August 30, 2010

Was Goldilocks A Buddhist?

Repeated surveys on human happiness yield the same result - once a person has enough resources to cover the basics, more fails to produce increased happiness. I like to think of it as the Goldilocks Effect.

If our pile of cash is too small we cannot achieve optimum happiness. And although it goes against all we believe, if our pile of cash is too big we may also struggle in the contentedness category. Goldilocks was pursuing the Middle Path. I wonder if she was a Buddhist?

Developing a sense of having "enough" is crucial to simple living. We know that too little money will create hardship. But we must remember that too much can make us unhappy, too. When we are happy with enough we become unfettered. We can work less, and worry less on the middle path of enough.

Enough is being able to cover the basics of life for yourself and your family. And because I am not an ascetic (yet), it is nice to have just a little bit more. How much more are we talking here? More enough to be able to explore our limitless human potential in simple, creative, and wonderful ways. More enough to learn, to play, to laugh, and love.

The amount of money it takes to achieve this elusive "enough" differs from person to person, but would be a modest sum in all cases when compared to what most people live on today in developed countries.

If optimal happiness is gained when we have just enough, and this is a modest sum, then what is all the extra work and money for? Why not just stop at the modest sum that provides enough, and skip all the grief and pressure of always trying to get more?

Not too little, not too much. Enough is just right. It is the Goldilocks Effect, and endless surveys tell us it leads to optimal human happiness.

"Being sated is something people can learn - and it is after they have managed to control their instincts and impulses in the best interests of themselves and society that they are truly free." - Raj Patel

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