According to Peter C. Whybrow , in his book, American Mania, in the course of human history when terrible events caused part of population to migrate in search of better opportunity elsewhere, 2% left and 98% stayed behind ‘to accept what fate would bring’. (pg 53)
And he goes on to show that the characteristics of restlessness, impulsivity, curiosity and novelty- seeking are highly heritable. This means that those few who had it in the to leave home and explore distant lands passed this inclination onto their children, who became even more predisposed to follow their curiosity and to take risks.
After exploring this concept in depth, Whybrow brings this home and applies it to us as Americans. The core thesis of his book which he amply supports, is that America was founded and then populated by people who were migrants, and that as a nation we share the ‘restless, curiosity-driven emigre temperament’. The founding fathers and every generation since then has exhibited the same tendencies, both in continuing to migrate within our borders, as well as in other ways including, for better or for worse, innovation and consumption.
If all of this intrigues you, I definitely recommend the book. He has also written a follow up book to it, which is currently sitting in my stack of books-I’m-reading-next.
But the main thought I’d like to leave you with after this brief introduction is that as Americans, we have a novelty-seeking, risk-taking bent to our temperament; and it is of utmost importance that we recognize this and learn to harness and direct those inclinations. Otherwise we will find ourselves continuing the cycle of being manipulated by marketers and a consumer-driven society that is designed to exploit this tendency.
This is just one interesting facet of self-awareness, and exploring it can be as simple as asking yourself questions whenever you are considering buying something. Do you really need that sweater or is the color of it just speaking to you today? Do you need to replace your functional, yet boring [insert applicance, gadget, etc.] already, or are you just itching for something new?
I believe a key to success in today’s world is to teach yourself to redirect your desire for something new/interesting/risky toward a creative endeavor, rather than consumption. If you find something to create instead of consume, you will turn a negative cycle into a positive cycle, while embracing an important part of what makes you who you are.