Tying Our Hearts to the Right Things

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” – Nelson Mandela

For most of my life, I have lived under the impression that my actions will follow my heart – that the things I valued the most would be reflected by my life investment. That is, my money, time, energy, and mindfulness would be directed towards the things I valued most.

All while there is still some truth in that statement, over the past few years of pursuing minimalism, I have begun to notice that the inverse is also true. That my heart appears naturally drawn to the places where I have invested most – not that my investment follows my heart, but that my heart tends to follow my investment.

This principle was profoundly etched in my mind the day my family went grocery shopping and left the store to find a fresh, large, white scrape across the passenger side of our maroon mini-van. The mini-van was far from new. Yet, there was an immediate pit that emerged in my stomach over the wrong that had been committed. The driver kindly left us with no insurance or contact information… just a large noticeable scrape down the side of our vehicle. The distress was strengthened by the fact that we both knew I was far too cheap to get it repaired. The unsightly scratch would likely remain over the course of the van’s life.

As we drove away from the store in silence, I began to reflect on the scratch and more importantly, how the incident brought about such a gut level response. I found it interesting to consider the fact that if this same scrape had been left on my bicycle or my son’s skateboard, I would not have been nearly upset. And I couldn’t help but wonder why that was the case. Why did the action cut so deep into my stomach and heart?

And it occurred to me, I was so upset because our vehicle was such a large investment. I had invested money, time, and care into it. I wouldn’t mind if my son’s skateboard got a new scratch because… well, I didn’t have nearly as much invested into it. But my vehicle was a huge investment and because of that, my heart naturally gravitated toward it.

Our heart will always follow our greatest investments – whether it be our car, our house, our career, or our investment portfolio. We literally tie our hearts to certain things by the sheer amount of investment we put into them. And too many of us are tying our hearts to the wrong things. We are devoting our lives and tying our hearts to material possessions that will never last or bring us true joy. Lasting fulfillment can never be tied to things that are temporal by nature.

Instead, we ought to invest our money, time, and lives into things that are truly important. Invest into your family, your friends, or the causes that you believe in. And as you do, you’ll notice your heart naturally begins to be drawn to them more and more.

The spell of materialism can be hard to break. As long as we live on earth surrounded by material possessions, keeping them in proper perspective is going to be a struggle. But we can begin to break its fascination in our lives by reminding ourselves that we are investing more than our dollars into them. We are tying our very hearts to them as well.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Nice post. You might like a recent post from “You are not so Smart” on the Ben Franklin Effect. It is a very in-depth look at how we often create beliefs to support our actions instead of act based on our beliefs.

    I find it odd how instinctive our reactions are to the marring of our possessions. I feel I have the same sort of reaction, even though the rational side of me understands that little is actually lost.

  2. says

    This is wonderful. Thanks.

    After months of renovations and now months of decluttering and minimizing our extraneous stuff, I can see the absolute truth and value in this. I can guarantee I’ll be thinking on it over the weekend!

  3. Christine says

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I will be thinking about it a lot – this topic is definitely one I would like to work on.

    And Joe, thank you for the link!

  4. Catherine says

    Lovely post, and so very true. Last week, I accidentally dropped my iPad causing a nick on the top right hand corner. It absolutely irked me. I couldn’t get to the heart of the reason why it irked me so much. And then I read your article and all becomes clear. I finally get it! From my perspective, the iPad represented a big investment for me and I tied myself emotionally to it. It was this big invisible bond. Wow, thank you for this moment of pure clarity. I’ll know better next time something similar happens with another possession.

    • Carol says

      THANK YOU for this reference in the Bible!!

      This blog post today really resonated with me — and reading the comments typically is the icing on the cake! I really enjoyed yours and have posted it on my wall at work.

        • Diane says

          That verse was screaming at me too as I read the article. I was really only scanning the comments to see if it had already been posted. Thanks Ricki!

          • Lisa S says

            Ha! That verse popped into my mind right away, too. I also was looking to see if anyone had already posted it. It helps that our pastor referenced it this morning in his sermon.

    • Diane says

      Over-valued possessions, we decided, were a burden, possessing their owners. We decided to own nothing we couldn’t be comfortable with – reproductions, not originals, cheap bindings, not rare editions. This idea of the burden of possessions we held to – and years later when we got our first glossy, new car, we hit it severely with a hammer to make it comfortably dented. –Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

  5. says

    Thank you for this post Joshua. In addition to the monetary investment in the mini-van (or the iPad owned by Catherine who left a comment above), we also get attached to a social status the object provides. We frequently judge others who don’t seem to maintain their cars. Even when the thought that they may not be able to afford the repairs crosses our mind, we may feel superior because we think we can afford them (more money = better person). While iPads are sold by the thousands, it is still an object coveted by millions of people and many cannot afford it. When we walk around with an iPad in our hands, we want it to be shinny and be associated with its coolness. So when it gets nicked…

  6. says

    I wonder if something was tied to the minivan too; this is not the ideal American car. I hope that (if we have kids), I can have the guts to have a car that can be scraped and is most operable for children. Erwin MacManus often reminds his congregants that “meekness is not weakness,” and I think this is at the heart of heart mastery. The Jewish propehts talked about desiring a “heart of flesh”; we have the wrong picture of manliness. The stony heart can win friends and cash and influence people, right? But the heart of flesh, I’d posit is tied to higher courage. That, beyond all selfish straining, there is a more “formidable” life in sacrifice. It takes a fleshy heart. I know I’ll be searching your archives if the storks come.

  7. says

    I think that emotional feeling has a lot to do with the consequences as well, it isn’t really about the van.

    If it happened to your bike, no one would really care, probably no one would notice.
    On your sons skateboard, his friends might ask, but you wouldn’t be effected.
    When it happens to your minivan, it is out there to be seen, it is to cheap to be fixed, you are driving second rate now…

    I think it is the larger picture that hurts.

    Just like when my car broke down now, doesn’t really matter, some fixing and it will be back. But it is painful, because it costs money and I have to survive without a car.

    It isn’t the fact that the car is broken that hurts, it is the result.

  8. says

    I remember when I got my first scratch on my new/used car. It was a sad few moments. But then it reminded me how I didn’t want to be one of those people who is overly possessive about her car and its appearance. After I was sad about the defacement I then switched to having gratitude that it was such a reliable vehicle and I decided the scratch added character. Subsequent (inevitable) scratches were much less painful. Now, I just try to avoid investing too much (money and heart) in any one thing so that I don’t get too attached to it as attachment inevitably leads to suffering. Thanks for a great post!

  9. Tasmanian Minimalist says

    Perhaps too you were upset because of the lack of morals of others. They simply drove off with no thought of anyone else. Great post x

  10. Marcus says

    Interesting post. You said:

    “…And too many of us are tying our hearts to the wrong things. We are devoting our lives and tying our hearts to material possessions that will never last or bring us true joy. Lasting fulfillment can never be tied to things that are temporal by nature.”

    Whilst I agree that it is probably better to invest “into your family, your friends, or the causes you believe in”, these things will ALSO never last or NECESSARILY bring us true joy.

    Family and friends that you may have loved dearly and had an extremely close bond with will die, or have the capacity to act extremely callously resulting in the relationship being severed, or the community centre that you may have devoted so much time to instigating, setting up, and running may not receive further funding and be closed down.

    These non-materialistic things that you recommend giving your all to can and certainly will have the capacity to disappoint in the same way that a scrape on a mini-van or any other damage or destruction to a material possession does.

    There is no difference. And that is life. Whether it be people, causes, material possessions – none of these last forever and all, absolutely all, have the ability to disappoint either by there own actions or by external forces having occurred to them, whether it be a tree falling on your beloved house, your father being diagnosed with cancer, or your best friend running off with your wife.

    It will be due to an individual’s experiences in life as to what they decide to ‘invest’ his or her time in.

  11. Nora says

    That’s an inspired way to look at it :) It’s empowering to know that your mind and choices can influence your heart.

  12. Nicole says

    How uncanny! We have experienced the exact same thing in recent months and at a shopping centre, in a maroon coloured car, not a new car and we also are too ‘frugal’ to get it seen to. The scratch is also on the passenger’s side and it is long.

    Besides that, wonderfully articulate and insightful post. I have recently been spending more time exercising and eating ‘clean’ – investing time in my health has been fantastic and the more I do it, the more I want to. It’s my choice and it gives me so much more a buzz than spending money ever can.

  13. says

    I invested a huge amount of time and effort (and heart) into my career for many years. Finally I realised it was just a job, it didn’t define me, it wasn’t my life’s purpose… my time now gets invested almost entirely in my family and I hope that I’ll look back and be confident that it was time well spent! I’m pretty sure it will be…

  14. says

    Great post and so very true. Higher price tags come with the hidden costs of higher stress and worry. I went for a hike with a friend who had just bought some really expensive shoes. He spent the whole day stressing about where he walked so he didn’t get them too muddy. Meanwhile I had a blast tromping through the mud in my old, beat up sneakers.

  15. says

    A great post and some good points. I thought too of the Biblical quote. That same passage also says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Every object that we’re attached to, clutter or treasure, takes some of our energy and attention and makes us vulnerable.

    Another angle on this is related to the “broken window theory”, which says that if a vandal sees a broken window in a building, he thinks it’s fine to break another window or cause other kinds of damage, whereas he might not be inclined to break the first window in an otherwise intact building. So if a person sees a scratch on your van, he may think he doesn’t need to take care of the dent he just made in your bumper, because, what the heck, the car is already damaged.

  16. Amy says

    I totally get the point of what you’re saying but I wanted to let you know that there is a type of cover up/buffer that you can get that will remove the scratch. It’s like $10 and you can get it at the grocery store. I understand about putting too much heart into our possessions, but when you can fix something like that for $10, it definitely helps!

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