By Leo Babauta
Lately I’ve been buying a lot of things: a nice watch, some cool folding knives, some tools and outdoor gear. It’s fun!
But as I give in to these impulse purchases, I notice that the thrill doesn’t last that long, and it leaves me wanting more. And of course it dawns on me that this is a lesson I’ve learned a thousand times. Buying things rarely gives me any kind of fulfillment.
When we buy something, it gives us a temporary boost—a bit of excitement, anticipation, some hope that it will give us something in our lives that feels missing. Maybe we hope the new purchase will help us to feel cool, sexy, lovable, adventurous, fit, peaceful, connected, or find a sense of belonging.
The lesson I have to remember is that these things aren’t provided by purchases, other people or anything outside of us. The lesson I often forget is: everything we’re looking for is inside of us.
We think it will be given to us by buying things (I certainly do!) but whatever boost we get from that only lasts for a day or two.
What I’ll talk about in this post is why that never lasts, and how to find it inside of ourselves.
The Fleeting Joy of Buying Something
When we buy something, we get an immediate boost—it’s exciting! We’re hoping to get something from this purchase—not just the actual item, but the feeling it will give us, an improved experience of life.
The excitement continues with the anticipation of it arriving, if we ordered it online. We might check the tracking page, or look hopefully outside of our front door for the package.
Then when it arrives, there’s a boost of joy! Our lives will be better now, with this new thing in our lives. Of course, we know from experience that this is a temporary boost, and it doesn’t last long. Maybe it goes away within an hour. Maybe a day or two. On rare occasions, it might last a week. But it’s fleeting, and then we’re on to looking for the next purchase.
It’s a hamster wheel of constantly buying, to get something in our lives that we feel we’re missing. Some experience, some feeling, some hope of what our lives might be.
It can’t be given to us by something external, because the thing we really hope for is something we create internally. So the habit of looking for it outside of ourselves is never fulfilling, and will never end as long as we keep hoping for an external solution.
A Wellspring of What We Really Want
What we really want can’t be found outside of us:
A sense of connection and belonging
A sense of fun, play, adventure, joy, excitement
A sense of being good enough, lovable, desirable
Feeling fit, strong, beautiful, sexy
Feeling safe, secure, stable
A feeling of peace and freedom
Where does that come from? We create it, from within.
And our ability to create it is boundless and flowing, if we learn to tap into it.
Try it now (don’t worry if you’re not perfect):
-Can you feel a sense of joy and gratitude for being alive right now?
-Can you feel a sense of being connected to other beings who are going through something similar to what you’re going through in life right now?
-Can you feel a sense of wholeness with the world around you, a sense of belonging in this moment?
-Can you feel the freedom of being a part of the infinite, and the peace that comes from that sense of spacious freedom?
-Can you feel love for yourself, and a sense of delight in who you are, a sense of deliciousness in your being?
If you can’t find these things inside of you, keep exploring. There’s a sense of adventure and play that can come from being curious about these experiences.
What can you find within you, right now?
Leo Babauta is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer from Guam (now living in San Francisco). He eats vegan food, writes, runs, and reads. He is the founder of Zen Habits which is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.
This article was originally published on Zen Habits and re-published with author’s permission.
Editor: Dana Gornall