How Having Few Wants Leads to More Happiness
It’s tough being happy when you don’t have what you want. How do you not want what you want? How can you want to want less? There are two ways to be happier by having few wants.
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
First of all, this reminds me of the Cheap Trick song, so here you go.
Is how to want to want less like how to do what you don’t want to do?
2 Reasons to Ignore Epictetus
First, Epictetus was a Greek Stoic Philosopher
What the hell is a stoic? Trust me. You don’t even want to know. But in case you do, Merriam-Webster defines a stoic as:
“not affected by or showing passion or feeling; especially: firmly restraining response to pain or distress.”
“holding that the wise man should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submissive to natural law”
Uhm, yeah. I hear ya. Through this magical website, I can hear what you’re thinking right now. Who wants to take advice from a stoic?
Secondly, Epictetus was Born a Slave
In 50 AD. His life was a lot rougher than ours. His expectations were probably much lower than ours. The guy never saw a rich kid enjoying an iPhone X at Starbucks and never heard me rambling about how wonderful Disney World is.
He naturally had few wants and was happier with few wants.
On the other hand, those are great reasons to heed Epictetus’ advice!
It’s also fun to say, “Epictetus.”
2 Steps to Having Few Wants to Want
These two things will contribute to your happiness.
- Stop Comparing Yourself
- Practice Gratitude
Stop Comparing Yourself
Epictetus was lucky enough to notice that everyone at work has brand new iPhones and Galaxies while his phone was almost two years old.
Epictetus never scrolled through Insta wondering why he couldn’t have abs and a beach house on the Mediterranean like the models and lifestyle solopreneurs in his IG feed.
Maybe a comparison with his owner crossed his mind, but you can see where this is headed.
Like I mentioned in Look Beyond Perfections, those images are faked by people who want you to feel inadequate enough to buy their products. Don’t compare yourself to something that doesn’t really exist.
About those new phones. I’ve upgraded. I’ve been excited as the Apple Genius opened the box and handed me the shiny, new phone. I’ve skipped to my car with my head held high. Then what happens. You start scrolling through and realize it’s pretty much just another thing.
Very affluent people attend my kid’s school. I see lots to be jealous of. Teslas and Rolls, trips to Greece and Bora Bora. I get caught up in comparisons too.
Comparisons are like stress. It feels like it’s going to help somehow, but it just makes you miserable and sick.
When your mind roams to comparison, think about what you’re thankful for. Practice Gratitude. I mean..
Yes, it def needed a bigger font.
In How Gratitude Boosts Your Power (and in The Happiness Infinity Gauntlet) I wrote how you can make Gratitude a superpower.
Think about what you’re grateful for. What do you have right now that less fortunate people somewhere else don’t have? Millions of people on this planet can’t enjoy the luxury of reading blogs on their three-year-old phone with the battery that drains in just a couple hours.
Make a list of what you’re thankful for. Keep a list of your biggest four or five with you at all times. Take it out and look at it several times each day as a reminder. Each morning list a couple more things you’re thankful for.
It’s a Matter of Focus
Focusing on gratitude helps you realize you’re more wealthy than most others. You and I both probably have sufficient wealth to be happy. We don’t need the cool gadgets and expensive clothes.
If your focus drives you to work for the thing you want, then enjoy that work. Enjoy that process of daily work towards your goal.
Don’t let your focus dwell on what you lack. Steer it towards what you do have, what you’re grateful for.