Slaves To An Illusion

Since I was a kid I’ve been taught what I need to do to create a successful life.

The steps are easy to follow, and it’s the same process for everyone.

You know how it goes.

  • Do well at school: This gives you what you need to get into a good university
  • Do well at university: This will give you a good chance to get a good job
  • Do well at your job: This will mean you can climb the ranks and get a better role
  • Climb the ranks at work: This will help you earn more money
  • Buy more of what you want: This will help you be seen as successful
  • Be seen as successful: Because we're all obsessed with this
  •  Be Happy: With all of these added up, you should be happy.

It looks like a really neat formula, and sounds very practical.

But there’s one problem with it.

It doesn't work.


Have you ever wondered why we can't seem to reach a point of contentment?

Has it ever confused you that despite getting more of what we’ve been told to accumulate, we still long for more?

Have you ever noticed how advertising seems to feed on this desire we have to own a little bit more?

It's as though we're trying to find contentment in the wrong place. 

Companies love this. Our vulnerability opens the door for them to offer the solution to our problems. It's usually found in the shape of a new phone, car, television, house or job. 

We’re literally being sold the idea that we can develop the life we crave through purchasing the latest release, update and upgrade. 

It’s the reason the iPhone 6 is ancient now. 

So we become slaves to the chase for more (see here)

But it’s an illusion.

The promises these companies make, never quite satisfy us as we hoped they would. 

No matter how close we get to contentment, it eludes us at the moment we thought we found it. 

Like the end of a rainbow, as we think we’ve found it, it disappears.  

So we continue to work more to buy more but never quite find what we were hoping to.

It's a dream to the companies making money from us, and a pointless chase for those of us caught up in it.


Most of us are.

The problem with most of us doing the same thing is that it becomes normal.

And there is comfort in numbers.

Despite how depressed we are in our current situation we feel trapped in this horrible maze of dissatisfaction. But we’ve been taught that this is how life is, and everyone else is doing it. In fact, if we stop participating, people look at us like we’re crazy, lazy and are not giving ourself the best chance to be successful. 

So we continue working in a job we don’t love, feeling depressed but justifying our decision to stay based on our decent pay, we're almost due for a promotion which means we'll earn more, so we can buy more to impress more people. Plus we get a weekend every five days and four weeks of annual holidays each year. We convince ourself that if we keep doing this until we're 65, we can finally retire, rest and do what you love.

So we waste some of the best years of our life chasing some illusion that we think gives us a sense of value, only to retire and feel as though we wasted our best years.

Are we kidding?

Honestly, what are we doing?


If you’re stuck in this pattern of working towards the illusion of success, you’re probably well aware of the side effects that join it

Debt: Because you don’t have the money yet, but you want to buy it now

Stress: Because you owe money that you don’t have yet

Anxiety: Because you’re 'longing for more' never seems to be satisfied

Discontent: Because you feel that there must be a better way to use your time

Depression: Because you’re stuck in this pattern, and can’t seem to break free


As with any change, going through the following steps can be confronting and uncomfortable. Don't let the fear of where these steps will lead you, stop you from developing an intentional, purposeful life. 

  1. Discover Enough At what point will you be content with how much you have? Don't accumulate for the sake of it. Find out what you need, and once you reach that, stop. 
  2. Stop upgrading We don't need the latest model. Regardless of what the companies' promise the latest product will offer, they said about their last model as well. 
  3. Think about your job Do you love it? What role does your work play in your life? Is it your passion? Is it supporting a passion? Are you working the amount you are because you need the amount you earn? Are there things that you could cut from your life that would allow you to need less money? Don't just work because you have been told that's what you have to do. When you start slowing down on your purchases, you won't need as much as you think. 
  4. Bin credit cards One of the biggest problems with our 'must have it now' society is that we have lost the ability to save our money and buy the product we want with cash. Credit cards allow us to have what we want right now but also put the unnecessary stress of making repayments. Take your time and save.
  5. Choose focus carefully Take some time to consider your greatest passions. I promote the idea of discovering your top five priorities with the idea of committing your days to them.

  6. More money When you decide to step off the road that most people are travelling on, you will feel less obliged to buy the latest of everything. This will allow you to put your money towards the things that really add value to your life. 
  7. More time Busy-ness is a bragging right in so many workplaces. But most of the people bragging about how busy they are are miserable. Spend less time doing a job you don't love, and enjoy the benefits that comes from having time for you. 
  8. More rest Learn to use your down time to rest. Stop the hurry. 
  9. More time for your passions Commit your extra time to the things you haven't been able to fit in until now. 
  10. Less stress Stress is often a by-product of trying to fit more into less time. When you learn to take on less, you will enjoy the reduced levels of stress.