I had met a close friend for lunch recently & our conversation turned to another common friend of ours. This fellow was known for his flashy lifestyle, kept throwing wild parties and owned a fleet of 9 luxury cars. My lunchtime friend, however, told me that this gentleman’s business had been failing for the last few years and he owed almost Rs. 100 Crore to his creditors. Interestingly, much of the money he borrowed was used to fund his expensive habits instead of being used to revive his business.
Some of us know people who live way beyond their means. What makes them act in this way?
There is actually a scientific reason for this.
You are always searching for ways to make yourself happier. Most luxury product companies are experts at playing on this need to convince you to buy their merchandise. They entice you with glossy imagery that says in an artistic way, “If you buy our product, you will be more loved & respected than you are now.” Due to our insecurities, we believe that being loved and respected by those around us will make us happier. So, we fall into this trap and hand over our credit cards. However, there are two problems with this.
Think of your current group of close friends. If one of them bought a new BMW or Mercedes, would your love or respect for that person increase? Most likely the answer would be “No”. In fact, you may even sardonically think that they are “unnecessarily showing off”, which may actually reduce your respect for them. Similarly, your purchasing a luxury product will not increase the love and respect those around you have for you. If you DO have friends who treat you differently because you have bought a luxury product, you may want to reconsider if these are the right sort of friends to have.
The other problem is what is called the “hedonic treadmill”. Research shows that most people’s happiness is fixed at a certain level. If something really great happens to them, like winning a lottery, their happiness level may increase for a couple of weeks but will definitely return back to the usual level after that time. The same thing happens when you buy an expensive outfit or watch. You feel happier for a couple of days and then your happiness level goes back to normal. You need to keep running on this metaphorical treadmill, i.e. keep buying new products, to keep getting your next happiness “high”.
So, if buying expensive new products doesn’t make you more popular with those around you and also doesn’t give you lasting happiness, then what can?
It’s quite simple.
A famous study by Harvard University, tracked 500 people for a period of 75 years to discover the secret of long term happiness. What they found out was that those who had strong relationships with their families and friends were the ones who were much happier and healthier that those that didn’t. It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge group of friends and go out every weekend or if you’re in a “perfect” romantic relationship (as if those exist). It’s the quality of the relationships–how much vulnerability and depth exists within them; how safe you feel sharing with one another; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are, and truly see another.
The bottom line is that the only luxury product that can give you lasting happiness is the luxury of spending time with those you love. The best thing is that anybody can afford it!