Are All Your Goals Materialistic Ones?

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If you’re reading Pick the Brain, it’s a fair bet that you have goals. You might even have written them down. Perhaps you read them every day, or have them pinned to a notice-board.

How many of those goals are materialistic ones? How many are focus on a dollar amount or a particular purchase?

I’ve been reading a book by Jack Canfield recently, and while I’ve found plenty of good advice in it, I’ve also been a little disturbed at times by his seeming equation of “success” with money and material goods:

Here are the life purpose statements of some of my friends. It is important to note that they have all become self-made millionaires through the fulfilment of their life purpose.

(Jack Canfield, The Success Principles, pg30 in UK edition)

It’s a common theme on blogs and forums, too: I’ve come across a number of people who are creating “vision boards” for goals that all about having expensive items – from watches to yachts – and expensive experiences.

Now, I’m not here to get judgmental. Perhaps it’s true that money really is going to bring happiness for those people. But if you’re finding it hard to pursue your goals, if you find that focusing on that stupendous salary or that huge house doesn’t seem to touch you deep down, or if your goals seem to be draining you rather than giving you energy, then ask …

What’s Behind the Money?

We never really want money itself. We want whatever it is that we believe money will bring us. For many people, this is “freedom” … but it’s worth asking yourself what price you’re paying for that. I was interested in time coach Mark Forster’s explanation of why he abandoned his goal of earning a million dollars:

So did I have to wait until I had earned a million dollars before I could have freedom? Weren’t there things I could achieve in the shorter term, or perhaps even immediately, which would have the same effect? I began to realise that the goal of a million dollars was in itself a burden. In order to reach freedom, I was proposing to enslave myself to a huge goal for an indefinite period of time.

(Mark Forster, How to Make Your Dreams Come True, p115 – currently out of print)

Even if your goals are objects or experiences, what’s the actual motivation behind them? Do you want a yacht to “prove that you’ve made it”? Is your desire for a big house really a desire for security? Do you want an expensive wardrobe so that you can attract the partner of your dreams?

Once you’ve figured out what your real goal or value is, it’s worth taking a long hard look at whether your current actions are getting you any closer. If what you really want is to meet a life partner, are your working hours making that hard? Will your kids really be happier if they have the latest and greatest toys each Christmas – or if you come home from work before bedtime once in a while?

Alex Blackwell wrote movingly about what he’d do differently if he could have his time as a father over again:

I would stay at the dinner table 15 minutes longer and not feel compelled to rush to my office and dig into my work. I would use those 15 minutes to ask one additional question about [my daughter’s] day, to provide the nurturing she wanted and to offer my help in any matter my daughter requested.

(Alex Blackwell, Confessions from a Recovering Father, The BridgeMaker)

What Are You Being Sold?

Marketers and advertisers play on our emotions. Rather than selling us a watch, a car or a holiday, they sell us a particular feeling – perhaps even succeeding in getting to the heart of what we really want. Next time you see an advert and think “I want that”, ask yourself what feeling or emotion you’re being sold. Security? Freedom? Escape from concerns?

Our culture is increasingly materialistic. Just pick up a magazine, watch television or catch a movie and you’ll see that. Even personal development gurus tell us to expect “abundance” and to “raise our financial thermostat”.

It’s often worth taking a step back. Ask yourself whether a new gadget or item will really make you happy. If not … what will? More leisure time, the freedom to be creative, deeper relationships? That’s what you should be pursuing.

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Related Articles:

Why Unmaterialistic People Should Want To Get Rich

The Beauty of Occasional Abundance

  • http://www.aflourishinglife.com Gail @ A Flourishing Life

    Ali,
    Thank you for this post. I agree with you: what we really want is the happiness and freedom that we think money and goods will bring us. I am a big fan of being happy now; putting off happiness until you attain the object you think you want makes no sense to me. It’s a very hard way to live. In fact, it’s hardly living. If you take away all the obstacles to happiness in the present, it’s discovered that it is already here!

  • http://sidsavara.com Sid Savara

    Love this article Ali!

    I have been trying to move away from things to experiences as well. I remember reading a study that said high materialism is tied to low self esteem as well – I’m not sure how that affects goal setting and happiness, but I’m sure there is a correlation!

  • http://theprincedom.wordpress.com bretthimself

    Excellent, excellent post that reminds me a lot of Eckhart Tolle writes about in The Power of Now, or at least how I’ve applied it.

    Why go for materialistic goals if what you’re after is the illusory “freedom” of having wealth? In this moment, you are perfectly free – not much is different than if you were rich in the now.

    Bottom line is: stop waiting for yourself to achieve wealth to be the person you want to be. That’s a limiting belief. Start being that “man of wealth” now.

  • http:///www.positivewayoflife.com Josten

    interesting post i never thought about what goals i can achieve now that will bring me the same joy as my other ones.

  • http://www.findinspirationtoday.com Mike – Find Inspiration

    This is such a nice post. I think it’s good to try your hardest to visualize your goals actually happening and making an effort to put mind in a state that is realizing the accomplishment. How does it feel? What are you doing? Lots of great questions brought up in this post….

  • http://www.anxiouscandy.com Faramarz – Anxious Candy

    Personally i think that all these items like boats etc aren’t the actual goals people are aiming at. Those items are symbols of achievement, the real thing with goal is the person you must become and the work you must do to achieve your goal, those two things are the actual reward and purpose of goals while boats etc are just the physical representation of goal achievement

  • http://frombottomup.com/ Tristan Lee

    Hey Ali. Thanks for this nice post. I’ve also read The Success Princiciples by Jack Canfield and also found a lot of good advice in it too.

    I agree with you we want what money brings us. For some people, it is material things such as like you said, watches and yachts, but I think people who have this mindset will have a harder time achieving money.

    When you have a deeper reason to want money other than for materialistic purposes, such as for more freedom, for more happiness, for more prestige, or even if it’s just for the challenge itself, it provides motivation for a person to get there because there is more value for the person.

    For me, I know any materialistic thing will lose it’s value over time and thus doesn’t motivate me as much to go for it as to something else such as the challenge of finishing something difficult. But everybody has their reasons for wanting money and even materialistic things can help motivate them to getting there.

    I mean just take a look at the story of John Reese, who wanted a Porshe since he was younger and ended up not only buying one, but was able to make a million dollars in one day. That one materialistic dream of his pushed him to visualizing it everyday which eventually got him there.

  • http://www.mysticworship.com Ramesh Raghuvanshi

    We are living today in market economy, without money we could not survive even one hour also. For each and every thing we need money.Today`s world is jungle Raj.If you have any skill and know how to manupulate to people than you can earn money. Unskill worker have no future he to die with hunger.
    I know money could buy happiness but without money you could achieve get happiness. There is alway pradox in living.If you want to live with honour and respectfully you to earn money.

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  • http://www.2knowmyself.com farouk

    yes you are right, we usually want money itself to achieve something else. money isn’t important but the things it brings are the ones that are really important (in this case freedom) and that’s why people strive for it

  • http://www.creative-wealthbuilding.com/learning-intentions.html Nick Pfennigwerth

    Yes! Great article. There is this law of attraction craze where anyone thinks that if they just put up a vision board and visualize their goal it will manifest. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

    The law of attraction is ever present and always working. The law of attraction also responds to our feelings and vibration. Like this article said, it’s not the “thing” that you want, it’s the feeling that “thing” will bring you.

    It’s far more important to live with a purpose and become the person you want to be. Purpose and “being” are timeless and they will live on forever. “Things” come to an end and are really never ours to begin with. We are just temporary custodians for our things.

    To become successful at being the co-creator of your life you must figure out what you’re meant to do on this planet and focus on creating the feelings you want to experience. Then, the law of attraction will work with you, rather than against.

    Great article, you hit the nail on the head

    Peace and love,
    Nick

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  • Alberto

    I love the article. I don’t think my goals are materialistic, I actually think my life is well balanced between materialistic and more spiritual goals. I use this pretty cool tool on my iPhone to plan my goals and keep track of the tasks that are necessary. It’s called Dream Planner:
    http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=321468898&mt=8

  • marc

    I love how the first related article linked below the main one is “Why Unmaterialistic People Should Want To Get Rich.” Proof that all self-help articles and advice can be given that feel-good slant.

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