ladybug by Origins Creative

Happiness and Your Perspective on Owning Stuff

Many years ago I was in the antique business. There was a popular saying that stated something to the effect that, “You don’t own your antiques. You are merely their temporary caretaker.” It’s an interesting point of view. I believe it was meant to imply that we should take great care of our special possessions so as they may be passed on to others. However there is another meaning in this way of thinking that can be of value when trying to live a happy and tranquil life.

Many of the great philosophers over time have warned against the dangers of desire. Some suggest we should try to eradicate it from our lives. Others believe this isn’t possible but suggest instead that we should find ways to avoid linking it to our happiness. Whatever the case, it is clear that we should be aware of our desires and have a strategy for dealing with them.

It may have been while listening to a recent podcast from “Good Fortune” by Matt Van Natta that I found myself reflecting on the temporary nature of ownership. I took on the view that the things in my life did not really belong to me so much as they were things that I had the good fortune to be able to enjoy for so long as the fates allowed me. It may seem a subtle distinction to some, but I think that this way of thinking aids me in not becoming attached to possessions.

The Buddhists are among the many who warm against the dangers of attachment, both to possessions, as well as to ideas and beliefs. Ownership brings with it a strange brew of mental trickery. On Psyblogs article on ownership they draw from the book, “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely in which he discussed the 6 effects ownership has on us. All of them are fascinating, and things I would just as soon avoid. (For anyone interested, another similar list of mental tricks our mind plays on us can be found with a search for cognitive biases.)

So the next time you’re out driving, rather than think about your car as something you own, think of it as something you temporarily have the privilege of benefiting from. Think that it can be gone at anytime, and rather than be unhappy about that, be grateful that you had it to enjoy. Try this will other things you have. It’s a fun experiment. See if it changes your perspective.

And don’t forget to have some fun today.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

One comment:

  1. We definitely don’t own anything except ourselves, really. When we die, nothing’s going with us, not even our body!! Only our soul!
    I believe everything belongs to God, and He allows us to use things, and expects us to be good stewards.
    I’m working on cutting down on stuff, so I don’t develop full blown hoarding!
    Paradoxically, the less I own, the better I feel! It amazed me when that started happening!! Especially with getting rid of books! I fought and kicked, and avoided that like the plague. But now, I honestly can say I haven’t cried once over them!

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