“Hi, my name is Kathy and I have been addicted to more.” What about you? The good news is that I don’t believe that any of us are powerless against it—but we do need to admit that it is a problem to begin with and be on continuous alert to its presence. But what exactly do I mean by being addicted to more, and why is it so important to recognize? Plus, why is our desire for more such an important awareness for living a rightsized life?
Just like most addictions, the addiction to more is the continued, and often compulsive, use of a behavior or substance despite adverse consequences. So just like many substances or behaviors, “more” in some forms isn’t necessarily bad, it’s the continued and compulsive pursuit without balance that often leads to severe unhappiness, financial ruin and all sorts of unintended outcomes. I’m guessing that if you aren’t aware of how “more” is impacting your life, there is a good chance that you too are suffering from the addiction.
But what do I mean by more? My definition is the continuous search for something to complete us and make us feel worthy, lovable and sufficient. That something can be all sorts of material things that are easily seen and/or measured like a bigger house, a prestigious car, another pair of expensive shoes, a bigger bank account or a higher paying job. Or “more” can be related to intangibles like educational degrees, spiritual understanding or position, being in perfect physical shape, reaching the perfect weight, the love of a child, or even needing other people’s recognition. Any time we think we need to be something more, or have something more, or do something more in order to “complete” ourselves and be okay, we are stuck in the compulsive addiction so prevalent in our world today. Again, it’s not the thing or the concept that is problematic, it is our unconscious impulses that are so destructive to a peaceful and satisfied life.
Making the problem even more complicated is that in most cases our very culture and worldview encourages the universal pursuit of more—at just about any cost. With an economy built around the idea that more is always better, regardless of the outcome, it’s no surprise that this behavior extends all the way down to personal finance and individual lives. We believe that businesses and corporations must always be growing their income and their productivity. Likewise, we grow up believing that it’s somehow un-American to be content and happy with who you are and what you have. We drive ourselves, our friends, our children and our lives with the idea that it is lazy, or unworthy or __________________ (you fill in the blank) if we stop for a moment to enjoy where we are, accept ourselves as we are, and take a break.
Want to know if you have this addiction: Here’s a short quiz that may help:
1) Your child tells you he/she doesn’t want to go to college because what he/she really wants is to be is a rapper. Do you:
- a) Ask them if they are nuts and question how do they expect to eat?
- b) Grit your teeth, let them do what they want, and NEVER tell any friends or family what your child is really doing?
- c) Insist they go to college first so they have a way to make money to fall back on when the rapper thing doesn’t work out?
- d) Encourage them to live their dream as long as it fulfills them and they can responsibly take care of themselves?
2) You are walking by a store and see that perfect something (whatever it is that you collect or absolutely love) on sale at 50% off. You know it is a fantastic price but you also know you don’t need it and really can’t afford it at the moment. Do you:
- a) Buy it anyway because you’re saving so much money?
- b) Not buy it but feel cranky and depressed for days without it?
- c) Try to guilt someone who loves you into buying it for you so you don’t have to buy it yourself?
- d) Accept that you don’t need it and save your money for another time.
3) You are finally in the position to buy a house. You look at several you like but one stands out because it is slightly more impressive looking and bigger than what you really need. Do you:
- a) Justify to yourself that a bigger and more prestigious house is a better investment?
- b) Rationalize why you deserve such a house regardless of the cost?
- c) Not buy it but regret it for the rest of your life?
- d) Not buy it because a bigger house will stress your finances more than you’d like, admit you really don’t need that extra space in the first place, and recognize you don’t need to impress others ever?
4) You’re offered a new job that pays you a lot more money, but you have to move to a city/place you don’t really like and work for a company that you believe is untrustworthy. Do you:
- a) Take the job because your goal in life has always been to make that much money?
- b) Take the job and then go out and buy yourself that expensive new car that you’ve always wanted to offset what you have to give up?
- c) Don’t take the job but let your family and current employer know how much you’ve sacrificed just for them?
- d) Not take the job knowing that you’d never sell your soul to a company you didn’t trust or move to a place you didn’t like just for more money.
5) You start a blog writing about things you really care about. Even though your blog takes a while to draw a small following, you receive a number of benefits from your project that are immensely gratifying. Then a blogging expert recommends you start blogging in a different way that is contrary to how you’ve done it, but guarantees that you will “grow more numbers.” Do you:
- a) Make all changes the expert recommends because the whole point of your blog is to have more followers?
- b) Ignore the expert, continue to blog your own way, but hire an advertising company to promote your blog to get more followers?
- c) Give up blogging altogether and go start a new project that pays better and has a better following?
- d) Consider the changes and recommendations, but stay true to yourself and your intentions for your blog, regardless of what the expert suggests or whether you get more followers.
Obviously, the last answer to every one of the above questions is the one that stays true to you, regardless of the lure of “more.” And even though none of the above may apply to you directly, I’m hopeful that they at least illustrate how often, and in how many ways, people routinely believe that “more” is better. I am personally attempting to recognize how many ways I, and others, routinely suggest that “more” is superior to any other action. It is especially prevalent in all advertising, but it also sneaks into our conversations with others and most especially into our expectations of those around us and ourselves.
The thing is, once we recognize why we so often choose “more” as a way to feel good we can start becoming consciously aware of what it is that we are really wanting in that moment. A lot of the time we usually just want to know and believe that we are good enough, worthy and sufficient just as we are. In the end, you don’t have to be more of anything—except yourself.
Of course, as I said above, there may be times when striving for more is appropriate and beneficial to your life. Going for more is not the problem; making it unconscious and unbalanced is what creates an addiction. Recognizing the trade-offs and opportunity costs of any urge for more helps keep it in check.
I define minimalism or simple living as a lifestyle or practice that puts the focus on enjoying and appreciating the here and now of my life. Whatever I have, whatever is going on, whatever the experience is, can I find meaning, purpose and happiness right then and there? That’s why I see “more” as something that stands in the way of that appreciation by its focus on something other than what is—and therefore a hindrance to anyone who wants to live a minimalist life. Being conscious and aware of how more routinely pops up in your life is a great way to live both minimal and SMART 365.
Would love some feedback on how the above “quiz” worked out for you? Please share your comments below…
Joseph Doohan says
This post is a great lifehack! Many lose focus of their principals and values and greed takes over. I have seen time and time when greed takes over, friends are lost and the level of happiness ebbs. Be thankful of what you have got!
Thank you for all your fantastic blog posts. I am so on the same page as you with your attitudes to life.I live in New Zealand , and for last 3 1/2 years have been practicing living authentically and simply according to my values as much as possible.I have chosen to be self employed part time so that I have time for balance and reflection and to concentrate my time and energy on the things that matter to me and give me the most value.The thing I find the most challenging at times is when coming up against ingrained cultural values of others who see life differently and automatically expect me to conform to their choices.It takes a high degree of kindness but firm boundaries to keep from being pushed into furthering other agendas which conflict totally with my values.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Shara…nice to meet you!…and thanks for dropping by SMART Living and adding to the conversation. Good for you for taking steps to create a lifestyle that contains the qualities and values that you want to live rather than getting caught up in cultural conversation going on around us. You are SO RIGHT that it take a solid conviction and firm boundaries (and then kindness and compassion too) to keep away from the conflict that can show up now and then. I’m not always perfect myself for sure…but I am making progress. Did you see my current post about “right-sizing”….it contains the word retirement which you might not yet be thinking of…but right sizing is all about creating the kind of life you describe. Be sure and stop by when you can and share some of your progress with us all. 🙂
I was D on everything, but C on the last one, because, I’ll be honest, I will take a decadent dessert anytime!!!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jen! Thank you for your honesty…to be equally as honest I have done exactly the same thing. While I know intellectually that I shouldn’t I still do now and then. I still maintain that the best we can do on a regular basis is be honest with ourselves and act with honestly–congratulations to you for taking that step. ~Kathy
It’s so easy to lose sight of gluttony, or however you want to describe “more.” Thanks for the reminder to simplify and find pleasure with what we have instead of always searching to acquire MORE.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Cheryl…oh you are so right! Addiction to more is a form of gluttony…I hadn’t really considered that before but it is so true. While gluttony has been a vice since time began, it shows up in our current culture in our present day obsessions with acquisitions. And while gluttony is usually associated with food and/or drink–it is equally excessive in all sorts of ways. Thanks for the reminder! ~Kathy
Kathy how I wish I could have read this a few years ago when I found myself trying to evaluate the direction I wanted my life to go. Luckily I am pleased with my answers today. Great post.
Kathy Gottberg says
Thanks Lois. It’s nice to think that some of the lessons that we both learned will be passed on to others so they don’t have to go through some of the challenges we did for sure! But who knows? Still, to be “pleased with your answers today” is a GREAT accomplishment! ~Kathy
I relate to what you have written so much! And I am pleased to say I am turning it around slowly….I got a lot of d’s! I do still have to consciously stop and question myself whether I need the thing I am longing for. the old me just went for it but the new me is able to give myself space to really think it out before I act. Great post, thanks!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jackie! Welcome to SMART Living! And I’m glad you passed the test. 🙂 I actually had a lot of fun making up the questions because I have experienced versions of every single one at one point of another in my lifetime. To me the biggest key is always staying conscious about my choices so I agree with you that having the “space to really think it out before I act” is good enough for me. Glad you liked the post…and I’ll have t go check out your site as well–I love meeting new friends on the internet! ~Kathy
Good topic Kathy and advice. It’s always helpful to be reminded of ways we may be too excessive, especially in our culture where we’re bombarded with ads wherever we turn.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Pat….thanks for stopping by and saying “Hi!” Glad you liked the post…you certainly have a great site with wonderful and wise advice. It reminds me of the great book “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Rachel Naomi Remen.