A great gift that comes with the human party pack is that we're able to fill the gap between wanting something and figuring out how to get it. That's what makes us a superior species, the fact that we can review past events in order to ensure successful outcomes in the future; filling that gap between where we are and where we want to be is probably our biggest motivational driver. That's how a star is born. This is how we achieve, create, produce and hit the deadline; if we didn't have this ability we would still be sea slugs. Here's the grenade in the cookie jar; there's a fine line between actually wanting to accomplish something and just hard-core desire and that's where the rips and tears of the human fabric might start. When we get something we want badly, the wanting diminishes, which is great news until the next want comes along. This puts us into a constant state of want, need, lust, greed and most of the seven deadly sins. (Please don't let me tarnish your trophies for those of you who have just won an academy award or a medal in the Olympics - well done, really.)
The other problem is because we never really feel like we get what we want because there's always someone who has more, we live in a constant state of wanting. This need for success is embedded in our culture. If we don't reach these self- imposed goals, we may experience a sense of worthlessness. In my opinion this is why so many people over-shop. They might feel they have no worth but their clothes do.
The problem is, the hit of 'happiness' usually lasts as long as a cigarette so we have to continually search for the next fix. It's as though as a species we have no brakes, only breakdowns. Mother Nature's little joke on us is that the original object of desire isn't so much fun when we get it, so unless we can up the stakes all the time, we can't get that burst of internal fireworks we call happiness. Most animals just eat their fill and walk away but not us, we keep glutting ourselves even though the next bite never tastes as good as the first one.
This need to have more is not limited to the wives of footballers or head honchos of big organisations. We all, in our own way, never stop 'wanting', that's why we need 20,000 feet of mall; big steaming mounds of galleria won't be enough to satisfy. The shopping never stops; the label says it all. Our self-esteem drives us to buy a designer handbag that costs the GNP of Croatia, which is why people with nothing will spend their last shekel on Dolce and Gabbana or a £300 pair of Nikes. If you have the tattoo of 'CC' on your handbag, you can get a nod of respect from everyone that passes, even though you're homeless. I once saw a tramp in Miami pushing all his belongings in a shopping cart he stole from Bloomingdale's. He was wearing newspaper and had a cap on his head that said, 'Born to Shop'. People who wear Prada usually hang out with other Praderites and the same with all other brands; people seek their own level, their own tribe. Picture it, a whole gaggle of Guccis at the watering hole and some Primarks eating a carcass. What we throw on our back is our new means of identity.
P.S. Proof of our insanity is that we actually buy Ugg boots. Where in the brain do we feel a need to look like an Eskimo, as if they ever had any fashion sense?
I'm on tour until the end of May with Sane New World, talking about how to use mindfulness and an understanding of our brains to navigate 21st Century life.