Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Indulge your aspirations

You may have seen this in the news recently. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, researchers looking at consumer behavior patterns find:

"People who unduly resist self-indulgence suffer from an excessive farsightedness, or hyperopia—the reverse of typical self-control problems. Rather than yielding to temptation, they focus on acquiring necessities and acting responsibly and they see indulgence as wasteful, irresponsible, and even immoral. As a result, these consumers avoid precisely the products and experiences that they most enjoy. Their hyperopia can inhibit consumption in ways that are bad both for their own well-being and for marketers’ bottom lines. We don’t advocate trying to motivate consumers to make ill-considered purchases, of course, but marketers can help customers make appropriately indulgent choices that they’ll appreciate over the long term."

The full article is here.

The misdrawn conclusion is that you should buy that Louis Vuitton bag now and not regret it later. The truth is buried later in the report, in the adage "Nobody on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office." That is, happiness is not about spending large sums of money. It's not about acquiring luxury items. Rather happiness is, as Joseph Campbell used to say, in following your muse. In doing things you find meaningful. About being open to new experiences and having the courage to explore them. That may sometimes require a substantial financial investment. But it need not.



  1. We may have to disagree on this one. The ability to blithely fly away on the wings of whimsey really isn't available to say a $10 an hour mother of two on the outskirts of Kansas City.

    In a vast majority of the world I think it might be more rule of survival over follow your dreams. And I am talking survival in the "don't get raped", "don't starve to death" sense. Not the "gosh I can't afford to travel abroad" sense.

  2. Indeed, many in the world are faced with far fewer choices than those of us with access to computers and the time to blog. On the other hand, we've all heard stories of people who overcame immensely difficult or unfortunate conditions in the pursuit of their idea or vision.

  3. True, but they are in the tiny, tiny minority. I'm not trying to start a fight over this, but I am a pretty hard core realist...for better or worse.

  4. We're all realists - with different realities. No fighting, just exchanging ideas.

  5. My reality just involves people trying not to be either slaughtered or starve to death in say, Darfur. Or maybe just folks that want to raise their kids and be able to afford to do so in the depleting coal mines of say, Kentucky.

    "than those of us with access to computers and the time to blog."

    After review not certain where you were going with this one. Bloggers are a pampered elite of some sort? Or I shouldn't be talking to you about what you posted because discussion is not useful?

  6. I'm, not sure what you want to say. That we can write these people off as having no chance to contribute to culture because they find themselves in impossibly grim situations? That they should not be encouraged to fulfill their aspirations? That they have none?

  7. Hmmm...I suppose I am saying that a "chase your dreams!" sort of message isn't the sort of blanket statement that it is sometimes made out to be. Some people don't even have the opportunity to chase around after some lofty goal like some of the rest of us (and I am including myself in the latter category) and really can only focus on day to day survival.

    So say to these people, "Go get'em tiger! Dream big!" while not actually doing anything to help them seems fascile and useless to me. So, I suppose I get a knee-jerk reaction to anyone saying 'chase your dreams!' because it seems like something of a useless gesture to me.

    Of course everyone is chasing their dreams and wants more, that is a big part of what makes us human. To tell people to do it, without maybe trying to help others actually achieve it (and in NO WAY am I saying you do this Jeff, I'm about 99.9% positive you are a really decent human being) just seems kind of useless and smug to me.

    Hmmm..this whole discourse became more attack like than I wanted. Probably because I wasn't saying what I actually wanted to say very well.