Materialism (noun): A tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.
While on a cross country flight recently, I picked up a copy of the airline provided inflight magazine and began thumbing through the pages intent on trying to find a Sudoku puzzle still incomplete or just looking at the ads in an attempt to pass away few of the next 180 minutes I knew I was going to spend wedged in my tiny seat with nothing better to do. I wanted to be occupied with a mindless activity for a bit of the three hours in front of me and hoped I could sleep the rest of the trip after I was done. 6 minutes later the Sudoku puzzle was finished and all of the ads had been looked at, and I was bored. I was faced with actually having to read an article or two if I wanted to pass any additional time, or aimlessly stare at the upright tray table in front of me until I passed out.
I chose to read.
Normally I don’t find much substance in print magazines worth paying attention to. It’s not that there is anything wrong with them so much as they really just aren’t my thing. I prefer just about any other information source I can find, whether it’s a newspaper, television, a text book or a blog. But things were different this day. Nestled about 1/3 the way through the February 2017 edition of American Airlines “American Way” magazine was a short, but well written article that made me stop and do some thinking (if American hasn’t already pulled the Feb magazine out of their planes and you have a chance to read it, check out “Materialistic people are also the least satisfied.” It’s well worth the read).
In a nutshell the author argued that we should give our children stories and stop focusing on giving them “stuff”. She cited a few studies and quoted a couple of psychologists and made her point extremely well. Stuff makes us feel good, but those good feelings are fleeting and we always want more. We teach our kids that more is better and that some of the most important achievements in life involve acquiring material possessions, which ultimately leaves them feeling dissatisfied. Materialistic people are more anxious, more often depressed, and generally less happy overall. Her recommendation? Spend your time and money traveling, eating ice cream, and being social. Give your kids memories. Positive experiences involving other people are not only fun for most kids, but also bring long term, deep satisfaction. An added benefit is our minds tend to refine memories so that they actually improve with age and time.
As a mother, thinking about this a little bit had a profound impact on me (and kept me awake, darn it!). I try very hard to bring my daughter along on adventures, get her outside, and expose her to different people, places, and things as often as I can, but I know I am as guilty as just about anyone of buying her “stuff” to make her happy too.
Reflecting on myself I realized that while I truly love hunting, fishing, hiking, and exploring new places and things more than just about anything else in the world, that I can still get caught up in the “stuff” game a little too easily for my own good too if I’m not careful.
I had to ask myself, how often have I talked to someone about a hunting trip or a fishing excursion I have been on, where the first thing said was related to a need for a new or improved boat or gun or camo and how much better the trip would have been if I just had “stuff”? Even after twenty minutes of chatter I never mentioned the smell of the air, the ruggedness of the terrain, the cold, the heat, the wet, or the simple pleasure of not seeing a road or a car for three days straight.
How much more could I and the other person involved in the conversation have benefited by simply taking a step back and reminding myself of what I already know, and by focusing on what is really important, sharing the experience.
Sometimes “stuff” is a requirement. You can’t hunt many things well without a gun or a bow and you’re going to have a hard time making it up a Colorado fourteener without the right footwear. I’m not condemning anyone that takes pride in what they have, or insists on possessing the best, or even the most “stuff”. I’m simply observing, and agreeing with the American Airlines author, that when we find ourselves looking for happiness in boots and backpacks, and not paying as much attention as we should during the journey to the top of the mountain, or the emotional thrill of a hunt, that we’re missing out on what’s really good and what will truly make us happy long term. Stuff lasts only a little while, but experiences last a lifetime, and can be shared with others and influence them for a lifetime as well.
Now that my attitude is in check, I’m ready to go do a little Texas turkey hunting in a few weeks. I plan on taking in all the woods have to offer. What I’m taking with me doesn’t matter so much anymore, and whether or not I have a successful hunt isn’t important. I’m going to have fun, focus on the journey and build a memory in the process. I hope all of you have a great weekend planned outdoors in the near future too!
= Huntress In Heels