For those who have not seen the two preceding posts, here is the story behind the weird heading: In an earlier post, we saw that the brain naturally blows up the potential pain or pleasure that can come from any given future event, something I like to call “mythical utopias” or “artificial hells”. This primitive human drive towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain has a profound (and often destructive) influence on our actions and, as discussed in another post, our aim here is to harness this power for good.
We also saw in the introduction to the mental control category that the amazing power available to anyone taking more complete control over his/her body/mind can be applied in two ways: shifting up or shifting down. Shifting up, as was discussed in the previous two posts, implies that you use your greatly increased productivity to increase your productive outputs, thereby making great contributions to society. Shifting down, as will be discussed in this post, implies that you decouple from the materialistic rat-race to decrease your working hours (and your consumption) and devote more time and energy to ensuring the lasting health and happiness of yourself and your loved ones.
Happiness comes primarily from three sources: vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression. Shifting down is nothing other than a direct pursuit of these proven sources of happiness and a direct denouncement of the erroneous consumerist cult of chasing happiness-through-consumption (which is a complete waste of time and money).
Shifting down implies that you work less, earn less and therefore consume less, devoting your new-found free time to heath, personal relationships and creative expression. This really is the perfect combo because healthy habits are often cheaper than unhealthy habits, good friendships don’t have to cost a thing and creative expression within your natural field of interest can even lead to an extra income stream. In total, shifting down brings great gains in health and happiness without resulting in any material lack.
Shifting down will require you to cut down on your expenditures, perhaps even moving to a smaller home or selling one of your cars. This is the little detail that most people cannot get past: consuming less is equated to downgrading quality of life. This is of course complete BS, but unfortunately it has been drilled into our minds through decades of advertising and living within our consumerist western society.
Shifting down does not have to mean that you leave your city life behind to go and stay in a cottage in the woods, on some tropical island in the middle of nowhere or in a Buddhist monastery. You can still live very comfortably within our affluent modern society on a reduced budget. All that is required is that you shift your focus from the perpetual rat-race towards the fundamental impossibility of happiness-through-consumption to the pursuit of true sustainable happiness through vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression. Once this shift is made, further progress will become completely automatic.
As was the case with shifting up, however, making this transition can be very challenging. The next post will discuss these challenges in a bit more detail.
Filed under: Mental control – Intermediate control.