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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.

More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

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

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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