One of the most important factors to happiness obviously is prospering social contacts.
Social contact and social approval are among the most basic needs of humans, and arguably many people seem to spend a lot of money and effort to achieve it in an indirect way.
They do this by buying or gaining symbols of status to impress others and thus to get access to certain social groups or to earn their recognition. Most do this even unconsciously, but proof to this thesis is the fact that most of these people would get very uneasy should they come to a situation where actually nobody would see their efforts and the material results of them.
E.g. imagine the high performing and hard-working career focussed modern professional, going to his extravagant holidays on the Maldives or buying the new BWM SUV, without being allowed to tell ANYBODY about it, without taking ANY photos, without sending ANY message or Facebook entry from his trip. Without being able to boast to ANYONE after the vacation. Imagine he would get pale again the instant he is back at home, so that nobody could admire his taint. Imagine him not being allowed to park his ridiculously expensive new car in front of the office etc. That WOULD take away significantly from the experience of many status focussed people, wouldn’t it? Thus a huge part of accumulating stuff is simply to impress others, yet to gain social recognition.
Actually, there is nothing wrong in gaining social recognition, this is simply part of life and a basic human need.
However, any trained downshifter sees that spending on impressive stuff is a too laborious and inefficient way to improve social connection. A unintelligent way forcing you back in the rat race and the thread mill.
Good thing is that there is another, more natural, fully free and a million times more effective way to satisfy your need for social ties:
Simply go out and meet people – and keep the contact alive!
Currently staying in Hamburg at Mrs. Woodpecker’s family, I have to admire once more how good all of them are in connecting to each other, in introducing others and bringing in friends and extremely distant relatives into their ever-growing network.
What I found difficult in the beginning, the sheer amount of gatherings, having food or coffee together, visiting this and that persons, going to family events, casual meetings, etc., all of this after some years now form the picture of a perfectly functioning and very well cared of “analog” social network that probably never can be reached by any Facebook community or similar.
Mrs Woodpecker’s family is pretty widespread, and as they obviously were always good at keeping contact, they still know each other even to the very far ends of their (endlessly complicated) family tree. There are family gatherings annually and lists of family members counting to the hundreds throughout the world. Some of them migrated to places like the US, UK, Sweden, Argentina, New Zealand, and everybody is still in contact. It is family law that any member of the family can show up at the place of any other member on short notice and is always invited to stay at their place – even if they never have met before!
And the amazing thing: This law is really practised!
Lying on the holiday route towards the South, Woodpeckers in Munich in fact hosted three different groups of family at their home within the very month of July!
Obviously we always try to offer the full program, a nice city tour through Munich, some secret beer gardens, a trip to the mountains and so on. And always guests are leaving with a warm invitation to their places, be it Berlin, Stockholm, Hamburg, a country house Southern France, a private boat on the Baltic Sea or wherever.
And while most of these guys are neither particularly rich nor glamorous, everybody brings in his share, so that an amazing variety of locations, potential common activities and interesting people build up.
A very nice habit.
Actually, if you have a too small family (like the one from Mr. Woodpeckers side), the same principle will fit for your circle of friends:
Establish a “my home is your home” atmosphere, invite them, offer your help and support wherever you can, at all costs keep the contact and find time to see them regularly, and the rest will follow.
Over time you will pile up invitations to interesting places, request for common holiday trips and excursions, as well as insider access to good housing or business opportunities or even to job offers.
Maybe this is the deeper meaning of what eastern religions call “Karma”, and western call “the imperative of being good to your next”:
If you are good, kind and giving to others, over time all of this will return to you.
Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in a month, but as a steady flow of nice little gestures and gratitude toward you in a year, in two or in ten!
Actually I’d not recommend to think of social contacts in monetary terms, but anyway they have one thing in common with investments:
Social Networks pay a constant dividend.
And due to the laws of interest, the gains from both a good investment and a good social network, if reinvested continuously, grow enormous over time!
Thus family and long-term friends will over time be the very most important assets in your social portfolio. Treat them well and you will flourish for sure!
Prioritize them over your Job your Career and also over making money if in doubt and you will not regret it.