Do "Things" make you happy? And other large questions


This may ramble and might not make much sense.

This is a symptom of a much larger problem; I’m not religious and so I don’t have much to fall back on when you strip away everything else about my life. To cut a long story short, essentially I’ve pretty much come to the realisation that pretty much everything about life is pointless and meaningless. Even if there were some omnipotent all powerful being controlling our destinies or whatever, then the big question is, “why?”

Of course the short and easy answer is relationships with friends and family and pets and people you meet both in real life and online. Pretty much those are are the reason to keep on going, because otherwise, again, what is the point of it all?

And I’m certainly not trying to have a go at religious people or religion in general. If you have faith and it gives you comfort then you are lucky. I know for a fact I will never believe and I will never have that.

I guess where I’m going is that I’m finding the acquisition of “things” like ipads and blenders and whatever doesn’t make me as happy as it used to. I’m certainly getting rid of crap in my life and trying not to buy stuff just for the sake of buying it because it will give me a momentary endorphin boost. Which is ironic since I bought a new ipad the other day, but that was pretty much only so I could use my salary sacrifice to reduce tax a bit :slight_smile:

I’m also reassessing my 29 year + career. Essentially I’m sitting there waiting for a redundancy that might never come so I can make a change, though I have no idea what I would do next. But I’ve come to realise that I probably don’t want to work at this company any more and I’m not at all interested in moving to another job inside it, as they all just seem like bulldust when you read the job descriptions. If I were to randomly resign then the start of the new financial year would be the time to do it as that makes the most sense tax wise due to long service leave I have built up.

Anyway this is all probably a bit heavy but in seeing the rash of celebrity deaths this year, it makes you think if I were to die in a years time, would I want to spend the rest of my life staring at screens like I’ve been doing for the last 29? Of course not.

My partner just resigned from his job because he wasn’t happy and I’m thinking that when the time is right in 2017 I will probably do the same. And then I’ll have to find a new “adventure”.

Anyway sorry for going on a bit but I know I’m not the only one who has come to a crossroads in life (whether it be professional or relationship or health or other) and gone on about it on a forum :slight_smile:


Good on you mitty for posting that up, it can’t have been easy to express all of that.

I’m in a similar boat, envious of the religious people who have something to look forward to at the end freeing them up to enjoy the ‘now’ a little more. For the rest of us there is the existential crisis of why?

I know I struggle with that thought from time to time, even with a young family to come home to, moreso recently after an interstate move for a new job which means being away from family, friends and everything I’ve ever known and having to try and form new friendships and get properly settled. It’s getting harder to support the family on a single wage… which sort of removes some of those distractions you mention like shiny new toys, holidays and such. But enough about me.

It’s always hard to make a significant change, especially during other changes… like a partner quitting their job and you providing the sole income, of course, I’m assuming a lot here, but those pressures can and do add up.
As much as people can say “resign and do something that makes you happy” I still personally feel that that isn’t always an option, after all you need to pay the rent/mortgage somehow. That said, I think you do need to find something that makes you happy and make some time to do that. It would be awesome if it was also your job since you spend so much of your life there, but even if it’s a hobby it’s something for you to look forward to otherwise the day in day out drudge of “normal” can start to eat at you little by little. (I probably need to take some of my own advice on that hobby thing (maybe the job thing too since there isn’t anywhere for me to go in this organisation)).

But all of that is to say, given you can’t change anything, you need to find a way to find joy in what time you have, and honestly I don’t think it matters what that is. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or playing GTA at home. Working on a work/life balance of some sort, day trips to the local beach/caves/mountain/ice skating rink/furry convention … whatever works for you to give you some pleasure.

I hope all my rambling makes some sense, if nothing else remember that you’re not alone, there are plenty of us out there than feel the same… we just suck at talking about it.


Maybe have chinwag with this organisation?


Spend less money on “things” and direct more money towards “experiences”.

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life. -The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


No, things don’t make me happy, at least not on their own. They can certainly contribute to my happiness, if only temporarily, but I think it comes down to how I’d much rather prefer contemplating the meaning of life while having nice things, than to contemplate the meaning of life in the middle of financial ruins.


Now that I am engaged, I realise how frivolous “things” are - and how wasteful they are when I don’t have enough money for a permanent residency visa for my fiancée (who is Vietnamese), which costs around $10,000, because of all the money I spent on things when I was younger, and am still paying off.

So yeah, things don’t make me happy anymore, instead all I can see is something I could have done without if it meant I could be with her here sooner.


Thanks for the responses folks. I guess with a new year coming and these thoughts in my head I thought I would put keyboard to screen.

Re my situation to cut a long story short finances aren’t in a dire state at all so resigning and even eventually taking a job which paid less certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world. Of course if the job I ended up taking, even after some time off, were similar to what I’m already doing, then that would kind of be pointless. Better off finding something rewarding, even if not financially.

And @recd thanks for the Beyondblue suggestion. I don’t personally thing I need their assistance but don’t worry I know they are there if I ever need them… in fact their head office is a bout two hundred metres from my house!

All made perfect sense to me. Thanks for your response as well.


I could be wrong, but that seems like a sign of maturity to me. Perhaps you’re finally becoming a boring old grown up? I reckon I’ve only been an adult since I turned 50 or thereabouts. It takes a long time to grow up. I’ll take it over the alternatives - being dead or pretending to be young still - and I enjoy the calmness and wisdom, but it’s got its downsides.

One of the distinctions I find really important with these kinds of questions is the difference between pleasure and happiness. Not that there’s anything wrong with pleasure, but pretty much everything you can obtain with money will be likely to bring pleasure rather than happiness. In the long term I think the pursuit of pleasure tends to be a path away from happiness.

It’s a bit like using intoxicants - a couple of stiff drinks after a hard day make you feel better for sure but a couple of years of that and not only are you still in that shit job or that unsatisfying relationship or whatever, but the drinks don’t make you happy anymore, even though you’re on your second bottle of wine by the time you’ve finished the dishes. All they’re actually doing is stopping you from changing your life so you don’t actually need distractions. I think buying cool toys is pretty much like that.

One of the ways I determine whether something is going to lead me to greater happiness or not is to put it through this though experiment: Assume reincarnation for the purposes of the exercise and that we keep repeating life until we learn all our lessons. Ask yourself if the thing you’re wanting to buy/do will make your next life any easier. Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation (and I’m not sure I do) I find this filter helps me choose things that increase my happiness. I’m sure you could do this without referencing reincarnation too. It’s just a helpful thing for me to visualise it.


My advice for you. Two things to think about:

  1. You made the best decision with the information you had available to you at the time. You didn’t have the information that this would impact you and her later on down the track. Don’t beat yourself up about it :slight_smile:
  2. In another 10 years this will all be in the past. You’ll be happily married with whatever family you choose to take on together. The hurdles you’re going through now won’t matter, but it will all have been worth it.


@mitty, the answer you are looking for is 42.

Outside of that popular culture reference (which personally has proven to be a great crutch over the years), we all seek something in life to explain it, to make reason of it… hence organised religion. I’m sure Voltaire only had religion in mind when stating that we needed to invent God, but more and more since the industrial revolution era, I think “things” have come to replace that God.

Personally, I spent the first half of my life obsessing about the purchase of goods. It’s one reason I’m good in finance roles - I spent so much time budgeting my pocket money! But like you are finding, the purchase of goods has brought less and less reward as time has traveled on. Part of that change I believe came with becoming a parent, starting to look more critically at the world that they will grow up in and inherit. (Such a cliché, but that’s what I’ve found.)

At the end of the day, I think the best view to the “point of life” would be:

To leave things better than you found them.


Things don’t , but experiences do. And the things I buy tend to enhance those experiences.

I really love coffee. I love everything about coffee and it’s probably my biggest passion in life. I love making coffee for myself, and for other people, so I tend to spend a non trivial amount of money on coffee making equipment. I could probably get away with buying cheaper equipment, but better quality equipment (a nice ECM, Rocket or La Marzocco coffee machine makes far nicer espresso and is more enjoyable to use than the best machine Sunbeam or Breville make. But they cost a lot more. I also spent $800 on my last coffee grinder for the same reason) enhances my coffee experiences.

And I love and buy a lot of craft beer. Some of my favourite nights over the past 12 months have been having beer degustation nights with friends. My brother doesn’t see the point of my fancy beers and fancy glassware and think there’s better value in buying cartons of cheap lager, but it’s not about how drunk you can get for the least amount of money. It’s about the aromas, flavours, textures and experiences of drinking the beer.

I also tend to buy a lot of barrel aged beers with the intention of collecting and ageing them for a few years more. With these ones, it’s the experience of anticipating how they’ll turn out, and also drinking them with a bunch of friends with some recommended paired foods.

So I think buying things is fine, as long as the enjoyment of said things leads to an experience beyond the initial purchase.


You just summed up exactly what I’ve been thinking.
Money can’t buy happiness - but it can buy things that enable happiness.

I’m going to be in the market for a newer house soon - one that enables us to live the lifestyle we desire. The house purchase won’t make me happy, but the life we can live in it sure will.


I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pursuing good things. I love beautiful things and try to surround myself with them. I just don’t think they bring happiness of themselves, no matter how awesome they are and no matter how good it feels to use and appreciate them. That’s all pleasure.

The Buddhists say that everything we need for happiness is within us and my experience bears this out. Happiness is a way of looking at the world - seeing the good, being thankful, finding meaning in suffering and so on. It has nothing to do with the outside world.


I reckon Angus has the right idea. To take it further: When you do something that improves who you are, physically, mentally or spiritually, then you get satisfaction.

There was a man from India who wrote a famous book about this, and he found even people working on an assembly line in a factory could be happy, because each time they did something, they aimed to do it a tiny bit better than before. I guess the famous sushi chef, Jiro, would be a great example of that, as he strives for greater perfection each time he makes sushi for someone.

As someone who practices a martial art, where this is necessary, it affects my daily life, as I strive in what I do to improve it just a little bit further. It has come to the point that one of my hobbies I’ve turned into a slowly growing Youtube channel, and the aim there is to perfect the making of each video, either in how I present myself, or how I set things up so I can efficiently make a video without spending a lot of time having to set it up.

I’ve turned even my simplest purchases into things aimed at improving my life. My last purchase was $3k coat hooks as our house has become cluttered with clothing. Organising that just a little bit better has become something that gives me satisfaction.

Most importantly, if I hadn’t had kids, I’d have nothing to aim for. Having kids requires a great deal of serious self-examination, but with it, if you’re willing to put in the effort into working on your own flaws then you see that reflected in your own kids, and the satisfaction from seeing them develop is astounding.


I used to have heaps of disposable income prekids. Now I’ve learnt to want what I have, not to have what I want.

Kids make a huge difference from a sense of purpose. I would give up my life in an instance to save them. Every part of them growing like watching your own personal miracles.

Have a look at this as well. Explains some of the problems with the generations coming through.


…WTF does that have to with “Smizzy Music”?! Facebook content farms. Whatever gets the likes.

At least there’s a version on YouTube which doesn’t have the obnoxious “text borders”:


I’m always interested to hear how people know with such certainty that they will never believe, just as I am always interested to hear how people who do have a faith came to believe. People often write me off as a simpleton because I have a faith (the “only naive, gullible or stupid people believe in God” smear), when in fact it’s a rational, questioning, reflective faith that I came to after a period of intentional investigation.


personally I find it amusing that those with ‘faith’ are deemed lucky as the have this ‘fall back’ which somehow insulates them from an existential crisis. I would suspect a crisis of faith, why a benevolent god could allow suffering etc., would in fact cause a more significant crisis than the atheist/hedonist’s transitory boredom with their own pleasure seeking.


Indeed - not to mention that a life lived putting others before one’s self is consistently hard (and counter cultural)!


There is a lot that may be relevant and I don’t think it’s relevant to only millenials. It talks about generations used to instant gratification, addiction to technology, the negative impacts of social networks, the lack of patience with jobs because we’re used to having things instantly and we’re not used to waiting. Maybe watch and decide before you immediately just assume it’s irrelevant.