I wouldn’t say we are “non-consumers;” we are “low-consumers.”
We have to find the “level” that works for us. There will always be someone who is more extreme — who can slash more from their budget, who can save more, who needs less and wants less. Additionally, there will always be perfectly happy families in Cambodia living on less than $1 a day. There will always be stories of people who are less fortunate. We were born into privilege, and our dilemma is to find a way to both appreciate that privilege and to live beyond it.
It’s impossible to go through life measuring yourself against others and still be happy. We’ve normalized what the cost of the American Dream is; we’ve put a definitive price tag on it.
So, Creighton and I have tried to cut back, but end up swinging the other way on the pendulum. I’m not thin enough. I’m not saving enough. I’m not “non-consuming” enough. I’m not doing enough to push myself to the next level.
It can make you feel very trapped — on the one hand, you don’t want to aggrandize your journey toward some sort of enlightenment, but you aren’t satisfied with what seems to be the status quo.
Creighton and I talk all the time about how people are on different “levels” for all things, all journeys (weight loss, spirituality, frugality, happiness, racquetball skill, athleticism, productivity). These levels are like a funnel or spiral staircase. The farther up on the level you are, the more you can see what other people — especially lower than your level — are doing (wrong), but it’s harder to see up. We have got a lot figured out and are doing a lot “right,” but we aren’t in the top 3 percent of savers, eating only rice for nourishment and retiring at age 27. We are doing what is right for us; we have a plan that works for us, fulfills us and satisfies us.
Bottom line: Find your level, try to continue climbing that ladder, but don’t kill yourself over it. It’s good to recognize and appreciate where we are, where we are going, or to stop striving and be happy with wherever we are in the process.
No matter what level you are on in your journeys, enjoy the view.