The Means are Destroying The Ends

by Stephen Mills on December 4, 2011

So many of us in particular and our culture in general have lost sight of the ends to which we should be striving.  Things like freedom, intellectual growth, happiness,  social relationships, and general well-being.  We have allowed the means to these values to become the ends towards which we endlessly strive.  We constantly are piling up the means, but forgetting the ends to which those should lead.

This is where we are at with the means becoming more important than the ends:

Means

This is where we should be with the ends more important than than the means:

Ends

The most obvious of these is money.  It has ceased to be a means to more valuable ends like freedom and has instead has become an end in itself and indeed an obstacle to freedom.  Instead of buying freedom is it buys most people slavery.  Those who accumulate enough chips to buy their freedom usually don’t.  Instead they just continue striving for more.  It has become the end that is pursued for it’s own sake; as a measuring stick for success and status (regardless of what some may claim).

But it’s not just money, it’s happening with just about everything.  Electronic gadgets which should be used as tools for convenience and to connect have become an absurd end in themselves.  The gadget buying for no other reason than to have the latest and greatest has gone over an obscene cliff and shows no signs of slowing down.  I’m not a luddite, but I want to use gadgets as a means to something better. They are like a car with 1,000 unneeded options.  Once you get past heat and air and comfortable seats the rest is pretty much fluffy status.

Our homes are no longer for shelter or an anchoring place for family and friends.  They have become monstrously oversized status symbols or even alleged investments.  They are expensive to buy and operate and many people not only don’t own their home (because the bank owns 100% of the property), but they also owe them some part of the rest of their future wealth.  Congratulations you are now a slave to financial institutions.  Expect them someday to go bankrupt and then get the government to steal more of your money to bail them out.

Our children’s activities are supposed to give them a rich life experience.  Instead they have become a competitive status activity that makes the kids miserable and allows the parents to live vicariously.

Facebook and similar sites were supposed to be a way to connect with family and friends and instead have become a place to display your fake self and compete to see who can have the most fake “friends”.   Facebook is no longer a means to something better, it has become an end in itself.  Do you “Facebook”?

What Are Your Values?

It can’t be money because money is only a medium of exchange and in itself is completely worthless (and government policy makes it less valuable in exchanges).

Stop and think about what you truly value.  I listed some of mine at the beginning of this article – freedom, intellectual growth, happiness, social relationships, and general well-being.

I seriously doubt that anyone actually values an iPad 11 (I know it doesn’t exist).  You want an iPad 11 because it can do three things the iPad 10 can’t.  So what?  Exactly what do those three things contribute to your ultimate values?  I suggest exactly nothing.  Is downloading a movie on your 4G phone in 5 seconds going to make you happy?  If it does you are in serious need of help Smile

The beautiful thing about life is that means to those ultimate values can be achieved by some of the simpler things you can do in life.  In the pursuit of success, happiness, and freedom we have lost sight of those ultimate ends and become stuck in an endless game of piling up means.

If we can focus on our ultimate values and adjust our relationship to the means, we will be a lot more likely to thrive in the only thing that really counts; our experience of life.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Fionna December 5, 2011 at 12:10 am

Amen to that! Another great post.

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Catherine December 5, 2011 at 10:51 am

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John December 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I’ve found your article to be spot on. So many times if lost sight of why I pursue all of the things I think will lead to happiness or satisfaction only to find the pursuit to end in frustraition and misery. Likely caused by my lack of foresight. I need to remember to not become a slave to the very things I think will alleviate me from pain and stress. I hope this article will open a lot of eyes.
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Eric Connor December 5, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Thanks for this post Stephen- this really is so so important when it comes to fulfillment, self-actualization and general happiness and well-being. I read recently that studies have shown that we get much more fulfillment out of experiences than material things. So, the lesson is that we should use money to buy experiences, not the latest and greatest. Doing so will provide far more enrichment.

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Y8 December 6, 2011 at 11:20 am

Don’t even know what to say on this topic. So much ideas are mixed in my head after reading it. Very problematic article I think

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Chessa December 6, 2011 at 7:10 pm

You really hit me on that…Thanks for the realizations you have stated here for us…
Chessa´s last blog post ..Do you know DJ Lance Rock?

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Breanna Chanson December 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your GREAT thought process on this! Totally a good reminder to check myself and my decisions… and also so nice to hear that I’m not the only one who thinks this way!
Breanna Chanson´s last blog post ..The Strength in Numbers

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Andre December 7, 2011 at 2:11 am

Nice post – a very timely reminder on what our priorities in life should be. Often we miss the woods for the trees.

Love the bubble charts! 🙂
Andre´s last blog post ..How To Attract Women

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Vishal December 11, 2011 at 8:55 am

My agreement with your observations is partial.

1. Not everyone spends more to maintain status. If I buy a house, I would try to find one that is better (in safety, commute time, grocery shops and stuff like that). I may spend more, but intention is not to impress someone. Is it wrong?

2. When we try to be free, before that we need to take care of a few people.. You will try to earn more. And in that process, you may “lose” your freedom.

3. I don’t know about some hotshots, but average people like me value money. Life has taught us many things, including the discretion to earn and spend money. My point is that people don’t usually “waste” money to show-off… they do that because that’s unavoidable for reasons unmentioned by you!

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Chelsie December 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Great post for all of us and I am looking forward to reading some of your posts too…Looks really interesting…
Chelsie´s last blog post ..Do you know DJ Lance Rock?

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Gennie December 20, 2011 at 8:49 pm

This is an inspiration to me actually…
Gennie´s last blog post ..Get Motivated To Lose Weight

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judith December 27, 2011 at 7:43 am

I think this is bad because we have enough things in our lives already. What we lack, as a human race, is knowledge and wisdom of psychology. However, none of us can stop the powerful members of society from doing what they can. America would be the last nation to believe in living with a minimum of material possessions. There are many powerful people, however, who also would think this was a shame. The environmentalists in Tennessee should have worked harder to bring the matter into the public consciousness, so that the lawmakers could act according to majority will. If everyone were polled, the vast majority would have supported the environmental benefits of the beautiful mountains, for sure. Democracy is a step in the right direction, but implementing it is often hard to do.
judith´s last blog post ..Starting Your Own Business

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Cheny December 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Thanks for the great post you are sharing to us here…
Cheny´s last blog post ..Get Motivated To Lose Weight

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Benna January 11, 2012 at 3:38 am

Hello, I’m trying to translate this article into chinese, but I really can’t understand these sentences,”… to have the latest and greatest has gone over an obscene cliff and shows no signs of slowing down. ” and “Once you get past heat and air and comfortable seats the rest is pretty much fluffy status.”. Can you explain me simpler?

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