The Less You Need, the More You Have

The biggest mistake I’ve made in my adult life was convincing myself that I needed a lot of things.

Sure, some of you might laugh at the notion that I ever convinced myself that I needed a mountain of video games or a big collection of trading cards or a pile of DVDs.

Those things were just the tip of the iceberg.

I convinced myself I needed the latest and greatest cell phone.

I convinced myself I needed to eat out regularly.

I convinced myself I needed new shoes all the time.

I convinced myself I needed nice clothes.

I convinced myself I needed anything beyond a minimal roof over my head, minimal clothes on my back, water, and food.

Really, in the end, that’s all I need. Water, basic food, basic clothing, and a roof to keep the rain and cold away for myself and my family. Everything else beyond that is want.

When I finally realized that the things I actually needed were incredibly minimal, I began to see how amazingly abundant my life was.

I had friends. I had a wife that loved me. I had reasonably good health. I had wonderful children. I had a good sense of humor. I had a solid work ethic. I had the ability to entertain myself. On top of that, I had a staggering abundance of material things, from decent clothes on my back to a decent used car in the driveway.

With all of this wealth in my life, why do I need more? Why do I want more?

A few months ago, I wrote about the scarcity and abundance mentalities on The Simple Dollar. In that article, I defined what they were…

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.

The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. The also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flow out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

… but, for the most part, I stuck to the pattern of defining the mentalities through what other people have:

To me, the biggest difference between the scarcity mentality and the abundance mentality is that the scarcity mentality cares what other people have, while the abundance mentality doesn’t.

After some reflection, I think I would go even further than the above statement. Simply put, the abundance mentality finds value in what one already has, while ths scarcity mentality is always seeking more.

(That’s not to say the abundance mentality doesn’t seek out success – it certainly does. The success it seeks, though, is on its own terms. It’s about achievement for the sake of achievement, not achievement for the sake of reward.)

The more I look at my own life, the more I realize that I don’t need very much at all. Then, when I look at all of the things I do have, I’m stunned by all that I have in my life and I don’t really feel a need to have any more. In fact, if anything, I feel like having more would be almost overwhelming.

Some people see that statement as some sort of deprivation. There is always more out there. Why not acquire it?

My feeling is that instead of just acquiring more, lately, I’m driven to maximize all of the relationships, possessions, and other things my life already has going for it. People. Things. Places. Memories. Ideas. Experiences.

That’s a full life, and it’s one that over and over again ensures that I keep my wallet firmly in my pocket while also enjoying the multitude of great things I already have.

Step back and look at your life. Remove just what you need from that picture – water, basic food, a few changes of basic clothing, minimal shelter. Look at all that’s left – all of the possessions, relationships, experiences, thoughts, and other things. That’s an abundance, one that can provide you with more than you can ever explore and enjoy.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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