Ever sense that you spend more time chasing happiness than living in the moment? If so, understand that it happens to most of us. Sometimes, we may think that I will feel more fulfilled if only I had a newer car, a bigger house, and a wider television. But, often, the material things in life bring temporary joy. And, in some cases, the stress of living beyond our means can make us miserable. What’s interesting is that there are numerous cultures who generally claim that owning fewer material things makes them more content. Let’s look at three philosophies embraced by countries where materialism is kept at bay.
The Swedish concept of Lagom is having not too little and not too much. It is all about balance in life in all aspects. For example, a person living in a city will seek out time in nature to achieve a balance. And they will divide time between work and leisure, both of equal importance. Regarding materialism, the Swedish concept incorporates practicing self-restraint to prevent being extravagant and filling lives with unnecessary things. The mindset focuses on being happy in the moment, appreciating what you have, being content with moderation, and achieving a higher standard of living by continually maintaining balances.
The Japanese concept of Ikigai, which translates into ‘your purpose in life,’ is centered on achieving balance and happiness. It involves four fundamental components: passion, vocation, profession, and mission. The philosophy focuses on being well-rounded and making insightful decisions to feel more fulfilled in one’s career and beyond. It embraces pursuing what you love, what you are good at, what you can earn, and what the world needs. All of these must overlap to achieve a well-balanced life. To meet success and happiness, one must use intuition and be curious. This concept spills over into other aspects of life and focuses more on the individual and less on materialism.
The Finnish concept of Sisu describes something that lies within someone. While there is no literal equivalent of the word in English, Sisu relates to intrinsic values to include stoic determination, courage, willpower, tenacity, bravery, resilience, and more. This all-purpose concept promotes having and maintaining a healthy physical and mental attitude. It involves using actions rather than words and helps a person meet goals through their achievements. Sisu plays an important role in the life of the Finnish people and is said to be a source of happiness when applied to life. Because it relates to achieving a healthy inner and outer self, it incorporates engagement in nature and minimalism. It helps people overcome adversity and aspects of stress management and provides passion toward long-term goals.
Each culture has its own unique philosophy of life to achieve happiness. In the U.S., the desire to live “the American dream” is embraced by many people. Combined with a fast-paced mentality, this philosophy can throw off a common denominator of the Swedish, Japanese, and Finnish cultures’ well–balanced approach to life. While working hard to get ahead is admirable, the concept may push people to work harder and longer to get ahead, in the end sacrificing personal happiness and time with family and friends. However, it is well within our capabilities to adjust our sails to be more balanced, allowing us to discover our passions, smile more, be in the moment with those we love, and appreciate all the gifts life has to offer.