No one calls themselves rich. We constantly look to those who have more than us and call them wealthy. But the truth is we are wealthy.
In a world driven by consumerism and materialism, the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” has become synonymous with the relentless pursuit of material possessions and social status. It’s a phenomenon where people often compare themselves to their neighbors or peers, striving to match or surpass their lifestyle, possessions, or achievements. But is this constant pursuit of more really a path to happiness and fulfillment, or does it lead to a never-ending cycle of discontentment and stress? Let’s explore the concept of keeping up with the Joneses and offer some insights on how to find contentment in a world that often encourages the opposite.
The Allure of Keeping Up
Keeping up with the Joneses can manifest in various ways, from purchasing the latest gadgets and fashion trends to striving for a bigger house or a more luxurious car. Social media has only amplified this phenomenon, as people curate and showcase their best moments, creating a constant stream of envy-inducing posts. As a result, many feel pressured to keep pace with their friends’ or acquaintances’ apparent success, often at the expense of their financial stability and emotional well-being.
The Downside of Comparison
The problem with the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mindset is that it fosters a culture of constant comparison. When we measure our worth and success solely by what others have or achieve, it’s easy to lose sight of our values, goals, and unique path in life. This relentless pursuit of external validation can lead to stress, anxiety, and financial strain.
Breaking Free from the Trap
How do we break free from this hedonic treadmill?
Define Your Values: Reflect on what truly matters to you. Consider your personal values, goals, and aspirations. Instead of trying to keep up with others, focus on aligning your actions and choices with your values and priorities.
Set Realistic Goals: Establish achievable goals based on your circumstances and resources. These goals should be meaningful and in line with your values rather than influenced by what others have or do.
Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a mindset of gratitude by regularly acknowledging and appreciating the blessings in your life. This can help counteract feelings of envy and entitlement.
Limit Social Media Consumption: Social media can be a valuable tool for connecting with others, but it can also fuel the comparison trap. Consider reducing your time spent on social media or curating your feeds to include content that inspires and uplifts you rather than fuels jealousy.
Focus on Experiences, Not Things: Instead of accumulating material possessions, prioritize experiences and relationships. Studies show that people derive more lasting happiness from experiences, travel, and meaningful connections.
Practice Financial Responsibility: Avoid unnecessary debt and overspending to keep up with others. Create a budget, save for the future, and make thoughtful financial decisions that align with your goals.
Finally, this last strategy has a section all on its own.
Expand Your Perspective
If we only look up at those who have more than us, we can quickly forget how much more we have than others. Here are three interactive resources to explore and expand your perspective.
Where Would You Feel Richer?
Bloomberg’s Where Would You Feel Richer tool compares income and housing costs across America. You can find your income and housing costs where you live and compare them with other metro areas.
Dollar Street Housing Examples
The Dollar Street tool lets you see how other people live worldwide. It’s hard to complain about where you live after spending thirty seconds on this site. Check it out. I dare you.
How Rich Am I?
“Those dare 1%ers! Why don’t they help the needy?!”
Why don’t we?
Giving What We Can’s How Rich Am I tool lets you see how your income stacks up to the global median and shows the impact you could make.
Conclusion: We Are Wealthy
View those resources, especially the last two. It’s hard not to conclude that we are already wealthy. It’s time to stop looking only up and start looking out.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” may be a pervasive cultural phenomenon, but it doesn’t have to be your guiding principle in life. By defining your values, setting meaningful goals, practicing gratitude, and expanding your perspective, you can break free from the comparison trap and find contentment on your terms. Remember that true happiness and fulfillment come from within and are not dependent on external possessions or the achievements of others. Embrace your unique journey and discover a deeper sense of satisfaction and peace.