Why Simplicity Does Not Make You Happy

Since kindergarten, I have been taught that simplicity is a way of life that will allow us to experience happiness and contentment. My elderly mentors advised me that, even in the struggle to reach my dreams, I should not let my ambitions get over my head – that we should always live within our means while shunning away from obscene extravagance – and if you choose the life of excesses and over-spending, then you are surely on your way to miserable poverty.

grouping-of-mugs
Grouping of Mugs by Andrea Michelbach
(Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I remember one story about a professor who had a coffee session with his former students inside his office. He noticed the way they chose their mugs from the cupboard – they were all after the ones with fancy designs and colors; those who were last in line were left to pick the mugs with little or no adornments at all. When all of them were drinking already, he called their attention to point out how their mugs were so different from each other, and yet they were all sipping the same coffee. He went on further to say that life, in general, has the same principle  – most people run after the fancy kind of things – fancy clothes, fancy cars, fancy houses, fancy et cetera. Yet, those fancy things are just like empty mugs without the “coffee.” Satisfaction will come from drinking the coffee itself – the mugs are just the containers. We all aspire for the same happiness, security, and contentment.

There is nothing wrong with getting rich. In fact, it is a noble goal to pursue especially if you are doing it for your loved ones and you have the desire to make this world a better place to live in. However, there is a demarcation between living a rich life and living the life of excesses. Having a fat bank account does not mean you should be ostentatious with it.

However, modern life with its competitive and “show off” culture has pushed simplicity out of the limelight. Happiness and stability are presumed to be the products of flaunty lifestyles – never mind spending and going broke in the near future, as long as you show to your friends that you are not left behind in the race of pretentious success.

Therefore, simplicity is not going to make you happy if...

You Equate It with Mediocrity


You think life sucks because you live simply? Maybe it indeed sucks, but mainly because you assume you are living a simple life when in reality your desire is to be more exuberant than what you see from your friends in your social media feed every day. You want to exceed their travel exploits and the material goods they show-off on their waterfall. For you, not doing so is mediocre. You have equated simplicity with mediocrity.

There is a sarcastic yet practical and wise advice about simplicity and extravagance…

The rich spend like they are poor while the poor spend like they are rich.

I guess this summarizes why the rich gets richer and why the poor gets poorer. Read this out aloud: Working hard, working smart, and investing properly are not enough to make you rich; you should also save more of  your money while spending a few with prudent caution.

You Compare Yourself with Others


One sure ingredient to unhappiness is to set your standard of success based on what others possess. Whatever self-help literature you read and motivational talk you listen to about simplicity, they are not going to have an effect on you, if you always compare your successes to those of others. Being thankful for your own achievements is a misnomer to you until you own the things that other people have.

allegory-of-vanity
Allegory of Vanity by Antonio de Pereda [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You will always feel uneasy if your goals are always attuned to getting ahead of people rather than setting your goals on how to best provide for yourself and your loved ones. The thing is, work and career becomes satisfying only when you do it for those whom you care about and not merely to prove you are better or more talented than other people.

Simplicity is only effective in making your life happy and contented only if your soul is void of envy and vanity. Yet, it takes a heartfelt decision to empty yourself of such emotions. Simple living allows men and women to enjoy the simplest of things. In so doing, you learn to appreciate the little blessings that come your way, which will eventually lead you to real happiness.

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