Black Friday has the power to do good. This day of extreme consumerism, this day that that causes stampedes in the name of giving gifts, can give the greatest gift of all -- the promise of a brighter future.
Our level of consumerism isn't sustainable. In 1995, 1 in 17 people in the United States had a storage unit. By 2012, this grew to 1 in 10.1 The U.S. has 51,000 storage facilities -- more than seven times the amount of Starbucks.2 Not only that, most people using these storage units have no intention of moving their stuff back into their homes.2 George Carlin said, "A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff," but now, a storage unit is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff!
But what is breeding this phenomenon? It's called the IKEA effect. We spend more and more money on furniture, even as prices have dropped, which leads us to where we are now: with more stuff than we actually need, and 7 million American households with at least one piece of furniture in their storage units.2
We love to shop, but we really love bargains. We buy 400 percent more clothing today than 20 years ago.3 Consumerism makes up 72 percent of the U.S. economy, and on Black Friday 2013, the United States spent $57,400,000,000.00. Yes, that's the right amount of zeroes, and that's even with a 2.9 percent decline from the previous year.4
What if we harnessed the power of shopping, and directed it towards something good? Let's change our approach to shopping, think before we buy, and think about whose lives we're affecting.
What if I told you that there was another way, a real way, to consume -- that this way would change how we view ourselves, and our place in society? What if I told you that there was a way to consume where the byproducts change the world and change lives?
Of course, I'm talking about creating a Soulful Economy.
A Soulful Economy starts with us becoming conscientious consumers, and that means knowing where your products come from, who made them, and knowing that your decisions, for better or worse, make an impact. Becoming conscientious means that the good feeling you get is because your informed decision has helped someone else. We're building a movement, and starting on this path is simple.
Our country is addicted to bargains, but we need to be addicted to feeling good and doing good for the world. We need to value what matters, not just value "a good value." This goes beyond the temporary good feeling promised to you by a bargain dress. It isn't about a quick-fix, but a good feeling that lasts because it changes lives. This is a soulful buy-one-get-one: when you think before you buy, your shopping always comes with a positive impact.
Being a conscientious consumer isn't about compromising style or beauty, and the numbers speak for themselves: 91 percent of global consumers are more likely to switch brands and buy a product of similar price and quality, just because it is associated with a good cause. 41 percent of Americans say they have bought a product simply because it was associated with a good cause -- what's 41 percent of $57,400,000,000.00?5 When we begin to look at shopping like this, Black Friday starts to sound like an awesome time to jumpstart this movement. The ground to grow this Soulful Economy is ready, the market is there, but we need to work harder, and we need to work together.
This is about choosing to buy a product that gives a real, good feeling. The feeling of making an impact, the opportunity to change a life, to give real potential, and create a real effect. This is a feeling better than buying a pair of jeans that fit just right -- this is a lasting good feeling that connects you with another human. This is a way of consuming that can actually make you feel better about yourself because you know that how you shop is making a difference in the world, and sets an example for others to follow suit.
If we can do this, we can get closer to our authentic selves, and return to a real way of living intentionally. Arianna Huffington quotes Rabindranath Tagore in Thrive, "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."
A Soulful Economy is not about giving anything up, it's about giving more by giving with purpose, and making every purchase count. It's about doing the things that bring us joy while being conscientious about how we affect our world. It's about buying gifts for your loved ones this holiday season that make you feel even better because you know you gave a gift that makes a difference.
I challenge you to make a choice, to think before you buy. I challenge you to experience a real good feeling. I challenge you to celebrate the holidays by buying with empathy, and to give gifts that lay the groundwork for a better future.
The solution is your choice: choose a product that helps the world, whether it's by giving a job, tackling extreme poverty, or educating children, you will feel more joy, you will be more connected, and you will become closer to your authentic self.
"Our entire reality depends on the quality of our intention and attention"- Deepak Chopra
1. Assured Self Storage, Storage Units By the Numbers Infographic, 2013.
2. J Mooallem, "The Self-Storage Self," The New York Times, 2009.
3. A Adamczyk, "Why Brands and Retailers Are Running With the 'Slow Fashion' Movement" in ForbesLife, 2014.
4. Statistic Brain, "Black Friday Yearly Spending," 2014.
5. Cause Marketing Forum,"Statistics Every Cause Marketer Should Know,"2014.