In his letter to James Harmon for Harmon’s book, Take My Advice, Scott Russell Sanders comments on the things we desire. Sanders writes, “Love simply. By that I mean, think about what you actually need for a good life, not what friends or ads have taught you to want.” This is a very meaningful quote to me because it speaks of the importance of self awareness, and of getting away from the pressures to buy and have things.
As a recent college graduate I love reading quotes like this one or hearing people talk about the importance of realizing what goals and desires you actually have. Television shows portray a certain lifestyle, and advertisements fill your mind with ideas of how you should live and what things you should buy to be happy. If one can spend time to understand that having lots of things will not translate to happiness, then they can begin to live more free. I am not suggesting that anyone should abandon all desires for material items, but rather that having a BMW does not need to be ones goal or benchmark for success (especially at a young age out of college). As I read back through this post, I am currently reading a book called Insight Out by Tina Seelig. In her book Seelig talks about entrepreneurs and motivation. In a similar sense to what was discussed by Sanders, Seelig encourages asking yourself and anyone who wants to create something, “What motivates you?” and “Who are you?” These two questions force someone to understand what forces driving them, and what they expect and need for happiness.
What Sanders quote also hints at is our competition with and comparisons against our friends, co-workers, and those we went to school with. Striving for a lofty job title, a big house, and fancy cars just to be able to impress other people is damaging to yourself, your relationships, and ultimately your future. I think Seelig would agree with my interpretation of Sanders’ writing, and could reach the same conclusion. Having motivations that are external and based on rewards and social praise will drive you towards goals that don’t align with what you actual desire or what will really make you happy.
The drive to achieve greatness should not be based on what you want your external projection to be. Learning to step away from television to avoid projections of what success and happiness look like will allow a person to be more flexible in their decision making and to become more happy with the lifestyle they already live. In addition, Sanders would agree, learning to be confident in the person you are and letting go of comparisons against the people around you will help you develop real relationships with them rather than having a relationship based on impressing someone with material wealth.