Imagine this: You’re a hunter living in 10,000 BC. You wake up in the middle of the night and all you can think about is food. Since there’s no fridge storing your favorite chocolate rolls because chocolate and machines that keep food cold are still not invented, you start to sharpen your spear. No plastic screen to lock at. No important messages to read. It’s just you, sitting there, hungry, waiting for your tribe members to wake up so you can all together go get something to eat (and by get, I mean hunt an animal).
Years ago, citizens – or should we say tribe members – had one major task in life – to survive. And surviving back then was characterized by the following 3 things: 1) regular access to food and water; 2) safe place to rest; 3) making sure that the clan will continue to exist by reproducing.
Back then, in the hot savannah and in the cold tundras, people didn’t bother to think about higher meaning or how to decorate their tent. Words like multitasking and hustling to get rich were still not trendy. Finding food and making sure that everyone is safe was their main priority in life. People learned to hunt, to set traps, to communicate only to have something on the table.
Nowadays, obviously, things are quite different. You no longer have to learn how to throw a spear to have something to eat. You no longer have to learn how to track animals in the wilderness. But you do have a lot of other things to consider: What college to go to; What type of internship to choose; What type of content to post on your social media profile; What video game to play today; And the most dreadful, what to order for dinner.
That’s what life is right now. An endless conveyor of decisions that are thrown at you with no emergency button to pause. If you do nothing to handle the abundance, you’ll most probably end up overweight, addicted to alcohol, video games, and surrounded by piles of stuff that previously made you happy.
That’s why, not by choice but by necessity, our task today is the opposite of adding things in life – it’s subtracting. True well-being nowadays is handling abundance and training our minds to have enough.
The Problems of Abundance
50 years ago, there were not that many cars on the road. Owning a car was a luxury till one day Henry Ford decided that every man on the Earth needs a 4-wheel still frame with an engine inside to travel the around and take a break from the boring factory lifestyle. Yes, what he did was revolutionary but this was the first step towards the industrial revolution that later caused traffic jams and overflood supermarkets.
Similar thing happened when the internet came around. Before, to gain knowledge, you had to go to school or go to the library. There weren’t a lot of available books and becoming a master economist, for example, required reading probably around 20 books. Now, to get to the bottom of things, you need to read the entire Wikipedia section while listening to podcasts and researches recorded by smart glass-wearing dudes at 2x speed.
Same thing. You don’t simply choose between chicken and pork. You have wings, ribs, rolls, fried or poached, etc. Hell, even being a vegan is complicated. You can be vegetarian, only vegan, semi-vegetarian, plant-based vegan, raw vegan, or you can decide to fuck the stereotypes and become a part-time vegetarian and basically eat leaves only when you want to show off to your hipster friends on Instagram.
Of course, what to eat is only part of the problem. You also have to consider what style of clothes you want to wear. What clubs to go to. What type of music to listen to… The available options are countless.
Having more options was cool in the beginning until it became the sicknesses of our time. Now, you can’t even easily decide what coke to drink because there are so many freaking options.
Why Abundance Is a Problem?
We’re literally bombarded by stuff.
You wake up, you grab your phone, and you dive deep into the endless abyss of online information. When you need a new pair of jeans or new sneakers, you spend a week comparing models and looking for the best deal. When you visit the mall or the nearest shopping center, you panic and you freeze because you can’t decide which one of the thousand available cereals to buy.
And while we enjoy the available options, we also dread them. Our logic brakes when we’re presented with more than 2 options and we always get more than we need because we fear that we’ll miss out on something. Therefore, we gain weight, fill our tiny apartments with stuff we rarely use and our minds become like a junkyard full of ideas that never see the light of the day.
But let me visualize this for you so you can better understand the problem here.
Years ago, our mind was mainly concern about the following things:
Today, it more or less looks like this:
You might say, “I’ll throw all of my stuff, stop visiting the mall and I’ll be OK.”
But the problem with abundance is more complicated than figuring out where to store your collection of vintage chairs, handle traffic and your shopping addiction. It’s a mindful problem rather than a logistic problem.
Sure, you can sell all of your possessions, wear only black clothes and embrace minimalism. However, if you don’t cage your always-desiring-more mind and explain to it that getting extra things is not the solution to all of your problems, you’ll soon find yourself back in the mall, or online, pressing like buttons and ordering clothes.
So, to handle abundance, you need to work from the inside out. To wipe your desire for more things and to set some restrictions in this borderless world.
How To Deal With Abundance?
Even if you are not close to the average salary in your country, you’re still living a better life than the folks who lived 100 years ago.
So, why are we then so depressed and unable to enjoy this thing called life?
Because we always crave more. Sadly, we desire the wrong side of more.
While information is widely available and mostly free, the desire to learn is scarce. No one wants to read books, blogs, and practice what’s inside these hubs of knowledge. All we look for is shortcuts and obtaining shiny objects to gain more traction (likes) online. Or in other words, we want results without effort. We want to show off and have a good time instead of learning new skills and becoming more rational beings.
We jump around from one thing to the next and we never truly finish a project because there’s always this new thing that promises to solve all of our problems and make us look cooler on social media. The result? Uneasy mind and a wardrobe full of cheap clothes.
Obviously, this lifestyle is not working out. We see it every day. People who have more are generally dissatisfied. They eat and drink too much and until they know it, they have cholesterol problems, money problems, and all other sorts of problems.
If you look around, you’ll see that the opposite of abundance is key. People who impose some sort of limits and learn to have enough are the ones who are generally happier and more satisfied.
Such people set hard limits when it comes down to eating, spending money, and spending time online. After all, you can’t beat the world record in weight lifting if you stuff your body with junk food. You need a strict diet and a daily workout regime.
So, what to do and how to solve the problem with abundance?
You need to set limitations in this world full of options and inspire a desire to become master in a specific field.
Essentially, your task is twofold: First, by imposing limits, you’ll handle the horde of stuff and thoughts that try to convince you that getting more stuff is good. Secondly, by pursuing something with higher meaning you will finally find direction in this chaotic world.
Here’re are some practical things to consider that will help you handle abundance:
- Limit the amount of stuff you own: The more stuff you have laying around, the more you’ll stress your mind. Imagine this like having a desktop full of icons. The more items you place on your home page, the slower your computer becomes. If you clean the mess, it will be a lot easier for you to process your surroundings.
- Limit your visit to places: If you want to stop drinking alcohol, you’ll surely have to avoid pubs and social gatherings at least for a while. But here I don’t mean only physical places. If you have a problem with social media, you should also limit yourself from visiting Facebook and the other famous social media platforms.
- Realize that more is not better: Throwing all of your stuff is half of the solution. You need to convince your mind that purchasing more goods won’t solve your problems, it will simply delay the inevitable. So, embrace minimalism and learn the way of the Essentialist.
- Define who you are and what you want: There’s a famous quote by Lewis Carroll that can help us here. It says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Or in our case, if you don’t know what you want, you’ll want everything. But everything, will not only bankrupt you, but also cause you more stress and anxiety. When you have a direction in life, you’ll know what to focus on, what to give attention to and what to disregard.
In addition to the just mention, you can also try this simple exercise. It’s called The Box. Draw a box and write everything you want to be inside the box. Outside, write the things you don’t want to be.
For example, if you want to be a writer, you’ll place things like writing, journaling, learning new writing techniques, owning a typewriter, reading, inside the box. Outside, you can place things like social media, visiting the mall, meaningless chatter, playing video games…
Deviation: Don’t shut down completely. Yes, set limits, throw most of your possessions, and train your mind to have enough but don’t let your curiosity decay. Continue to explore the world. Observe a lot of ideas. Hear most of the opinions. But only adopt things and thoughts that align with the person you strive to become.
Some Closing Thoughts
Supermarkets used to store items that we actually needed. Nothing extra. Only the essentials. Now, it’s like a war out there. Everywhere you look, you’re pitched something. This doesn’t only hurt our wallets, but our consciousness too.
With so many decisions that have to be made, getting exhausted is your least concern. The biggest issue is handling the avalanche of thoughts that are yelling, “Get this. Get that. Get a new house and a new car. You need them!”
That’s the modern problem. Handling abundance. And no, there isn’t a tool, an app, or an item that will help you. It’s all up to you. And if you can make it work, that’s a lot you can gain.
Your ability to sift through the endless piles of items and decide what to want and what to totally disregard will be greatly rewarded. The better you become at not caring about the newest trends and the hip products, the clearer your mind will become.