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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

You Are Inadequate

What you own

You are inadequate. At least that’s what advertisers would like you to believe.

You bear witness to proof of your inadequacy every day: you see it on your TV, hear it on your radio, stare back at it on your computer screen and on highway billboards. There are plenty of messages all around you to reinforce your utter inadequacy.

If you’re a male, you’re not a real man unless you drink this brand of beer and eat this particular cut of meat and drive that brand of sport utility vehicle.

And if you’re a female, you’re not a real woman unless you squeeze into that size dress and don this shiny piece of jewelry and tote the purse with all ostentatious C’s or LV’s on its leather exterior.

Then and only then will you feel adequate—or so they’d have you believe.

But when you obtain these things, what happens? Do you feel long-term adequacy? Nope. Of course not. Your thirst for over-indulgent consumption isn’t quenched when you obtain more material possessions. In fact, it’s just the opposite: your desire to consume increases—you’ve set the bar higher and thus the threshold for future satisfaction is higher, too. It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle.

You see, consumption is an unquenchable thirst. This is because you created that thirst, you manufactured the desire to consume more. Sure, advertisers play their role, they help you activate the desire you’ve created, but ultimately the desire is yours to control. Once you realize you have control, you can break the cycle, you can avoid the continuous downward spiral.

There is one way out of consumption’s never-ending downward spiral: You must realize that you’re already more than adequate without buying more stuff—you are already perfect. You must realize that the things you purchase do not define who you are—unless you allow them to.

If you’re defined by your things, you’ll never be happy. But if you’re defined by your actions, you’ll have the opportunity to feel fulfilled by your everyday growth, you’ll have the opportunity to feel satisfied with your everyday contribution to others, you have the opportunity to be content every single day of your life. You see, the stuff doesn’t make you happy—you make you happy.