Humans are programmed to survive and to thrive in life, from generation to generation these trait is transferred from parents to their children. In our progress to thrive we develops technology, technique, tools, and doing everything we can to move forward. In the past, our ancestor use stones, sharpen it and put it in front of a spear to hunt animals. Then they stumbled into crops and that marks the start of agrarian era, our ancestor stop wandering through the land and stay to cultivate farms and cattle. Thousand years after we have the knowledge, skills, and capability of making machines to help our life.
With numerous invention being made, goods that was scarce in the past could be produced in very short of time and with better quality. Buildings were constructed faster, clothes were produced within hours, even automobiles. It can’t be denied that along with time and evolution, our quality of life increases dramatically. What was once scarce now available to the mass, what once was hard to made and expensive now faster to produce with lower cost. Imagine if we have to sew our clothing without machine, it would take days and much effort, in turn making it expensive shall we decide to sell it. Without application of genetically modified seeds, crops would be fewer and have lower quality, making it less available to the mass and drive the price upward.
Our thriving progress won’t stop there, in the last two decades we have entered the information age. Information is now the most valuable commodity, people who could apply their knowledge are needed in every sector. A man could become rich if he knew which currency will go up or down before it does, even weather forecaster could become rich had he understand little about commodity. Today, it doesn’t take a formal education to be a leader in various sector of job. A young man sitting in his pyjamas at home everyday could be richer than a man working at the office for years. The rule has changed, those who adapt will prosper and those do don’t will be left behind. Just like an industrialist became richer than farmer, and a farmer became richer than hunter, today’s inventor become richer than industrialist.
But there seems to be a misconception in the word “surviving” and “thriving” today. For many of us surviving is no longer a problem. Most of us have house we live in everyday, foods are served in our table everyday, and we are living free from danger. The problem middle class and higher society have today come from the word “thriving”. Thriving means “grow or develop well or vigorously”, for human this mean we are capable of growing without pressure or danger. Innovation has always been important for a society to move into better shape, with invention in healthcare sector more diseases could be treated optimally, invention of CCTV camera make police officer respond faster to a crime, even the invention of social media make communication easier and arguably more interesting.
Everyone in this world want to have a better quality of life from time to time, they hope to be able to enjoy their life in the future when they are working hard today. On the same side, we also want to move up our rank in society just like sales person want to move up in career into manager, and manager want to be director. When we did move to a higher position in our career, we want our life to move higher as well. We want to buy a house instead of renting, or even a bigger house even if our house now is sufficient, we want better and more expensive car, the one we could be proud of driving. We want a Rolex after the promotion, or even Patek Philippe when we retired.
That’s what we know as the “Rat Race”. Most people living in the city does live in it, yet nobody want to admit it. I myself live in such family, we are living comfortably in our one hundred square meter apartment at the heart of the city, we have no problem buying groceries or even eating out everyday. Surviving is not the main concern in our life, but growth is. We could simply sell every assets we have and move to a house on a beach, living from the interest of Certificate of Deposit or Bond. None of us would have to work to live, but that means we couldn’t travel offshore or buy luxury goods.
What we want today is growth, an increase in quality of life (although more wealth doesn’t always increase life’s quality), and climb our way to higher rank in society. We want to travel more often, dine in fancy restaurant, and buying the best goods there are. Arguably none of it will lead to true happiness or growth as we want it. It’s strange, isn’t it? I know that none of it lead to long-term happiness, however we still do and enjoy these. People who bought luxury goods are mostly vain and have low self-esteem, which they try to compensate with the status of their goods. There have been many research about materialism and happiness, every research shows that materialism leads to anxiety, while less materialistic people are happier.
Well, of course there is nothing wrong with enjoying luxury goods, but it may be useful to remember that materialism doesn’t lead to happiness when you are about to pay that $2000 bag and $ 10000 watch. It does feel good when we shop, but the jolt of happiness are diminished quickly after we have we acquired the goods. Buying experience actually lead to longer happiness, like traveling, doing sports, having time with friends.
The last thing I want to emphasise is growth. Growth doesn’t come from outside, it has to come from our realisation of the need to be better in every way we can day by day. Growth takes time to develop, it need planning and daily progress. In conclusion, we are wired to grow and strive in life, but the same thinking often mislead to the false sense of growth. The reason people want to acquire more money is the believe that money will lead to growth (financially this is correct) in life, but having more money only means that we could afford a better lifestyle. Money doesn’t translate to better character, personality, and self satisfaction. True growth comes from our desire to be a better human and train ourself , equipping our physical, mental, and spiritual with the necessary skills to be the person we want to be.