4 Things I’ve Learned from The 100 Thing Challenge

The 100 Thing Challenge title page

I recently bought and read The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno (you can read my review about it here). It’s an interesting book, and I recommend it to everybody who has a bad shopping habit or just wants to live a simpler, more improved life. The book is packed with many nuggets of wisdom from Dave, all of which are helpful for people like me who want to adopt the minimalist lifestyle. Here’s a list of some of the things I learned:

1. People usually don’t know (or admit) that they have consumerism problems.

Dave mentions in his book that he ran a blog about consumerism but didn’t really recognised that he had a problem with shopping and having too much stuff. It was only when he took a long look around his home that he realised that he had issues with buying and consuming more than he needed.

The same thing happened to me. Until I read The 100 Thing Challenge, I had thought that I didn’t have a problem with consumerism. I even felt smug about myself because I was an underbuyer and wasn’t into shopping as other people my age. But I was so wrong. Yes, I didn’t buy as many things as other folks did, but I still placed a lot of expectations on the stuff that I did buy (more on that later). And that is a sign of consumerism.

2. People always want more and more.

Dave points out in his book that “American-style consumerism” propagates the thought that more is always better and prevents people from being contented with what they have. He also discusses how this principle translates into business, with many entrepreneurs giving into the pressure of growing their ventures and achieving more success every year.

I think this is true. In my case, the consumerist principle of “more and more” has entered my life as a freelancer. I want to accept more and more writing assignments, even when my schedule can no longer accommodate them. I want to keep on writing and writing, even when my body says that I should stop and sleep and get enough rest. I want to earn more so I’d have enough money in case my parents (who are in their 60s) get sick and need to be hospitalised. I want to earn more so I can prepare for my retirement as well as for rainy days. But should I risk my health just to achieve all that?

I know the answer should be “No”. But, sometimes, it’s hard to resist the temptation of “more and more”.

3. People associate things with happiness and/or contentment.

Dave talks about how he bought toy trains, adventure gear, and woodworking tools to achieve his childhood dreams and become the “ideal” man. He discusses how he placed high expectations on these items and turned to them to heal childhood wounds and become the person he wasn’t meant to be.

I can certainly relate; I’ve bought a lot of things in the past that I thought would help me transform into a better person. One time, I figured that running would help me lose weight, so I bought a Habagat gym bag and a book titled “Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program”. I also bought two boxes of Nestle low-fat milk because they came with a free pedometer.

I bought all of these things partly because I figured I’d need them to make running easier, but also partly because I thought they’d help me love running. They didn’t. I still don’t like to run.

So I’ve learned a lesson: never put a lot of expectations on your things. Use them to make your life easier and enjoy your hobbies more, but never expect them to transform you into the person you want to become.

4. People need to redefine “prosperity”

Habitual shopping has become the measure of affluence for individuals as well as whole regions,” Dave writes in The 100 Thing Challenge. “Prosperity must be displayed or else it will be in doubt.”

I’ve mentioned in my book review that I have many favourite quotes in the book, but these are the two sentences that grabbed my attention. Why? Because I can definitely relate to them. And maybe you can, too. Displayed prosperity is easy to spot, especially in the Philippine society: rich people flaunting their riches and middle-class people trying to keep up (and even ending up in debt because of all their keeping up).

Now, as Dave has said, I don’t want to deny anyone their right to buy and own stuff. And I certainly don’t think that I can change the mindset of everyone in the world. But what I hope is that, someday, people will realise that having lots of material things isn’t the only measurement of prosperity. Having inner peace, enjoying strong relationships with our loved ones, living a contented life — these are the signs of prosperity of the soul, and these are what we should be striving for.

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