It began earlier this year. Candy corn and mini Snickers shared shelf space with candy canes and logs of inedible fruitcake. The overzealous cars with red noses and clip-on window antlers made their first appearance before Thanksgiving. The Basics accessorizing their Uggs with Starbucks peppermint mochas are out in full effect (I get it… it’s cozy and delicious). The holidays are upon us. Holy reindeer shit, where did 2019 go? This year, like so many others, flew by, and we are once again in the home stretch of December.
Here in America, we have a reputation. We are consumers. Work, earn, buy, repeat. It’s our secret sauce for American success. But is success real if it lacks fulfillment? Have you ever paused long enough in your pursuit of purchasing to question what feeling you are trying to buy when you get that killer deal on an air fryer? Are you searching for something more than fried chicken with half the calories?
Maybe not—that shit is tasty.
But maybe you are one of the folks who notices that once the novelty wears off, so does the happiness that came with it, whether it be from a new robot kitchen spy that makes fart noises (‘sup, Alexa) or a pair of noise-canceling headphones that can drown out Little Drummer Boy playing on repeat everywhere you go. When we seek happiness through external factors, we will forever be chasing the next new thing.
More often than not, we are buying feelings, not things. A quick hit of happiness typically has a price tag. The hunt for an item, the kick-in-the-crotch excitement when you find it at a discounted price, the thrill of buying it and getting a package delivered to your doorstep within two days (Prime livin’, baby!). And then you have a fleeting moment of happiness from your shiny new thing. How long does that last before you start searching for that feeling again? Gotta get that fix. What else do I need to get?
Progress is happiness. When we come up with a goal or desire and make progress towards accomplishing it, we experience happiness. In an odd way, we’ve sought to achieve that feeling through our culturally ingrained consumerism.
The good news is that it is possible to cultivate happiness through progress without blowing all of your cash as you make it rain at the Target check stand. Many times quick-to-accomplish goals result in quick-to-dissipate happiness. But sustainable, lasting joy? Priceless. That crap is internal and can’t be bought. This may be a stretch, but can you look for ways to make progress in your life that will create the long-lasting happiness you crave?
To start, let’s look back on 2019 and notice where you have already done this. What goals did you set for yourself? Reflect on the professional, personal, and financial goals you had for this year.
Where did you make progress? It doesn’t matter if you accomplished your goal–focus on the forward momentum, no matter how small the steps.
What lessons did you learn as you pursued your goals that you’ve found invaluable? Notice that these lessons often appear as failures or mistakes at first.
What are you proud of yourself for doing? Two-to-one odds it was something more than just your latest Deal of the Day.
What are you most grateful for in 2019? Focus on the experiences, connections, and interactions in particular.
With New Year’s Eve just a week away, it is the perfect time to start to brainstorm your goals for 2020. What do you want to improve in yourself, your career, your relationships, and your finances? It is the pursuit of progress that generates happiness. When we achieve progress through growth rather than consumption, we don’t just save our wallets, we save ourselves.
Just some air-fried food for thought.