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7 Reasons Why You’re Materialistic When It Doesn’t Make You Happier

7 Reasons Why You’re Materialistic When It Doesn’t Make You Happier

You only need so much to live a good and healthy life. Then there are a certain number of possessions that account for convenience. What is the rest for? Why do the more expensive brands exist? A $100 T-shirt is made of the same materials as the $10 one. It’s not even necessarily held together better. You don’t even get happier after you buy stuff that you think will make your life better. In fact, you’re most likely happier just thinking about buying the stuff. Some studies even suggest that being more materialistic increases your chances of becoming miserable.

So, why do we keep buying items we don’t need and that don’t make us happy?

1. We Are Influenced By The “Grass Is Greener On The Other Side” Syndrome

Whether or not human beings are inherently prone to jealousy, we often let it cloud our judgment. When jealousy makes you perceive something to be better than it actually is because you don’t have it, it’s called, as you probably know, “the grass is greener (on the other side of the fence)” syndrome or effect.

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You might notice a guy move in across the street. Not only does he have a bigger house and car, but every time you see him, he’s smirking. Lucky bastard! For all you know, he could be paying down a gigantic mortgage, and leasing the car. He could be on his last legs and downright miserable. But our first reaction is to jump to conclusions. Perhaps it’s instinct to predict beyond what we have reasonable evidence to assume. Either way, it’s part of what makes us so prone to materialistic tendencies.

2. Items Are More Easily Attainable Than Alternatives

What I mean is, it’s often easier to set your sights on a particular item, than choosing to focus on enjoying every day with what you have. Because it seems more like progress, more logical, than simply accepting your existence how it is. So the new car gets priority. And then it’s a bigger apartment. And then it’s to renovate the apartment. There is literally no end to new items to attain you could line up as part of your ideal path in life. And that’s what makes it so dangerous. You don’t get out unless you notice. And you don’t notice unless you want to.

3. Hoarding Is An Instinct

Some theories suggest that our materialistic ways are caused by a leftover trait that was once crucial to surviving: the tendency to hoard valuable materials for later use. When what you perceive as useful or valuable is manipulated, that’s when it starts to become unhealthy. Plus, in this age of convenience, there are many instinctive responses and behaviors that can actually end up sabotaging our happiness and even health.

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4. The Desire To Fit In Compels Us

The rise of new technology is perhaps the biggest testament to this aspect of human behavior. Whenever a new technology gets out, first everybody techie “has to have it.” Then it reaches a certain point where most people’s social circles are filled with people that have it, and then even though they were initially apathetic, suddenly they have to have it, too. Consider a man who didn’t find his house lacking until he saw himself surrounded by bigger houses.

5. Commercial Conditioning Influences Us More Than We Think

While I would not say that we are utterly brainwashed, the media influences us more than you might think. The past few years, advertising companies have mostly been criticized for the unannounced use of Photoshop. But that’s not all they’re doing. Have you ever noticed how advertisements tend to show very pleased or happy people using the product in question? Not only do advertisements always try to force you to make the connection between their product and happiness, but they also try to make you blame your unhappiness on not having said product. Just think of a stereotypical commercial where a person is troubled, the product shows up and all of a sudden they are overjoyed. And it’s not just in commercials either. With product placement being extremely prevalent in block busters and probably some of your favorite television shows, there’s almost no getting away.

And even if you’re aware of their game, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less effective. Just think about all the bad decisions you have made in your life, perfectly aware of what you were doing.

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6. Our Society Glorifies Item Possession

How many times have you heard, “I wish I had that house.” Or, “If only I had that car…” You might have even said so yourself. This is the most simple of many symptoms that item possession is glorified in our society. A more tangible example is when someone sees a aesthetically mismatched couple, they will often jump the gun and assume that “he/she must be rich.” And while most of us do not let wealth overshadow other qualities, there are certainly people who do. And it’s fair to say that to most of us, wealth is considered a positive attribute.

7. We Crave Acceptance, Love And Status

This is where our craving for acceptance, for reverence, for status comes in. Most of us are are genetically wired to crave the acceptance and love of our fellow women and men. This is probably to ensure our survival as a species, as it would make it easier for the common good to override the search for personal pleasure. But it doesn’t end there. When you convince someone that a way to get accepted, to get liked better, to achieve status, is through the garnering of possessions, he or she will pile them up until they reach the clouds. And when that person finds their cries of acceptance hollow, their statements of love empty, they will pile up some more, now convinced that it is the only answer.

Some argue that focusing on goals, whether materialistic or otherwise, can shift your focus away from what is truly important: your daily life. Normal days make up the bulk of your existence, and if you don’t enjoy them, it’s usually not from the lack of a new car. When the new car arrives, and your life doesn’t change, you lose the illusion that it would make your life better, and have to face the reality that there other things between you and happiness. You can either face facts, and appreciate that a bigger house isn’t likely to be the solution either, or get stuck in a vicious circle until you meet a very rude awakening at a later point in life.

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When you’re on your deathbed, what do you think you will recall? The houses you owned? The cars? Or the biggest surprises of your life, the experiences hardest to forget, your greatest friends, and time spent with the ones you loved most?

Most of us would likely be better off if we chose to consciously prioritize people and experiences, over money and possessions.

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Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Despite our best intentions and efforts, making mistakes is a fact of life. Humans are prone to error, so we are inevitably going to mess up at one point or another.

Many of the slip ups we make won’t have any impact on those around us, but what about the times when they do hurt someone else, either inadvertently or purposefully? Do we ignore the mistake and hope it will go away on its own? Do we confront the mistake, however painful that may be, and apologize? How we react to our mistakes defines both who we are and how we are perceived by others.

I’m a voice and presence coach specializing in training people to find their voice and speak their truth. One of the most difficult tasks I teach my students is how to apologize authentically. It takes a lot of vulnerability to admit wrongdoing, and even more so to seek forgiveness and make amends. (After all, we live in a world where some of our top leaders openly avoid taking accountability for their mistakes.) However, like anything else in life, if you ignore something painful instead of facing it, that pain tends to grow and appear in other parts of your life. It’s better to face these things head on.

So how do you apologize effectively? Technically, there is no one “right” way, but there are plenty of ineffective ways to go about apologizing. I’m going to approach this from the perspective that we are genuinely remorseful and wish to make amends for the hurt we have caused.

Simply saying, “I’m sorry” is easy. But it’s important that your words match your intention. It’s complex to apologize authentically when you have made a mistake – to utter remorse that is grounded in your truth, and it’s what we’re going to cover here.

In order to make a genuine apology, I refer to a practice introduced to me by a mentor several years ago: the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono prayer. I’m not an expert on Hawaiian prayer, but having meditated with this one for a number of years, I can say that this practice of reconciliation and forgiveness is incredibly powerful.

Ho’oponopono means “to make right” or “rectify an error.” What sets this practice apart is that the focus is not on controlling a particular outcome (i.e. healing the hurt relationship you have with this person), but instead on healing yourself in order to heal the situation.

The Ho’oponopono prayer is profoundly simple, and translates as follows:

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

Everything we need to apologize is right here. Let’s break down the structure of this apology into these 4 concrete steps for before, during, and after the apology.

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Before the Apology

Step 1: I’m Sorry – What are you sorry for?

Before you start speaking and leading from pure emotion, it’s important to actually figure out what you are sorry for:

Start by Writing Down the Facts

When you’re writing this out, avoid assigning any judgments to the scenario or making any assumptions about the person affected by your mistake. Instead stick to straight facts. Dump the whole situation onto the page, including all the details.

Ex. My friend was having a hard time with her boyfriend. She kept complaining to me about it, and I was tired of listening to the situation. I also felt I knew exactly what was going on, and what was not working, so I finally got blunt and told her my opinion. She was very offended. I realized afterward that she just needed an ear to listen, and she wasn’t looking for my advice.

Write Down Your Part in Making This Mistake

Stick to your contribution only. Avoid speaking for anyone else, simply focus on what you did that you know helped create the situation.

Ex. I gave feedback that my friend wasn’t interested in hearing. My mistake was assuming that she’d be better off if she heard what I had to say.

After Writing It All Down, Ask Yourself How You’re Feeling by Grounding Yourself in Your Truth

I teach a process to my clients called the Voice Body Connection process, which starts with grounding yourself in your physical sensations. This process will help you find your voice and speak your truth objectively, even if you are flooded with strong emotions in the moment.

Identify the Physical Sensations You Feel

Now that you have relived the experience of making the mistake by writing it out, tune into your body, and ask yourself the question:

“What is the strongest SENSATION I feel in my body right now?”

Be sure to keep this body-based. When you are preparing to apologize, taking note of your sensations helps you ground yourself in how you are feeling so that you can show up.

Ex. I feel an aching sensation in my heart.

Identify Why You Think You Are Feeling This Sensation

After you’ve identified your primary sensations, ask yourself the following question:

“What do I think is the STIMULUS that led me to feel this sensation?”

This is likely a very simple statement that you already wrote about. It’s the heart of the matter.

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Ex. I gave my friend advice she wasn’t asking for.

Identify Your Emotions About This Situation

Now that you know why you are feeling these physical sensations, move to identify your emotions. Ask yourself:

“What are my EMOTIONS about noticing all of this?”

Some primary emotions are fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, and arousal.

Ex. I’m feeling sad that I crossed my friend’s boundaries.

Identify Your Ideal Outcome For This Situation

Your emotions are tied to your desire for a future outcome. Ask yourself,

“Do I have any desires related to everything I just noticed?”

Examples of core desires are safety, comfort, bonding/love, and curiosity/growth.

Ex. I want to repair the relationship so that we can be close again.

Make Sure You Actually Want Forgiveness And Reconnection

Please keep in mind that if in this process, you discover that you don’t feel safe with this other person. There’s no reason to apologize and re-connect.

But if you feel safe and comfortable with them and desire to be connected again, then you can proceed to the next step of the Ho’oponopono prayer.

During the Apology

Step 2: Please Forgive Me

You’re not going to share everything from your process above with your friend. What you are going to share is your acknowledgment of the hurt you caused, your part in creating that situation, and your desire to reconnect[1].

It’s also very important to be clear about only speaking your truth and not commenting on their side. That’s their job.

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You can use this script by filling in the observations you noted above:

I think <a simple statement about what happened> happened between us…

And I believe my mistake was <insert your part here>…

I am left feeling <insert your emotions>…

and moving forward, I would want to <insert your desires>.

Ex. I think I gave you feedback that you weren’t interested in hearing…

And I believe my mistake was assuming that you’d be better off if you heard what I felt I needed to say.

I am left feeling sad that I crossed your boundaries.

And moving forward what I really want is to be close to you again, and to assure you that I will ask permission in the future before I give you advice.

Once you’ve shared this introductory olive branch, stop talking about yourself. This is it for now…. it’s all you needed to say to get the conversation started.

Your next job is to listen and be curious. Ask open-ended questions about their experience like “How did that feel for you?”. De-center yourself and let your friend share as much as they need to. When you do speak, let them know that you hear what they are saying, and acknowledge your impact.

I’ll grant you that this is hard to do – it’s easy to get defensive. But your checklist is:

  • Tell them you heard them
  • Let them know you understand you had an impact on them
  • Ask them more about their experience

Step 3: Thank You

Now that you have asked the other person about their experience, it is quite possible that they will say things you don’t want to hear. You may find yourself feeling defensive or even angry. A stressful situation like this can trigger “fight or flight” mode in your body: you may notice that you start sweating, that your pupils are narrowing, that your eyes tear up, that you start experiencing tunnel vision. This is all normal.

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To help stave this off and stay present, keep being genuinely curious about what their experience has been. Don’t listen to be “right,” listen to be connected. Listen to understand.

Even if they say something you don’t like hearing, thank them anyway for sharing the truth of their experience and for being in your life. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is a necessary step towards your own healing in the Ho’oponopono prayer.

Moving Forward Post-Apology

Step 4: I Love You

Let’s say you’re actually at a place where the relationship you have with the other person can be repaired. “I love you” encourages curiosity: how can you repair and reconnect? How can things look different moving forward?

Think of something you can do to express and experience your love, appreciation, or respect for each other. Make a plan for how to move forward.

A great practice is to make a list of things you are grateful for about the other person. Be sure to share this list, either as a letter or just out loud. It’s important to share how much we appreciate each other, and it feels as good to give gratitude as it does to receive it.

This last portion of the prayer is not just for the other person… it’s for you as well. Filling yourself with a sense of love ensures that you’ll be able to move on from the mistake and heal. It’s easy for many of us to beat ourselves up and continue to hold onto guilt, or even shame, about a mistake we have made — even though we are genuinely remorseful and have tried to make amends.

You can continue to repeat the entire Ho’oponopono prayer to yourself after the encounter where you have apologized:

I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

In doing so, you may find you’re apologizing to yourself too.

The Bottom Line

To speak our truth in an apology, we must show up fully without expecting anything of the other person. Though we cannot affect or control the outcome of the apology, no matter how repentant we are, following the Ho’oponopono can guide us to true repair and healing.

If you have been stuck on finding the “right” way to reconnect and apologize to someone in your life, I hope this process inspired by the Ho’oponopono prayer will help you to make that first step.

More on How to Apologize

Featured photo credit: Gus Moretta via unsplash.com

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