I’m sure by now you’ve come across those social media posts where there’s a lovely picture in the background and some famous quote or suggestion someone has for living your life in the foreground. I see this on a regular basis and if you enjoy these, just type, “quotes with pictures” in your favourite search engine and you’ll see thousands.
So yesterday evening, I happened to come across two such items and in both cases, they were broadcasting a similar message; don’t get too hung up on acquiring stuff because one day you’ll realize it’s people, not owning things that’s important. Now these random quotes that pop up unexpectedly have become for many, the words of wisdom which in generations past, you’d have received from the revered and older members of your family; i.e.. pre-internet, pre-computer world. Someone you greatly respected would tell you to live your life a certain way and you’d think about that seriously, because of your respect for them. Not only that, you didn’t have too many people giving you this sage advice way back when.
However today, all you have to do is go online and it seems everyone is not only sharing such quotes they like with the world, they are creating their own words to live by and taking or finding pictures they feel convey the right mood to go with them. It’s not like these are being passed on by the elders of a village, a wise man nestled in some mountain retreat, or a woman who has lived a long, rich life having traveled the world several times over and experienced life to its fullest. No often these quotes on how to live your life are coming from adolescents who haven’t reached their 14th birthday yet, troubled people looking for an outlet and/or audience to make them feel validated, heard and followed. How much living have they done? Based on what are they in a position to prescribe how you and I should live our lives?
I thought for a moment and paused over this post that came into my evening unasked for. There it was, reminding me that wanting and getting things in life isn’t important, and that one day I would realize that it’s people I should be going after, not things. And I thought, “no; you’re wrong.”
There’s nothing wrong (in my opinion) with going after things in life we want, surrounding ourselves with objects and possessions which bring a smile to our face, that make us feel good and that just by owning, make us happy. We can still get and have these things in our lives AND have positive relationships with people if we so choose, at the same time. In fact, for those that don’t enjoy being surrounded by people in their lives, owning things that make us feel comfortable and good – well, that’s a good thing.
Take the 4 or 5 year old at their birthday or Christmas. We encourage excitement, happiness and good feelings as they open presents. If such a child said, “Well thanks, but you know, none of these really do it for me, I’d rather just go over and spend a few minutes with dad”, we’d be both amazed and question if we got the wrong thing. We might wonder why they aren’t happy and as excited as we’d have expected. No, we set our kids up to be excited when given a gift or possession. As they get older, we get excited when they show us something they’ve bought that makes them feel good; we say things like, “Well done! I’m so proud of you!”, when they buy their first car, rent their first apartment, get handed their diploma or win some competition in school or community sports.
For most of us, surrounding ourselves with the things we want means needing to exchange money for those goods; money that typically comes from employment. Whether it’s a souvenir from a trip, the latest technology, a dress, shoes, new tattoo, comfortable bed or a new car, all these things bring us some measure of happiness. There is nothing wrong about going after them and being excited to acquire them. Nor should we feel we have to hide our accomplishments, like getting our Masters, passing a course with great marks, or getting a promotion or raise at work. These are THINGS to share with pride and yes, we who hear of others good news should just applaud their accomplishments and be happy right along with them.
Somehow though, a warm and cuddly picture of a puppy with the quote, “Get a job, get money, buy stuff”, wouldn’t go over as well I don’t think. So perhaps it’s the balance of acquiring things that make us feel good (and feeling good is what we’re all after) and having people in our lives (if this is what we want of course) that we strive for? Just perhaps. The thing is this… no one person has ever come up with a quote or way to live your life statement that universally applies to every person who has ever been, nor who will ever be, nor who lives at the moment.
Live your own life, go after the stuff that makes you feel awesome inside. An outfit, new wheels, toys, trips, a job, furniture or an address. Go for it! Get excited about that stuff!