We humans, especially men, are wired to compete. In our modern society, the biggest area of competition are our jobs, our careers and what we buy with the money we make. In this article I am going to lay out what I have learned about overcoming unhealthy competitiveness and how it has made me a happier and surprisingly even more motivated.
|80% of its function was to get from A to B.|
Have you ever thought "Why are cars getting so huge? The reason is certainly not, because we have grown, or because we are making good use of the transportation space. No, the reason is also not "it's for safety". The reason is a clear statement of how successful you are in your job. It is meant to be a signal: look, I have competed and I have won. I have made it, financially, and therefore I am a strong and overall successful human being. The automobile industry is one of the biggest industries worldwide. It has shifted it's service away from being a provider of transportation from A to B (that is what the cars were made for in 1960, see the picture above) to now, where most of the money is made with SUVs (picture below), which get most of their price-tag from the additional use of being a status symbol. Only one that you happen to drive in, how convenient.
|80% of its function is an expression of ego.|
The behavior laid out above, is obviously not restricted to cars. It just one of the most expensive areas. And this means, that for us as a global society, this is a huge time-sink. The people, being able to afford those cars are probably not consciously aware of how much human time and potential goes into making such cars. Workers in third world countries are working for very low wages, but make up the majority of the work needed to make such a car.
Overall, this means, we waste a lot of our potential on this ego-game of one-upmanship. And many of us feel the need to play this game. Therefore I want to address how to break free of this.
But reading this far, you have already gone through the first step of the process. That is, becoming aware of the fact that you are likely drawn to this game in your life as well. If for you, it's not your car, maybe it's your phone or your clothes. For now, just recognize that you are, at least partly, feeling the need to communicate your self-worth through some material means. Next, realize how much of your personal time is necessary to obtain those objects. To do that, subtract all your ongoing expenses from your monthly income and only look at what you can save each month, and then divide the price by that number. That gives you how many months you have to work for this product. And, as mentioned above, this is only your personal time. If you are in a western country, it is likely that a lot more human time is necessary to make this product, if it is produced in a global supply chain.
For many that alone is enough to make this behavior unattractive. If you are like me, and you value free time above material possessions, you will quickly realize how much of a time-sink this sort of behavior is. And is it really the best use of your time? If you can come up with better things to do outside of what you do to make money, then you have to decide if it is worth it to you. That is the next question.
Is playing the game fun?
Now that you are consciously aware of your need to display success with material possessions, ask yourself, do I have fun playing this game? And if you are a second-tier thinker, ask: is this game the best use of our global human potential? Can't you/we have something greater as a goal? Something less animalistic and more visionary? These are deep questions. And you need to sit with them, regardless of what you buy with your money. Because it really is about your life and your purpose.
I have written extensively about this topic and you can find interesting articles in the "Personal Development / Enlightenment"-section on the right. We can in fact develop a higher vision for ourselves. Abraham Maslow called it self-actualization, and everything we need for this is having our human needs met. These are psychological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, and esteem.
Note that nowhere in this does it say, showing your financial success off to others. It is an attempt to achieve esteem, recognition from others. I would argue that this is only necessary when we lack a deep sense of self-esteem. When we haven't spent time in silence and meditation to really see for ourselves what we truly are. Only then do we feel the need to be a certain way in the eyes of others. Our sense of self is not rooted in our true self, but in the false self. And this illusory self needs to be constantly kept up, through the projections and behavior of others.
People playing this game are sometimes so deeply wrapped up in it, they can't even begin to understand how someone is free of this need. I am not saying you need to become a monk and get rid of every material possession as many of the things we own clearly fulfill functions other than being a status symbol. But whenever you do buy things for reasons beyond their immediate functionality, realize that you are likely participating in this game. And I want you to, at least, make this choice consciously. Because then you can decide how far you want to take this game and how much of your time you want to invest in it.
And maybe, at some point, you also realize the more direct and sustainable ways to fulfill your needs, than through building up an artificial self in the eyes of others.