Understanding and Conquering “the Wanting Mind”

How is it that I can have over 13,000 songs (over 1,100 CDs) on my iPod but STILL want more?


How is it that I can have a decent library of books—many of which I haven’t even read yet—and yet I still want to buy MORE books?


Why am I looking forward to my cellphone contract ending so that I can upgrade to a different phone even though I was perfectly happy with my BlackBerry Curve when I got it just a year ago?


Why do I want a Buick Enclave even though my 2002 Buick Rendezvous is in great shape and is PAID FOR?

According to Brent Kessel‘s book, It’s Not About the Money*, all of the above can be attributed to something called the Wanting Mind. We always want something different from what we currently have. It’s the feeling that something has to change in order for us to be happy. From the book:

The Wanting Mind continually takes us out of the present moment in its attempts to make us happy in some better tomorrow. And unless we inquire into the subtle and often hidden workings of the Wanting Mind, including whether its promises of happiness are actually ture, we remain its slave and will likely spend a lifetime chasing its images of freedom.

In other words, people (myself included) buy things because we think those things will make us happy. And, for a brief time, they do bring us happiness because they keep us from wanting more. But, the happiness fades and the wanting returns.

So, how do we overcome the Wanting Mind?

If we look carefully and honestly, we are able to see that the happiness we feel when we get what we want comes from the absense of wanting. If we could experience the same absence of wanting regardless of whether we buy something we crave or not, we would be able to fully accept our present experience and not seek happiness from the objects or experiences we crave. That way, our deepest selves and not our Wanting Minds would be in control of the important financial decisions that will either contribute to or undermine our true freedom.

Kessel’s advice is simply to NOT SATISFY the object of the Wanting Mind. You can do this by telling yourself that what you want won’t make you happy in the long run and will not satisfy your wanting mind for very long.

I can practice this with regards to buying CDs by telling myself that I have enough music to listen to that it would take me 1,217 HOURS of solid listening to listen to it all! I can also take the same approach to buying books. In other words, I need to tell myself enough is enough.

As far as the Enclave goes, all I have to do is sit down with a loan calculator and take a look at how much a monthly note would be to purchase one. Then, all I have to do is go wash the Rendezvous and the desire is squashed for the time being.

One other suggestion I have is to STOP LOOKING for a replacement of what you currently have! I have no business checking out the Enclave website and looking at pictures and specs because I DON’T NEED A NEW CAR! Yes, they are nice-looking and it would be fun to have a new car, but like I said above, I don’t need or want a car payment and new cars become old cars.

I’m still undecided on the phone…lol.

NOTE: Brent Kessel is the co-founder of Abacus Portfolios

*Affiliate Link

6 thoughts on “Understanding and Conquering “the Wanting Mind””

  1. I hear what you are saying, trying to wrestle with the pangs of gadget envy while managing a budget is pretty difficult for a geek like myself. I think at some point, we arrive at the level of discipline or will power that we have a capacity for – and I imagine how bad we want to ultimate outcome is important too.

    Personally, I seem to have a absolutist streak in me, where I’ve given up certain things “forever”, and I actually feel pretty confident that I will hold to them. I haven’t had a hotdog going on like 3 years, and I really love hotdogs… hahah

  2. I definitely agree with “STOP LOOKING for a replacement of what you currently have!” Too many people, myself included at times, look into the new cars, homes and other tangible items that we really don’t need.

    Thought of the day…if people stopped doing that, would we be in as much financial trouble as we are (individually and otherwise)? I don’t think so.

  3. My three year old behaves the same way. A good toy lasts about a week. Three rooms of our house have piles of untouched toys.

    So you’re saying it’s never going to end.

  4. Ken, just say no–to the child and the (presumably indulging) relatives (is Mommy one?) Suggest a 529 contribution or savings bond purchase when relatives ask for gift ideas, and rotate the toys so they “seem” new to your toddler. Then eventually sell or donate them.

    “Play” food, a good wooden or electric train set, Lincoln Logs, a big jug of bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and yes, a pot/pan and wooden spoon, can be all most kids need to keep busy/happy. A dog wouldn’t hurt, either!

    My boys are 8, 11, and 14 and we still are cell-phone and video game free. I’ll keep them unattached to the nonsense as long as I can. How can it be that a grown woman (me!!) didn’t have a cell phone until her thirties, but all these kids are transfixed and antisocial w/their phones/texting…Maybe test scores/reading ability/cognitive reasoning would all improve if parents acted in their kids’ best interests and just said “no”.

    Start now my friend…You’ll reap the rewards for years…financial and otherwise. Think of all the room you’ll have in your home!

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