I have fantastic news, and it applies directly to you! If you are reading this, you are one of the luckiest people who has ever lived on the planet. The advantages of living in this era are incredible, and the advantages of living in a prosperous country are incalculable. One would think that since the world has become easier to live in, safer, and exponentially more convenient, that the average person would be pretty content.
Instead, we seem to live in a culture of constant complaining, discontent, depression, and greed. People dig themselves into debt in order to purchase items that they believe will make them “happy”. Parents shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their children to the most elite schools, in the hopes that their lives will be bigger, better, more successful, and obviously all of this achievement will make them happier. Except that it doesn’t, that’s not the way the world works, and I have proof.
If happiness in life worked the way so many of us think, act, and spend like it does, then the following things would be true:
Every rich person in the world would be absolutely happy, and every poor/middle class person would be unhappy.
Every celebrity would be content and have happy long lasting marriages, and every average looking person would be alone forever, and discontent.
Instead, we look at these groups, celebrities and the wealthy, and we see a very different reality. Wealthy people are more likely to get divorced, to be on medication for depression, and to commit suicide. Celebrities are more likely to get divorced and remarried multiple times than your average person, they are also more likely to have substance abuse issues and struggle with depression.
This isn’t because wealth or celebrity breeds unhappiness, it’s more that the type of person who chases wealth or celebrity truly believes that those things will make them happy. Their personal value is tied to their success, their notoriety, their wealth, their achievement, or even their children- and those things alone will never make someone happy. When you see a wealthy or successful person who is truly happy, odds are they would be just as happy if they were an average Joe- because that happiness is coming from within.
People get so used to having more and more, that they stop seeing the incredible wealth around them. The moment you stop having gratitude for your life is the moment that you become filled with discontent.
I like to use everyday things to remind myself of how much I have, here are a few of my favorite things that most people take for granted:
Modern technology, appliances, and tools. Sometimes I think about how difficult basic tasks used to be, like doing laundry on a washboard, or building a house with little more than a saw and a hammer. Tasks that once took hours now take minutes or even seconds. It’s not just tasks that are easier, it’s the availability of information and the ease of communication. My grandma used to wait months for letters from my grandpa while he was away at war, now you can communicate in seconds even when you are halfway around the world. If you wonder about a fact, or want to learn something, all you need is an Internet connection. You can read newspapers from around the world, access research from the top universities, see lectures, listen to podcasts, create your own website, learn a foreign language, or create art and media. You have more resources at your fingertips now, than the most elite private colleges had even 50 years ago.
Access to the library. If you’re looking for a frugal outing, you can’t beat the library. Access to all the books, music, magazines, and movies that you could ever want all cost exactly zero dollars at the library. Don’t take it for granted, but do take advantage of it! I like to think of the library as a store that’s always having a 100% off sale. Suddenly you’ll find you don’t want to pay for books, movies, or music, when you know you have access to an incredible stock of them for absolutely free.
An assortment of coffee and tea. If you’re frugal, chances are you don’t go out for food and drinks as often as a spendthrift. I enjoy having a variety of coffee and tea that I can make at home. In the summertime we usually have a large container of iced coffee, and two or three kinds of iced tea in the fridge. Something like coffee and tea seems commonplace now, it’s assumed that you can easily purchase it anywhere, of course this wasn’t always the case. In the past, wars were even fought over the coffee, chocolate, tea, and spice trades. Massive ships carrying goods and men braved the dangerous ocean, all so the wealthy elite could enjoy luxuries that us commoners can buy in any corner store today. Enjoy it!
Warm clothes and a warm home in the winter. Lightweight clothes and a cool home in the summer. This is one of those things that people in the modern era have come to expect, but that for years required massive effort. If you wanted a warm home in the winter, you needed to suit up and walk to the woods (sometimes in a storm), chop wood, haul it, and build a fire. Then you had to keep the fire going. Now, with the touch of a button you can select the exact temperature that you would like your home to be. Incredible advances in the textile industry have made fabrics lighter, yet more insulated- and cheaper to boot, and you don’t even have to make the clothes yourself. That’s luxury!
Plentiful food and a fully stocked pantry. My pantry, fridge, and freezer are well stocked. If I had to, I could make meals from my pantry for a month or so. I have spices from India, noodles from Japan, olive oil from Italy, grains from the Middle East, and a wealth of seafood, meats, and other staples. If I run out of something, or have a specific craving, all I need to do is walk down the street to my neighborhood produce store or grocer. While some people still have to walk miles to get clean drinking water, my biggest dilemma at the grocery store is deciding what type of cuisine I’d like to make.
What are your favorite day to day luxuries that other people take for granted? Let’s share them in the comments section and help remind each other of how much we have, and while we’re at it let’s cut out the complaining!