to have minimal living spaces and declutter by getting rid of things they don’t use a lot – poor people hang onto things because they fear they might need it and won’t be able to buy it when they do.”

Of course, she did know the relevance, she was just softening the blow.

Bringing up privilege was something I needed. Of course, writing a blog about ‘learning to live with less’ is privileged – it comes from a starting point of having the option to have more than enough in the first place. 

Facing up to this privilege could make me squirm. What a self-indulgent pastime. Not only can I afford the time to write about my thoughts, but I’m writing about having too much. How the heart bleeds!

But face up to it I will.

It’s taken me a long time to start recognising my privilege. All four of my grandparents were refugees, and I always took a certain level of pride in my identity as someone who was ‘middle class but not really’. Someone who, despite having a financially comfortable upbringing, didn’t rely on inherited wealth and worked hard themselves to earn their own money. Someone who had the luxury of private education with the local elite, but was ‘grounded’ by parents who were ‘self-made’. 

So when the idea of ‘white privilege’ began to stream into the common consciousness, I railed against it – albeit privately. “How can people say I was privileged when I worked so hard to become successful?” I thought. “And anyway, my grandparents were white, but they were refugees, and my parents grew up with nothing.”

I think several things (at least) were happening here – all misguided. 

First up, I was scared that recognising my privilege would undermine my own achievements and – in a world where we are judged on our success – automatically detract from my own feelings of pride and self-worth. Not only is this misunderstanding the concept of privilege, but it’s also – somewhat egotistically – turning the focus back to me. Now I realise that recognising my privilege does not detract from my achievements, it’s simply part of the story, like it or not.

Second, I was seeing privilege as a binary concept – you either have it or you don’t – and failing to see that different types of privilege can exist at the same time, and that the existence of one does not automatically negate each other. I wasn’t recognising that white privilege can exist as well as the lack of privilege afforded to migrants of any colour, and many other types of power structures. And recognising my privilege doesn’t mean that others don’t have even more, either.

Third, I was partly co-opting my grandparents’ life experiences based on bloodline alone (like this guy is trying to do), when I really had an upbringing entirely unaffected by their refugee experience.

So what changed in my thinking? 

In the years since I have had the opportunity to widen the diversity of voices I interact with, and to see, read and hear things that have broadened my understanding. I’ve lived in different countries and seen how systems are in place that celebrate some and oppress others. I’ve begun to see a little more of the bigger picture. I’ve begun to better understand how we don’t actually live in a meritocracy, but in a world where the odds are stacked firmly in your favour, or against you. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but it’s a start. 

So with that in mind, I’ll go back to Emily’s comment that Exploring Enough could be a blog with a privileged perspective. 

She is 100% right.

In many ways, Exploring Enough is ultimately a blog about privilege, and aimed at people with privilege. 

This isn’t something to deny, or to be ashamed of – it’s something to build on. Because in a world where resources are finite, we need to get better at sharing fairly. And if we want to avoid never-ending conflict, the people who currently hold privilege, power and resources need to learn to live happily with less. 

And that’s people just like me.

Photo: Bradford Grammar School – where I studied from 8-18

Reminding myself why I’m exploring enough

Recently I’ve had some doubts about this blog.

I’ve had some feedback that it’s all just obvious. Why would people want more than enough? Do we really need to tell people to stop overdoing things? Isn’t that a bit condescending?

It’s been plaguing me a bit. I was thinking about it just last night. Yeah, maybe it is a bit condescending. Maybe people are actually completely able to identify when they’ve done something enough, and stop before it tips into excess.

And then it hit me. If that were the case, the world would be a seriously different place.

Everywhere you look you can find examples of people not identifying ‘enough’ – and, as a result, not stopping when they reach it. We find it in people who damage their health through food, through drink, through too much sitting, or too much exercise. People who damage their mental health through too much social media, too much work, too much time in a bad marriage, or too much isolation. People who have so much stuff that they can no longer feel ‘at peace’ at home and need someone to come help them chuck it all out. And pretty much all of us are living in ways where we are consuming more stuff than our home – Earth – can sustain. I mean seriously, if everyone were able to live to ‘enough’ instead of being driven by a desire for more, we wouldn’t see war, greed or poverty. And if people were happy with having enough, we wouldn’t see such warped attempts to dominate and overpower, like we’ve seen these last few days.

The message is relevant.

So what is driving us to lose sight of enough? 

Well, for starters, a nagging little voice in our head, whispering to us that we haven’t got enough as we browse Amazon, decide to watch just one more episode on Netflix, or look in the fridge for another snack. And it can be tricksy. 

I think it’s driven by two things – fear of running out of something we need, and the pleasure we feel from obtaining what we’ve been craving. This isn’t a new idea, it’s Freud’s Pleasure Principle – that we are all driven by the instinct to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. 

But how does this apply when we’re pursuing things that actually aren’t good for us or the world around us? Or, as tends to be the case, when we are pursuing things that give us some pleasure but also have negative impacts that need to be factored in?

Well, in the case of studied addictions – such as alcohol – it’s thought that we have conditioned our brains to find pleasure in something (in this case drinking), and then that conditioned response becomes so strong that it is able to override other, rational desires to stop doing that thing that is harming us. 

This is a pretty simple example – after all, it’s pretty widely accepted that people with alcoholism aren’t in a great place. But when it comes to things that are less black and white, we simply aren’t good at stepping back and seeing our own behaviour for what it often is: learned behaviour, following patterns to which we’ve been conditioned, and often on autopilot. The pleasure that made us feel good when we first started to buy clothes we liked, for example, is still there even when we’ve already got more than enough clothes and it’s ruining our bank balance and our planet.

These are instinctive drives. They developed when humans lived in an age of scarcity, not an age of abundance. Where it was necessary to keep eating as much as possible because you didn’t know when more food would appear. But now humans – at least the privileged amongst us – aren’t living in an age of scarcity anymore. Many of us in the developed world are living in an age of abundance and convenience, but with that primitive human mindset deep down. It’s like our whole operating system has been updated, but we’ve only got apps that worked on the old one.

Because I’m working on this blog, I’m starting to catch myself more and more as I tend towards these ‘more than enough’ instincts. And it’s crazy how often it comes up. When I’m shopping for groceries. When I’m thinking about the clothes I want. When I think about posting on social media. It’s basically… all the time.

When I first started thinking about this, I thought – OK, so it seems right to start living with less, but that sounds kind of joyless – like a constant sense of deprivation. It’s only been recently that I’ve come to see what living towards ‘enough’ actually is – and it’s simply living with greater intention. Instead of feeling deprived, I feel more fulfilled because I’m increasingly less likely to look for something external to fill an emotional void. In identifying enough, I’m actually finding more joy. And yet, still, I need to keep reminding myself of that consciously in order to fight my tricksy subconscious.

So is it obvious that we should be stopping when we’ve got enough? Yeah, maybe.

But could we do with a reminder? Well, I certainly could, for one. 

So, for now, I’ll keep on exploring.

Photo by Jason Strull on Unsplash

Calling all idealists – it’s time to be proud

When Martin Luther King fought for racial equality, he was being idealistic.

When Florence Nightingale worked for better medical care, she was being idealistic.

When Malala Yousafzai protested against her education being taken, she was being idealistic.

But in the end, it turned out that these idealists were realists too. Because they all made change happen.

They all had their fair share of detractors. Hell, two of them were shot. And at the time, they were all ridiculed for ‘unrealistic’ views that were simply never going to happen.

Fast forward to 2020, and idealists are still objects of derision. 

Idealists are naive. Probably even a bit stupid. And those who have already given up on their ideals see them as self-important, holier-than-thou pricks; and call them out as ‘virtue-signallers’.

These insults are devastatingly effective, especially when paired with the standard takedown of “I’m not an idealist, I’m a realist” – a takedown that’s usually shorthand for “I’m doing something ethically questionable because it’s easier/it’s the done thing/it makes me rich.”

But idealism-realism is a false dichotomy, because the opposite of ‘ideal’ isn’t ‘real’. The opposite of ‘ideal’ is ‘bad’.

Taking it further, the opposite of having ideals is having a lack of ideals.

And a society without ideals is a society without aspirations beyond maintaining the status quo, however messed up it might be.

It’s time to reclaim idealism

Few idealists will make the level of change that Martin Luther King, Malala or Florence Nightingale made. But that doesn’t make their idealism any less important. It’s still vital, even on a small scale.

But it’s hard to stay idealistic. We get it beaten out of us, by a combination of disappointment with the world and judgment from others. It’s happened to me. I’ve used the phrase, ‘when I was young and idealistic’ on many occasions. It happens. I’m 36. I got weary.

But I’m going to stop using that phrase. Now. 

For now on, I’m proud to say I’m idealistic, because I still have ideals I believe in. 

I’m proud to say I’m idealistic, even if people think it makes me a ‘virtue-signalling’, holier-than-thou, self-important prick.

And I’m proud to say I’m idealistic because I’m not ready to give up on things I believe in just yet.

And if someone ‘accuses’ me of being idealistic, I’ll know what to say. I’ll ask,

“Yes I have ideals. Why the hell don’t you?”

And if that sounds idealistic, well… I guess it is.

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

It’s not OK that we’re not OK

You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “it’s OK not to be OK.”

It’s so popular, it’s in mental health campaigns, hashtags, and even pop songs.

I live with depression myself, and this phrase helps on the bad days.

It’s OK not to be OK because sometimes the world is too much for us. Then, it’s understandable that sometimes we just can’t get up in the morning, and we certainly can’t face dressing ourselves. When we say ‘it’s OK not to be OK’, we’re saying this is nothing to be ashamed of. And reducing this shame is vital if we’re to encourage people to ask for help when they need it.

So this phrase is important. But it has a caveat. And it’s this:

It’s not OK that so many of us are not OK, so much of the time. 

It’s not OK that we’ve been told to grow and grow the economy by being ever more productive, that people are burning out, that suicide and depression is increasing, and we’re told, “hey – we need to grow it some more”.

It’s not OK that workers’ rights are being steadily eroded in the name of creating a more competitive economy.

It’s not OK that politicians think it’s more important to ‘keep the country moving’ than to save the lives of tens of thousands of people.

It’s not OK that the world’s 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50% of the planet. 

It’s not OK that the phrase “It’s OK not to be OK” has become so popular because so many people are having such a shit time.

None of this is OK.

On the days where I actually am OK, I’m done with pretending everything is OK.

I’m done with playing ball and being nice and reading about mass death and poverty and how the world’s richest man is about to become a trillionaire and scrolling down only to be given top tips for baking the best banana bread during quarantine.

Because do you know what actually is OK?

To be angry.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

When will the economy be big enough?

Can you imagine if people could grow forever?

If, instead of becoming an adult, we just kept on getting taller and taller and bigger and bigger until we died?

What would we need to sustain ourselves if we kept on growing throughout our 20s, 30s, 60s, 80s?

We’d need more food; more clothes too. More resources to shelter us, more fuel to power our journeys with our humongous old person bodies. We’d become too big for our houses, we’d stomp on little ones, and we’d run out of space to live. Eventually, our planet would be too small for all these giant people.

But, luckily, we do stop growing.

We stop growing when we reach maturity – a state where our bodies can perform all the functions we need to be able to live our lives. 

A state where our bodies are simply big enough.

When will the economy be big enough?

Growth, in and of itself, is not useful. Ever.

Growth is only ever useful until something is big enough to perform its intended purpose.

Otherwise, growth is simply consuming resources, with no clear purpose.

And yet, somehow, the economy doesn’t seem to ever be big enough.

The economy never ‘matures’.

Think about it – have you ever heard a politician talk about a day where we will have got a big enough economy?

Why does no politician ever say, “It’s my vision to grow the economy until we’ve got enough for everyone, and then level it off.”

Perhaps it’s because, after all these years, we still have no agreement on the economy’s intended purpose. And if we can’t come to a consensus on that – well, we’ll never know when we’ve reached our goal. So instead we just pretend there isn’t one, and we’ll just keep on growing. 

Abundance for all!

Of course, that doesn’t quite work. 

An ever-growing economy needs more resources. An ever-growing anything needs more resources.

For the economy to grow it needs more energy – which comes from a combination of things we take from the earth; and people power, which in turn is also powered by – guess what – things we take from the earth. And yet the earth’s resources aren’t growing. They are finite, and being depleted. 

We need to get a goal

Just like a real-life human, the economy must have a point where it becomes simply big enough.

It should be able to evolve to be able to sustain all of us (at least, it could be aligned to population growth).

And yet we haven’t got any clue what that target would look like, and despite year-on-year world economic growth happening every decade, we STILL see billions of people in poverty whilst inequality increases. Constant growth, questionable benefit.

We hear vague promises like ‘no child should be left behind’ or ‘let’s end poverty’, and we fixate on more growth as the solution – not even entertaining the idea that there must be an endpoint to that growth. 

What’s the endpoint?

The idea of setting a growth target, or a target economy size, isn’t new. 

Visionary systems thinker Donella Meadows wrote in the 90s, “Growth is one of the stupidest purposes ever invented by any culture… We’ve got to have an enough.”

And yet here we are, 20 years on, still no wiser.

So maybe it’s time we start challenging the unlimited growth narrative ourselves. 

As I often do, I’m going to end this post on questions I’ve been asking myself – because I don’t have all the answers yet. I’d love to hear your reflections on them.

  • How can we decide how big the economy needs to become?

  • How will we know when we’ve got there?

  • Aside from growth, what other alternatives are there?

5 reasons to apply design thinking to the economy

As a design student, I learnt that design was all about solving problems.

The problem might be frivolous (I want better packaging to sell more fish fingers) or serious (I want to convince more people to get tested for cancer), but there’s always a problem. And whilst creativity is key to finding great solutions, solving problems is really what makes design different from simply expressing oneself. 

Design has become a major part of our economy, and for good reason. Companies like Apple build their entire business around solving people’s problems, and sometimes by providing solutions to problems people hadn’t even realised they had (like being able to carry all their music around in their pocket, with the iPod). Last year, Apple alone spent over $13bn on research and development, but it was repaid to them many times over in the profits they made as a result. 

But although designers are a key part of the economy, and recognised as problem-solvers, there’s still one big area of problem-solving where we’re not applying ourselves – the economy itself.

If we all burned ourselves every time we boiled water in a kettle, you can guarantee that it wouldn’t take long before a designer applied themselves to fixing it. And yet we’re living in a huge-man made creation – the economy – that is burning people out and driving the planet to the brink of destruction every single hour of every single day.

How could design thinking help?

1. Design gets to the root of problems

Great designers take the time to really understand the problem they’re trying to solve, and apply lots of techniques to research. 

There’s no end of problems to solve when it comes to the economy. Whether it’s the fact that billions of people live in poverty whilst others have more money than they could spend if they lived to be 1000 years old, or the fact that our obsession with constant growth is pushing (or has pushed) the planet to breaking point, a serious investment of design thinking into the economy could help us understand what’s going wrong and to get specific about the problems we need to fix.

2. Design brings in others’ insight

Design isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about collaborating with those who might and facilitating the collection of the right knowledge together to find solutions. Whilst some designers might work alone, countless others are part of multi-disciplinary teams coming together to bring specialist insight and translate it into solutions that solve real human problems. 

Designers might bring in economists or bankers, for example. But relying solely on traditional economics teaching to help us solve the world’s economic problems would be naive. Because of standard economic teaching, these people will often bring value that is nevertheless hemmed in by preconceived and learned ideas about what it means to be an expert on the economy – but with the economy being so far away from providing human-centered solutions, it’s time to challenge these prevailing orthodoxies. Design thinking brings in the knowledge, analyses it, and then frames it within the context of the problem you’re looking to solve.

3. Design focuses on user needs

Does the economy serve humans, or do humans serve the economy? 

It’s a question worth asking, and the answer isn’t simple; but in our current world it’s clear that many of us are bound up to act in ways that the economy dictates to us, rather than it freeing us to act in ways that would best enable us to flourish. If you don’t agree, then ask yourselves whether people in underpaid jobs with poor working conditions are being well-served by the economy.

Design thinking would help start this again by enabling us to get to the heart of the ‘purpose’ behind the economy. Unfortunately, we’re so used to the idea of the economy as something that simply exists, that questioning its purpose has become alien to us – it’s simply there: all-pervading and inescapable. But we simply must ask questions about why the economy is important if we are to create a future where it’s looking after people and planet better than it is today.

4. Design includes testing and iterative improvement

No matter how well I think I’ve designed something, there’s always room for improvement. And that’s something I embrace.

In the name of pragmatism it’s not always possible to hold out for a perfect design before launch, but you can keep testing (before) and reiterating (before and after) to improve and refine. 

5. Design challenges assumptions

This is really crucial if we’re going to get past the current state of tweaking different ‘economic mechanisms’ and coming up with bullshit ‘solutions’ (like printing more money, or fracking). ‘Solutions’ that only help some of the people on the planet and ruin lives for others, or ‘solutions’ that make craploads of cash whilst irremediably destroying the planet are not solutions at all. 

Design thinking is all about starting with a blank piece of paper and a goal. 

If you can apply that same thinking to the economy, what would we come up with?

Banks have been in existence for several centuries, so is it right to assume that they’re still relevant (even when they are causing huge amounts of human suffering)? ‘Growth’ has become something taken as an automatic goal to aim for, but if we achieve a standard of living that allows people to live well, why do we still need growth? ‘Deficits’ are used to get whole countries to tighten their belts, but the US is simultaneously the world’s biggest economy and has the world’s biggest national debt, so what if this is a false narrative?

Only by challenging our assumptions – a key element of design – can change happen.

I believe it’s time for design thinking to be applied to our greatest design challenge of all – redesigning the economic system. And if just a fraction of the $13bn a year invested in designing new iPhones was applied to that, just imagine what a difference we could make. 

Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash

The ‘no cookies in the house’ philosophy

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m a 36-year-old man who can be defeated by a cookie.

Any cookie really, but Chocolate Hob Nobs are my favourites.

If I have them in the house, I always have a niggling voice at the back of my mind saying, “Just have them now! You’re going to eat them anyway, so get it over and done with.” 

Even when I’ve made a rational decision to eat less because they are bad for me, my subconscious gets the better of me. I’ll literally eat them until I feel unwell, against my better judgment. 

So what do I do? I don’t have them in the house. 

The ‘no cookies in the house’ idea is simply making sure things are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It’s about creating a space – which can be a physical space, or it can be your mental space – that helps to support you in your goals. After all, if I wanted to eat more cookies, what’s the point torturing myself by having to look at them every time I open the cupboard?

I can still go out and buy them when I want – of course – but at least this way I have more control, by keeping my unruly subconscious at bay in my weaker moments. And, best of all – I feel happier because I don’t keep reminding myself of what I can’t (or shouldn’t) have.

So I’ve been thinking about how I can apply ‘no cookies in the house’ to other things. And it’s easy.

Want to buy less stuff you don’t need? Stop promotional emails coming to your inbox. No cookies in the house.

Want to spend less time on Facebook? Remove the app from your phone. No cookies in the house.

Want to become less obsessed with your appearance? Stop following the Kardashians on Instagram. No cookies in the house.

Of course, all of us have some degree of willpower. We could still buy Wallpaper magazine without being driven to buy loads of new furniture. But ultimately, we’re just putting ourselves in a position where we’re constantly reminding ourselves of the things we can’t – or shouldn’t – have.

So if, like me, you’re trying to create new habits but are finding it a struggle; think:

What are the cookies in my house?

Photo by Davide Carpani on Unsplash

The fear behind the phrase ‘just enough’

Have you ever stopped to think about the phrase ‘just enough’?

We use it all the time – 

“I’ve got just enough to make this recipe”

“He’s done just enough to pass the exam”

“They have just enough money to get by”

Whenever we use it, we’re implying a negative situation – sure, you have enough, but more would be better.

There is an inherent logical issue in the way we use this phrase in English.

Enough /ɪˈnʌf/
as much or as many as required

This is a binary idea – you either do or don’t have the quantity required to perform a specific task.

So why do we add ‘just’ to it? 

When we say ‘just enough’ – what we are actually exposing is our fear of insecurity about the future. Sure, I have enough, I’ve done enough, I’ve got enough… but what if I need more?

This feeling – an unspecified need for more or everything in the face of an uncertain future – permeates our entire culture. 

It’s the fear that drives us to keep accumulating wealth when we already have what we need to live well, to buy excess food on our weekly shop that we end up having to throw out, to work ourselves to the bone for our boss even if we’ve already hit our targets. And because these are driven by fear, it’s hard to know when we’ve ever got enough

And each of these examples of excess means that we’re trading off something else in our lives for it – our time, our planet, our energy, our happiness – and we’re not even clear why we need it. We’re simply scared about what might happen if we don’t.

So here’s a challenge to think on – the next time you use the phrase ‘just enough’, try and catch yourself doing it.

And try asking yourself: what would happen if I dropped the ‘just’?

The radical act of aiming lower

“I’ve got a meeting with a new client on Tuesday.”

I was talking to someone I trust about an impending business opportunity.

“I’m reading about the project tomorrow to see if it sounds interesting,” I continued. “I’m already over capacity. But I’ve been thinking and I don’t want to grow the business.”

A confused look on the listener’s face. I feel self-indulgent, privileged and entitled. So I carry on justifying myself.

“I don’t spend a lot, and I’m happy with what I’ve got. So instead of growing the business, I need to decide whether I want to keep all my clients because they’re all important to me, or whether to choose one or the other, based on how much of an impact I think the project can make.”

From my perspective, it’s an enviable position. I can pick-and-choose the project that sounds most interesting because I’m already doing ok for money. I get to decide if I work more or not.

So the response surprised me. 

“Well – I think maybe it would be easier to decide if you had a goal… like if you wanted a bigger house or a new car, then you’d have a reason to grow the business.”

What we’re conditioned to strive for

The response didn’t annoy me. I know that it comes from wanting the best for me. And I fully understand that having a goal like that would make things easier in some ways. It would provide a wonderful distraction – another target to work towards for months or years, only to arrive and realise it didn’t actually fill any emotional void, and that it now needed to be replaced with another distraction.

Moreover, I’m not annoyed because the response reflects how we’ve been conditioned to think as a society. 

Don’t have a goal? Set one, they say. You need goals. They keep you productive. And you need to be economically productive to be of value – literally and metaphorically. 

But the goals that we’re used to setting are mostly about money. ‘I want to grow my business’. ‘I want a new car’. ‘I want to save for retirement’. 

Goals that aren’t money-oriented are frivolous –

  • Learning for learning’s sake is self-indulgent
  • You can only travel the world for so long before you have to ‘get back to reality’
  • Searching for inner peace is flaky 

In fact, until retirement comes along, it’s seen as self-indulgent – even immoral – to have a goal that wilfully reduces your economic productivity. 

Working less? Out of choice? 

“When other people are struggling for work?”

That’s for the lazy. The layabout. The bad citizen. 

At least, that’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe.

What if we flipped it?

The conditioning is so ingrained, it’s a real feat of mental acrobatics to think about how it could be aspirational – even morally right –  to reduce our economic productivity.

Why is that?

Well, we’ve been taught that: 

  • For us all to be happy, we need the country to work well
  • For the country to work well, we need the economy to work well
  • For the economy to keep working, we’ve got to be productive
  • For us to be productive, we’ve got to keep working

Therefore – if you don’t work, you’re immoral. You’re ruining our collective happiness.

But does this logic really stack up? Because generally we have economic growth year after year, but we’re also seeing increasing inequality, massive tax evasion, decimated health and social care systems, increasingly divisive politics, and worsening mental health. 

Economic growth is simply not leading us to happiness.

And yet there’s already more than enough money in the world to pay for everything we need.

So more economic growth isn’t the answer. Better governance and economic justice is. And working more simply won’t make that happen.

The bravery of aspiring to less

Let’s face it, it’s going to be a long road to making that happen.

The richest in society are unlikely to change their mind any time soon and abandon the economic system. 

So maybe it’s down to us to make change happen through small acts of our own.

And maybe that starts with those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford to work less. And maybe there are more of those than we think.

And maybe we won’t feel like we’re depriving ourselves if we learn to want less.

Maybe reducing some of that pressure on ourselves to generate more, to earn more, and to spend more, could free up time for us to work on things that aren’t money-oriented.

After all – we already accept that ‘the best things in life are free’. So why do most of us spend the majority of our waking life earning money?

Maybe ‘aspiring to less’ is the key to having time to work on our body, our mind, our family, our knowledge, and even our happiness.

Maybe that means that ‘aiming lower’ is actually – in another sense – aiming higher, just with less money.

But learning to not want as much – in spite of all the pressures to do so – is the opposite of something a lazy person would do. Given the armies of people that work hard to make us want stuff, it’s actually really bloody hard. Not to mention that you’ll probably be judged as having ‘given up’, or having ‘failed’ at life, by many of those around you.

So maybe, just maybe, deciding you want to become less economically productive isn’t the same as being a layabout.

Maybe it’s actually a major achievement to learn how to do it.

Maybe passing up opportunities for work that you don’t need opens up opportunities for others who do.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s actually being a good citizen.

Maybe, just maybe, a partial withdrawal from the system can actually shake things up.

Maybe it all begins with figuring out goals that don’t depend on money. 

Maybe it all begins with ‘aspiring lower’ – at least in the traditional sense – and being proud of it.

Photo: Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Marie Kondo, you’re tackling the wrong problem

We have TV shows that teach people how to throw away all the unnecessary stuff they’ve bought.

But not that teach people to buy less things they don’t need in the first place.

Perhaps it’s only appealing to learn about throwing away things after the pleasure of buying them?

Whereas learning about controlling your purchases in the first place sounds suspiciously close to ‘being deprived’.

How can we reframe richness in ways that aren’t represented by the objects we accumulate?