Mindless Consumption: The Key to Growth?

This is a story about us being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.  – Tim Jackson’s TED talk: Economic reality check

The messages we’re bombarded with from government, media and many other sources would have us believe that we need to be good consumers who want and buy ever more stuff to keep the machine churning.  Government officials love to feed us the line that increased spending supports jobs.  It’s all a bunch of BS.

As a society we’re spending at record levels and jobs and general economic stability are at some of their lowest points in history.  We’re one of the unhappiest lots in history.

It’s high time we stopped buying into the messages of fear that are constantly fed to us in order to control us and keep us a scared flock of sheep.

Throughout the year, and especially during this holiday season, I challenge you to be more mindful of your consumption.  Consumption of food, gifts, time, money and energy.

Before over-indulging at the next holiday party or dinner, think about how hungry you are.  Think about how you’ll feel the next day after consuming what you’re about to put in your mouth.

Before spending your life energy (i.e. money) on a gift, think about why you’re spending it.  Are you buying a heart-felt gift for a special person to convey how you really feel about them?  Or are you buying out of guilt?  Or to prove your worth?  Or to out-do the recipient?  Or to do what others expect of you?  Or to make others happy?

Before accepting yet another invitation to a party or event, consider if that’s the best use of your time.  Will you connect with people you truly want to be around?  Or will you attend to be accepted by a group that doesn’t really support your goals or values?  Would the time be better spent with close friends or family, or alone, nurturing yourself?

How do you feel about your responses?  There’s no right or wrong, good or bad response.  Just notice.

Some areas where I’ve been more mindful are:

  • My investment of time and energy in preparing large holiday meals for my family.  I love making delicious meals that my family enjoys.  While I cook a bit more for a holiday, I don’t eat more than I normally would.  We make the time spent cooking and eating memorable by reminding ourselves of what we love about each other and sharing great memories that we all have of being together.  Then we reflect on the great memories of that day as we eat the leftovers.  This one is a keeper.  I actually realized that I enjoy this tradition more than I thought after taking the time to consider how I really feel about it.

 

  • Buying gifts for friends and family for reasons other than a genuine, heart-felt desire.  It occurred to me this year that I don’t really know my family members (outside of my husband and kids) well enough to buy them a truly heart-felt gift.  In the past I’ve generally bought gifts because that’s what’s expected.  The gifts have usually been gift cards because they’re easy, I don’t have to think much about it and the recipient can turn them into whatever they want.  I’ve done my duty.  I’ve chosen to not continue this one.  I don’t want to be the giver or the recipient to this kind of gift.  I don’t need more stuff in my life (I actually need to purge a bit more).  I don’t want others to give me anything out of a sense of duty or guilt.  I know that this decision won’t go over well with others who want to maintain the status quo but I’m acting in accordance with my own personal values.

My hope is that you are simply more mindful in the decisions you make throughout the year.  Take the extra moment to consider whether your decisions are in alignment with your own personal goals and values.  And, yes, having fun can definitely be one of those goals or values.

How has being more mindful about your choices affected those choices?

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7 Responses to Mindless Consumption: The Key to Growth?

    Sharyn Dimmick
    Commented:  11/26/2011 at 2:18 pm

    Well done, Paige, for a blog of this type. I don’t usually read these sorts of blogs, but this post was well-written, easy to follow. had something to say and was not preachy. Four stars. I came over here from A-List. If you feel like it, check out my blog which is about using everything you’ve got to cook seasonal meals and features original paintings in each post. — Sharyn (aka The Kale Chronicler)

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  11/26/2011 at 2:41 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Sharyn!

      I’ll definitely check out your blog. As a long-time member of a CSA (community supported agriculture), I’ve learned to be very creative with copious amounts of kale and other seasonal veggies. I can always use more ideas!

      Reply
    Justin | Personal Growth
    Commented:  11/28/2011 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Paige,
    I resonate deeply with this post. About six years ago I began giving away, throwing out and donating things that I no longer needed and or used. It felt great to have only what I need and use and nothing more. At this time I also began becoming more conscious of who and where I spend my valuable time and energy.

    Take care…

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  11/29/2011 at 8:34 am

      Sometimes it can be emotionally tough to clear all the clutter from our lives but the results on our well-being are so worth it. As you’ve done, Justin, we need to be mindful of our actions moving forward to maintain the serenity that we create. Congrats!

      Reply
    joanna | 365declutterchallenge
    Commented:  12/03/2011 at 4:59 pm

    You hit the nail on the head! Now that I’m learning how detrimental overconsumption is to our society, I’m actually spending less and (yikes!) finding that I have more time! I’m reading more blogs instead of surfing target.com. I’m appreciating local art galleries and walking away happy instead of walking away sad that I couldn’t afford a beautiful painting I now *had* to have. Overconsuption isn’t just about us consuming stuff, it’s about our stuff consuming us. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  12/03/2011 at 6:09 pm

      Joanna,

      YOU hit the nail on the head! Congrats on noticing the difference the mental shift is making on your life! Learning to appreciate the beauty that’s all around us without having to own it is a big step. And, yes, you do have much more time when you own less: less time spent working to earn the money to buy things and less time, money and energy cleaning and maintaining the stuff means more time for you and your passions. Keep it up!!

      Reply
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