The Myth of More
Marci Shimoff

  

Most of us fall prey to what I call the Myth of More:  the more you have, the better you'll feel.  Our society's collective trance of wanting more and more stuff, or "bright, shiny objects," as my friend Stewart calls them, is based on a shared, insidious, and often unconscious belief:  more toys, success, and money mean more happiness.  But as these statistics show, it just isn't true:

*  Americans' personal income has increased more than two and a half times over the past fifty years, but their happiness level has remained the same.
*  Nearly 40 percent of the people on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans are less happy than the average American.
*  Once personal wealth exceeds $12,000 a year, more money produces virtually no increase in happiness.

It's obvious that the happiest people aren't the ones with all the goodies.  (If they were, there'd be a lot more happy people in Hollywood!)  Yet we are seduced by the deep-seated belief that money will buy happiness--at least we think it will for us.  A recent survey showed that at all income levels people think more money would definitely increase their level of happiness.

I heard that a reporter once asked J. Paul Getty, the founder of Getty Oil and the world's first billionaire, "You're the richest man in the world.  When do you know you have enough?"  He thought for a moment and said, "Not quite yet."

This shows that our "desire to acquire" won't bring us true joy.  So why is is so hard to escape wanting more?

Because Madison Avenue doesn't want us to.  Advertising exists to perpetuate the Myth of More; it's the engine that drives our economy.  Billions of dollars are spent every year to convince you that you're not okay the way you are and that you need things--lots and lots of them--to make you happy.  One night I did an experiment.  I counted how many times and ways I was told this over the course of that night's television watching.

It was shocking.  In just three hours, I was bombarded by sixty-eight messages telling me that I was doomed to misery if I didn't have what that company was selling.  In the most entertaining, compelling, and creative ways possible, advertisers tried to convince me that I needed to have the right car (five different companies claimed theirs was the right one), the sexiest bra (like the one decorated with diamonds that cost $2 million--that's one million per boob!)), the magic pills (we'll talk about those later), and the best skin care product (God forbid I should look my age).

I know what you're thinking:  But I don't pay attention to those commercials.  They don't affect me.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but they do.  You can't help it:  the messages we see and hear repeatedly go into our brain on a subconscious level and become beliefs.  If they didn't, advertisers wouldn't be spending oodles of money to make sure you view their ads over and over again.

With children watching an average of five hours of television a day, is it any surprise that we have a bunch of unhappy kids who are in a frenzy to get the next toy, video game, or designer-label jeans? . . . What would our lives be like if we could all be happy no matter what?

When you experience your inner, innate happiness and are Happy for No Reason, you still enjoy the things in your life, but you don't look to them to make you happy.  You're able to banish the Myth of More.

  

Inner happiness, Shimoff says, is within reach for anyone who can turn down the volume on their hectic lives and learn the 21 Happiness Habits that she has cultivated from 100 interviews with "deeply happy" people (including actress Goldie Hawn and author Elizabeth Gilbert).  Emphasizing a holistic approach, Shimoff takes into account mind, heart, body and soul in seven chapters that cover three Happiness Habits each, as well as corresponding anecdotes that "define what it means to be Happy for No Reason."

  
   

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