Our late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastriji gave us the mantra “Simple Living and High Thinking!”
Today we have reached a stage when living has become complicated and thinking has become confused!
Simple living is a lifestyle where you choose to live with fewer material possessions and focus on other aspects of life such as relationships, experiences, and personal growth. These are elements of high thinking.
But we are working in exactly the reverse direction!
Instead of managing with fewer material possessions, we have developed an approach to life where we are full of desire wanting more of everything. In our zest to acquire more, things like relationships and experience take a back seat in our scheme of things. We are rarely satisfied and want to have more and more of everything like materials, wealth, fame, power…and the list goes on!
Why do we want more?
In most cases, it is because we believe that acquiring more will make us happy. Unfortunately, this does not happen! Whatever we acquire gives us fleeting happiness which does not last.
Let me explain with an example:
Today you may want to purchase a small apartment for yourself. You will be very happy when you buy the house. But after a few months, the excitement of buying and owning the new house wanes. So, you give yourself another goal like maybe buying your dream car. Until you buy it you will be excited and will be planning how to go about purchasing it. When you have it you will be happy but again you will need another goal to aspire to.
We have become people who identify ourselves by our possessions. We need top brands to define who we are. While the desire for acquiring more usually emerges from the need to be happy, many a time it is for other reasons.
We might want more because we believe that it will push us ahead in the rat race. Most of us are constantly in a competitive state wanting to prove that we are better than others. And, we believe that by acquiring more we will achieve it.
Another reason for wanting more is the ease of shopping. Everything is now available to us at our fingertips. Purchasing is so easy that we can easily buy anything from anywhere and at any time. So, impulsive buying is easy. The minute we find something attractive and we want it, we can order it without thinking if we actually need the item.
Constant advertising in media influences our buying decisions. Advertisements are created such that they create a need for the product and one feels that they cannot do without the product. We watch our favorite celebrities promoting products or watch attractive advertisements of different products and get motivated to buy the product and all we need to do is pick our mobile and place the order.
One of the most compelling reasons for buying more is social media. We see our friends on various social media channels flaunting attractive clothes/accessories, etc. We want to have more than them or want to be better than them. So, we try to buy more and better stuff just to be on par or get ahead of others. Another way that social media influences us is through social media marketing. Marketers gather data about our preferences, our buying patterns, etc., and create customized social media ads. Potential buyers see those ads when they are scrolling through social media. And, an average individual spends over two hours on social media. Marketers are also knowledgeable about the timings when potential buyers use the channel and they post the ads during those timings. When buyers are presented with ads of products that they are likely to buy again and again on social media their buying decisions are influenced. Shopping through social media has become easier now because social media channels facilitate buying directly through the channel instead of leading their audience to a website, etc. Then there are social media influencers who advertise different products and we feel like buying those products. After all, they are not called “influencers” without a reason!
All this acquiring more adds to the clutter in one’s life. More the clutter, the greater the complications in one’s life.
I recently watched a video where the person said that we spend all our lives accumulating garbage! He said that we buy something and when it is new we place it somewhere where others can see it. Then after some time, the article moves into our cupboard and as more time elapses, the article moves into our garage! I tend to agree with the speaker because I have seen this happening with many people. Not just others, I was also like that until I became aware and switched to need-based buying.
My personal experience has been that by adopting this approach, I have reduced a lot of clutter in my life and this has helped me sort out my life in different ways. By having fewer things I created time for myself. I did not have to spend time on managing more stuff and I could use my time for productive activities.
Reducing stuff also helped me save space. I required less space to keep things. I had a lot of free space which made me feel light and free.
It was easier for me to organize things because I had time and space to keep things in their proper place. This again helped me save time because when things were kept in specific places it was easy to find them as and when required.
Reducing the stuff around me not only helped me save time but also minimized my stress. My experience is that being surrounded by too much stuff increases stress levels. Hence, with fewer things around me, I was more relaxed.
Paradoxically I was happier with fewer things around me than with more! This is to drive home the point that material possessions can never be a source of happiness. It has been said by many learned people that happiness is to be found within and not externally. And, this is true!
When you reduce the clutter you will find the inner peace that you had been craving!
In other words, by controlling our desires and lust for more we can simplify our lives and we can follow the “Simple Living” part. Acquiring less reduces the complications in our lives and makes us more peaceful.
Now let us focus on the High Thinking part!
High thinking is thoughts that focus on aspects such as compassion, purity, the general good of everyone, empathy, etc.
Unfortunately, a thought process that includes high ideals and benefits everyone has become rare in today’s world. The reason is that we have become extremely self-centered and our focus is only on our external needs. Not many of us think about the betterment of others. In fact, many who do charitable deeds also look for publicity for what they have done. Often charitable deeds are done not so much for the benefit of others as for self-glorification.
Our greed for more has made us apathetic toward the environment. The result is directly before us-degradation of the environment, climate change, and more. Today the rich are only focused on getting richer. There are very few who work towards a balanced society and try to use their wealth to alleviate the poor.
The time has come that we directed our thoughts from seeking happiness from external sources to within ourselves. Once we work on ourselves and learn to be happy, it will be easy to reduce our wants. When we reduce our wants and are guided by our inner selves, we will focus on helping others.
The question is how to shift focus.
The first step is to practice gratitude. If you are grateful for what you already have, you will feel abundant and your need for more will reduce!
One simple method to practice gratitude is to write down 3 things that you are grateful for in a journal. You don’t need anything spectacular in your life to be grateful. You can be grateful for things like waking up alive or for having a family or a healthy body or a roof over your head, etc. When you acknowledge the little things in life, you will realize how much you actually have and will stop cribbing about what you don’t!
As you practice gratitude, you will become contented and contentment sows the seed for happiness. When you are content, it will be easy to be happy. You will automatically focus on activities that bring you intrinsic happiness instead of looking for happiness in external sources.
A person who is happy from within has the urge to share their happiness. They try to do things that will make others happy. They will find fulfillment in doing things for others instead of fulfilling their selfish needs.
In other words, high thinking will help them simplify their lives!
And, this is the best way to elevate our thinking and follow