Updated: May 23, 2021
“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?”
We welcome a new day the instant we open our eyes. Through them we can generate thoughts, analyze and reach conclusions leading us to take actions. Each decision is aligned to our beliefs, interests, values, experience and culture. The action taken and the one that is not, always creates a result; good or bad, something or nothing. I boldly say regardless of where we come from, we all seek the same thing, happiness. What is happiness? For some, it may be having a perfect body, for others, the accumulation of prizes, luxuries, fame, having "likes" on social networks, or generating the most money... This leads me to ask, is it our environment that determines what the word means, and fills our minds with greed? If so, how can we avoid buying into the ideas they sell us about what makes us happy, and what we need to feel it?
With you I will share three of the many insidious reasons that can induce us to make decisions in the pursuit of happiness: corporate marketing, social pressure and social networks.
Big companies are the ones who really dominate the world, certainly the ones that determine what the consumer needs. The moment they create a product, through promotions on television, movies, messages to emails, social networks, and billboards, they elegantly dazzle their creations to influence the user to buy what they offer. Why do people, regardless of their academic achievements, fall for their games? It is possible because they are masters in the art of selling STORIES. Simple answer, right? With commercials they paint in our mind what the life of the person would be like when they had their product in their hands. This is when you can experience countless emotions that unconsciously give rise to the belief that you need it. In the end you buy the product or service.
Let's say Mario is sitting on the living room furniture watching a series. Suddenly, a commercial appears about a weight loss shake. They show before and after photos of someone who has been using the product. To top it off, they show a video of that person talking about how well it did him to consume the shake. Mario begins to see himself taking it and losing weight. Nobody knows that deep inside he feels insecure about his body; he wants to look good and healthy. But the most important thing is to be in good health. In the end, he picks up the phone and makes the call to buy it.
Similar scenarios occur with other products, cars, clothes, food, life insurance... Without a doubt, stories have unimaginable power, because through them we can see what was possible for others, and that it can be for ourselves. We are beings full of emotions and our actions are taken based on them.
I don't need it, but I want it
At some point this has happened to all of us. Why does this happen?
Could it be that without knowing it, we have a void full of dissatisfactions and that through having more, it can be covered up for a while and make us feel better? I don't know, but what I do know, is we can certainly accumulate a large number of objects which are rarely used, and that in a way can take control of our space.
I love clothes; I like to mix colors and styles. Doing so generates great emotion in me, though it is difficult to explain. When I go to stores and see something I like, I imagine how I will combine it with the clothes I have at home. After buying it, I feel good wearing it. The interesting thing is, after wearing it for the first time, I'm ok. However, after the second time, it just doesn't feel the same. It's like you lose your affection for it and throw it in the forgotten corner of the closet. But I don't stop there; over time I kept buying and accumulating more clothes. When the closet was full, I started putting them in a suitcase and bags under my bed. Until one day I realized I no longer had space for my equipment and books. That worried me. When I realized I had too many items and was wearing less than half of my clothes, I decided to give away much of them as possible and throw away the damaged ones. After reclaiming my space, I felt my mind could be freer to create ideas. I learned in the process that the moment I purchase a new shirt, I must clear out an old one, to keep my wardrobe from taking over me. But long before buying a new shirt, I must see what I really need so as not to waste money.
In economipedia.com, social pressure is defined as "the influence exerted by a social group to make a person change their attitudes, their thoughts or even their values."
Let's say each year Mario's friends, from the first example buys the latest iPhone. Imagine all of them are gathered at his house talking about how wonderful the device is, and they are happy to have it. Their comments and emotions are testimonies that indirectly can make Mario want it as well, so he can have similar feelings. In addition, he has seen promotions on the internet, tv, billboards and on his cell phone, and now he is listening to his friends reaffirming everything. Mario has the iPhone two generations older. So as not to feel he is out of date, and to be able to look "cool," and recognized and accepted in their eyes, and to avoid receiving a mocking comment, he decides to buy it.
This can happen when buying a car, house, television, camera, or virtually anything. The following of fashions can lead to mismanagement of money and the production of debts.
Live someone else's plan
If someone does not have a clear plan of what he wants to do in life, it can be easy for family, friends, or acquaintances to motivate you to follow the wrong path. Again, we are going to use our dear friend Mario. Let's say many of his friends are studying nursing; they have told him about the economic benefits and development this career path provides. Imagine Mario has seen ads everywhere, and now his friends are reaffirming what they have been telling him. I know you know what decision Mario will make… We think Mario studies nursing and graduates with the best honors. He then got a job in a hospital and started making good money. The first three months go by, and everything is fine, then six months, and everything is going great. After the first year though, something is happening. Mario arrives at work, but not with the same emotion. The minutes feel like hours, and the hours seem like forever. He feels miserable at work, and he wants to do other things. Mario struggled for a long time to earn money, and now he is unhappy.
The answer comes from an article I read a few years ago, written by Siobhan Harmer, called "10 Reasons Why Following Your Passion Is More Important Than Money". She wrote, "No matter how much money you make, nothing will help you overcome the feeling of doing something you hate." It is important to follow our dreams and not live the life others want or suggest to you. Money is necessary to cover a large part of our needs, but it is not everything.
Social networks are a means of communication connecting us with the entire planet with the fingertips, regardless of borders, languages, or time. Despite the contributions of this great invention, also like every enigmatic city full of wealth and beauty, it has its unattractive places. What do I mean? Superficial stories of people, where they relate an abundance of life and happiness, in order to gain followers and those longed for "likes". Is it possible a person's emotional state is affected by the number of likes and comments they receive on a photo or video? Or perhaps, is the value of the human being determined by the impact it manifests on the virtual platform? I dare say, without exception we are all valuable. But I can say, it may depend on how we perceive ourselves. Happiness is an internal state, not an external one.
Finally, I want to ask you some questions:
Is it true having thoughts of greed caused you to feel a consuming emptiness? And what creates an environment of punishment?
Is it true greed is the black cloud that prevents us from seeing the beauty of the day? And that does not allow us to see our own fruits and gifts, but invites us to look out to see the neighbor's farm?
What is happiness?
Why are we looking for it?
Will social media, corporate marketing and social pressure, sell us what will make us happy?
Why do we want more?
Is there be a limit?
Everything is in our hands…