There is a poem attributed to author, Bob Perks, which goes like this:
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.”
We are rarely fully satisfied with what we have. Whether it is love, money, friends, or toys, we always seem to want more. We are content with what we have until it is no longer new. It becomes commonplace, and we want newer, bigger, and better things. We are happiest when we don’t want.
I’m reading The Big Tiny, by Dee Williams, which chronicles her journey of downsizing from a spacious single-family house to an eighty-four-square-foot tiny house on wheels. It caused me to wonder if I could live a minimalist life. Could I strip myself of materialistic possessions as a trade-off for financial freedom, time with family and friends, and peace of mind? I’m not sure.
Did you know that the self-storage industry has skyrocketed in the last 20 years? Americans need 2.3 billion square feet of extra space just to fit their stuff. Our homes on average are three times the size of the average household 50 years ago. But it’s not enough. We have more cars per person, eat out twice as much, have big-screen TVs and multiple devices, yet we are not happier.
Have you heard the term “hedonic treadmill”, also known as hedonic adaptation? It is the tendency of humans to return to a set point of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes, once our needs for food, shelter and water are met. As a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. You may have heard studies of people who have won lottery jackpots who are initially thrilled, but who say that they are no more or less happy than before winning the lottery a few years later. The happiness boost doesn’t last that long or wasn’t as intense as you’d imagine.
But here’s the thing. The anticipation of more is what makes us happy. The anticipation phase causes an increase in happiness chemicals. When the allure of the acquisition fades, it no longer boosts our happiness quota. We need something to replace it. This perpetuates the hedonic treadmill.
I’m told that in Buddhism, suffering is caused by craving. One element in the state of enlightenment is eliminating craving, being free from desire, being content, and being sufficient within oneself.
I feel challenged to want less. I want to learn to control my impulses and stop purchasing things, eliminate clutter, do more of what I love, spend more time on the things I love. Cravings for more will come and go, but the moments will pass.
What is enough for you?