This is a chapter from the book The Teenager's Guide to the Real World by Marshall Brain, ISBN 1-9657430-3-9. For more information on the book please click here.
Chapter 41: Material Things Will Not Bring You HappinessMaterial things do not necessarily bring you happiness. That is a fact of life. It is a hard fact to understand sometimes, especially in a society that tries very hard to teach you otherwise.
It is very common to get into a mode where you think, "If only I had object X, my life would be perfect and I would be happy." You REALLY want something: a new TV, a new car, a special pair of shoes, whatever. Then you buy it and you LOVE having it for a few days. But over time you get bored or it wears out. You can see this pattern repeated constantly in your own life. For example, your parents and grandparents likely spent thousands and thousands of dollars on toys for you as you were growing up: Dump trucks and Barbie dolls and video games and electric cars and on and on and on. All of those toys got boring or broken or outgrown eventually. They brought happiness for a moment or a week, but over time they became worthless and your desire turned to a new object.
This pattern begs the following question: "If material things bring just a temporary and short-term happiness, then what does that mean?" It might mean that you have to buy material objects at a rate of perhaps one per day to sustain the temporary and short-term high of getting something new. The problem is, that begins to sound a lot like a drug habit. This train of thinking can get you into some very deep areas. Things like:
- What is happiness?
- What does it mean to be happy?
- What do I want to do in my life?
- Does life have meaning?
- And so on.
There is a difference between material happiness, which implies having all the basic (or extravagant) comforts necessary to live life, and spiritual happiness, which implies something else altogether. I had a friend whose philosophy was this:
This sort of philosophy implies that you can find something other than material happiness to give meaning to your life.
The thing about "wealth" is that there is more than one way to measure it. Traditionally it is measured in dollars, but there are many other scales. You can be "rich" in ways that have nothing to do with money. For example:
- Rich in friends�A person who cultivates friendships and who is a joy to be around can have hundreds of good friends and can be rich beyond the wildest dreams of others.
- Rich in health�A person who spends time eating right, exercising and relaxing from stress can be extremely healthy, and this health can be far more valuable than any amount of money.
- Rich in strength�A person who works out with weights every day, runs, swims, etc. can be rich in strength and will have an attractive body.
- Rich in family�A person who devotes time to his or her spouse and children will have a strong and happy family that is rewarding throughout life.
- Rich in knowledge�A person who reads and studies will become rich in knowledge.
- Rich in skill�A person who practices anything daily (a skill, a sport, prayer, whatever) will become excellent in that skill area. Excellence has its own rewards.
- Rich in character� A person who works hard at being honest and truthful in all situations will become rich in character and will be trusted by everyone.
All of these alternative types of wealth are different from financial wealth, and yet all of them can be equally rewarding in their own ways. The point is that the act of buying things by itself, despite what television tells you, may not be what will bring you maximum happiness in life. Things like good friends, a loving spouse, well-raised children, a home built on love, a good relationship with God, a clear conscience, a worthy goal and a job you truly enjoy bring you contentment that lasts and has meaning. These things are often very hard for some teenagers to understand, but as you mature they become more important.
As you look at the world around you and come to understand what is important to you, keep these things in mind. Think about what it is that you enjoy and what makes you truly happy. See what you find. In thinking about it consciously, you might be surprised by what you discover. Money is incredibly important�you need it to survive. But it is not the only thing you need, and money itself will not bring lasting happiness to most people. Man does not live by bread alone.
As you ponder things like the importance of money and the role of happiness, you often end up at the question, "What is the meaning of life?" For most teenagers, this question is both important and confounding. Like its partner, "Who am I?" it is unique to you. Only you can provide the answer.
There are as many answers to the question, "What is the meaning of life?" as there are people. However, the answers often break into broad categories. By looking at some of the categories (as well as creating categories of your own) you can often come to understand how you want to answer the question. The following three sections look at three different ways that you can think about the question. This list is not exhaustive, and I am not advocating any of them. They simply offer you some examples.
What is the meaning of life for a rabbit? A rabbit is born. It eats and sleeps. It reaches sexual maturity and has children of its own. It is either eaten or dies of natural causes. When it dies there is no "heaven." It simply dies and that is the end of it. In such a scenario it is possible to conclude that life for a rabbit has no meaning. Rabbits exist to produce other rabbits and thus keep the species alive, but even that has little or no meaning in the grand scheme of things.
The "life has no meaning" school of thought applies that same line of reasoning to human beings. Humans, so the logic goes, have no soul and no afterlife, and therefore are no different from rabbits. When we die we die, and that is the end of it. This thought process can lead to one of several behavior patterns:
- Because life has no meaning, there is no point to living. I should wallow in self-pity and a private misery for years at a time.
- Because life has no meaning, I might as well be as obnoxious as possible�This is the "juvenile delinquent" and "career criminal" school of thought. Since life is meaningless, you might as well make as many people miserable as possible by killing people, robbing them, vandalizing things and so on. It is unclear how the connection from "my life has no meaning" to "therefore everyone else should be miserable" is made, but these people make it nonetheless.
- Because life has no meaning, I might as well enjoy it while I am alive�A corollary is "I may die tomorrow, so I had better live it up today." Another somewhat more positive corollary is, "Life is a journey; enjoy the ride." In either case, life is seen as a terminating state of being, so the more you enjoy it now the better.
- Life may have no meaning, but I choose to make other lives better during my time here�This is the opposite and positive side of the "juvenile delinquent" school of thought.
Think of it this way: Human beings have progressed from the point where we were strictly animals to the point where we are thinking, knowing beings who have just started to harness space travel, computers and communication. In just 100 years we have gone from an agricultural society to a technical society. This transformation has not occurred because of one person, but instead because of the contributions of billions of people. Each of us does one small thing that moves society forward. For example, many people worked to develop the telephone and build the switching infrastructure that makes up the telephone network. Many other people invented the Internet and built the systems on top of the phone system that make the Internet possible. Many more people worked to get a phone wire to your house. Still more people invented, refined and popularized computer hardware and software. Many more worked on modems and web sites. As a result of all of this effort you can now easily dial in to the Internet and retrieve billions of bytes of data from around the world using the World Wide Web.
Given our rate of technical progress, imagine what you will be able to do 100 years from now in terms of communication, calculations, travel, and so on. One day we will be able to colonize other planets. One day we will be able to travel to other solar systems and galaxies. One day we will be able to move huge amounts of matter to create new planets. One day we will, in theory, be able to design our own universes. When that happens, humanity will have become something else entirely. If we become immortal and can redesign or create universes, then we will be entirely unlike what we are today. Perhaps at that point we will find a completely different way to look at the universe and understand its significance.
In such a context, you are one part of the process that gets us there. Choose a worthwhile goal that moves humanity forward and work toward it.
Most religions contain a concept of Heaven or an afterlife. Christians, for example, believe in an eternal life through belief in Jesus Christ:
By believing in God, Heaven and an afterlife, life has meaning because it is not an end in itself. Instead, life is part of an ongoing and eternal process. The life we have on earth is just one small step.
If you believe in God and Heaven the questions then shift:
- If there is a Heaven and Hell, how can I get into the former and avoid the latter?
- What do I take with me to Heaven? What can I do to prepare?
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This is a chapter from the book The Teenager's Guide to the Real World, ISBN 1-9657430-3-9, published by BYG Publishing, Inc. For more information on ordering a copy of the book, click here.
by Luke Miller Truth Theory
Each and every one of us is blessed in one way or another, we may not always have exactly what it is that we want in this very moment, but we can always find something to be grateful for.
It is easy to overlook the small things like the air you breathe or the sights you see. But when you start to put your attention into these smaller things you start to realise how lucky you really are.
Life is all about perception and while some people may view things through a negative lens, the person who manages to wrap their head around changing their perspective over changing their life will be the one who finds the most fulfilment.
You can look at a long walk as “really far and tiresome” or as “great exercise and scenic”
You can look at a long wait as “a waste of time” or as “a chance to reflect”
You can look at a job loss as “an lost opportunity” or as “a chance to explore a new opportunity”
It really all comes down to how you view the world! Here are 46 non material things that we can all be grateful for-
The air that you breathe-
Without air within just a few minutes human life would be wiped out, this is the most important and one of the most underappreciated things that we have.
The water you drink-
Next to air water is the most important thing we have and most of the western world is lucky enough to have access to it. It also keeps you clean and if it doesn’t might be time to take a bath 😉
The food that you eat-
Food not only sustains life, but also allows us some time to gather and connect with our loved ones.
The sleep you get-
Sleep allows you to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries after a long day.
When you sleep you also get a chance to connect with the dream world, many cultures believe this to be a connection to the spiritual world.
Your thoughts give you a chance to process the world around you and formulate opinions. Your thoughts are also the only thing that is totally exclusive to you and are only shared with those who you choose.
Without taste you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your favourite food or drinks
Your sight allows you to take in the world around you, watch your favourite movies and read this text.
Your hearing allows you to listen to your favourite music and hear the laughter of your children.
Even if you are not in the greatest of health, you are still here and have some working parts.
You have a roof over your head which keeps you warm at night, this is a blessing.
Your friends laugh with you, cry with you and everything in-between.
Your family have been with you from the start; you have grown and learnt a lot from one another, even if you have gone in different directions.
Your interests are your own, they make up your personality and you have total choice over what it is that you like.
Love and connection-
To love and to be loved is all that really matters, and you do love and are loved by others. Even if you don’t know it.
We live in the most opportunity rich period ever and you are here with all these choices!
You are free to go where you like, hang out with who you like and fulfil the dreams you have.
Chances are you are not more than a few hundred metres from some kind of nature, enjoy it!
Google now gives us access to the biggest library of information ever, you literally have access to knowledge that people could only dream about 10 years ago.
You can educate yourself from home, from the library or from a local collage. Literally anything you want to know you can if you apply yourself.
No matter if you are up or down or anywhere in between, you still have the ability to feel.
There is no good or bad weather, just different weather for different occasions. Without every season we would not be here!
Your role models-
No matter where they come from we always have people we look up to, who can set a great example for us.
Everything in the world from the screen you are looking at right now, all the way up to the aeroplanes in the sky where born in the imagination.
These people have led you in the right direction and shown you what it means to be a good person.
Music can evoke any emotional state and has the ability to change your mind set in an instant.
The good, the bad and everything in between have all led you to this very moment you are living in right now.
Acts of kindness-
You have the ability in this very moment to go and do something nice for someone! What are you waiting for?!?!
You have 24 hours in the day like everyone else; you can spend them hours as you please!
You can jump on a train, plane or in the car and visit anywhere in the world to view the sites!
Beauty is everywhere, so make sure you take the time to appreciate it.
There is no better feeling than a full, hard, hearty laugh that you cannot control. When was the last time you had one of them?
This moment is the only moment that exists, take some time out to appreciate it.
The sun coming up and shining on your skin promotes a wakeful state and gets you ready for the day ahead.
As the sun goes down and night time comes you can get into a nice relax state ready for sleep.
We all have the ability to heal, even from the worse mental, emotional and physical problems.
Without challenge it would be hard to appreciate the good times!
The ability to choose-
You have the ability to choose what you do with your time, reading this article, smiling, picking yourself up when it feels like all is lost are all great decisions you are making 🙂
You may not get a second go at everything you do, but you will always have a second chance at life. No matter how hard it gets, you will always have a chance to come back stronger!
You can be spiritual, religious, atheist or agnostic. However you chose to express your beliefs are up to you! But you have the choice!
Your bed to sleep in-
You get to snuggle up every night in your cosy little bed!
Your positive emotions-
Positive emotions help to uplift you and motivate you through your life.
Your negative emotions-
Negative emotions help you to pause, think and reflect.
Fire to keep you warm-
Sunshine, your central heating, your oven and hot water are all born from fire. Fire will keep you warm in the winter and keep hot food in your belly, you have got to love the fire!
The earth and all of its life gives us the ability to breathe, without this complex eco system we would not be here.
It is great to see how diverse and different we all are, you can learn so many things from all the different lifestyles and cultures that surround us.
What you can do to make this stuff work for you is to take out a few minutes a day to express what you are grateful for. It works well if you already have a morning routine and you add this onto it.
One thing we all have in common (or at least I hope we do) is the brushing of our teeth- So after you brush your teeth in the morning, take out a few minutes to express gratitude for what you have in your life, after a few weeks you will start to notice all the good things that you have going on.
Thanks for reading, I wanted this to be a big list with things that some people maybe miss, but if you have anything you think I should add, put it in the comments section below!
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