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Wellbeing / Business values

Contentment: Being content with less

What are your views on contentment? Is it ok to aspire for me or should you be content with less?

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In an earlier article on buying signals, Robert told you about his past as a second hand car salesman. I’d like to add that he recently had cause to dust off the patter when he sold his one-careful-owner family wagon… to me.

Let me tell you, we are loving it. It’s such a grown up car and beats our old one hands down on every front. I’m no petrol head but quickly came to appreciate the smooth and secure driving experience that the ‘new’ car offered.

I’ve noticed, though, that my love for the new has come at the expense of my feelings for the old. In fact, I have started to dislike our past car intensely.

This kind of response really surprised me as I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a being content with what I’ve got type, yet here I was reacting like a textbook consumer!

According to economist Clive Hamilton, consumers are keen to keep buying as they’re constantly insecure about the quality of goods they own. My willingness to suddenly see ‘faults’ in the old car that hadn’t existed for me previously seems consistent with this.

"Too much comparing can have a corrupting effect, I've decided: it brings out the brat in us."

Perhaps I’ve got what Hamilton describes as a ‘growth fetish’ or ‘affluenza’. Most Australians are susceptible, apparently. We are unable to distinguish need from wants, are constantly seeking validation through what we own and are prepared to get into huge debt to service our addiction.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business values section.

I’d like to think I’m not too badly infected, though, because I’ve started to feel genuine affection for the old car again. I just focus on its positive attributes and refuse to compare it with the new one.

Too much comparing can have a corrupting effect, I’ve decided: it brings out the brat in us. Or me at least. That said, I can appreciate that progress is as important, arguably more so, than prudence.

Is it best to be content with less? Or is it okay to aspire?

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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