Black Friday and its ilk have come and gone, and once again I found myself struggling to resist the urge to browse the latest bargains. Amazon, DealNews, BestBuy, oh my!
Let’s be honest. It may be more blessed to give than receive, but the holiday shopping season is also a great time to find stuff for yourself.
Am I the only one who wrestles with this? I doubt it.
At first I chalked it up to pure greed/discontentment, which in retrospect was a fairly 2D assessment. Then I wondered if it was FOMO, or perhaps indicative of some larger lack of meaning in my life.
I created a personal guide for wise shopping which was genuinely helpful (reach out if you want it), but it didn’t eradicate the desire to see what was available.
So I installed the Block Site browser extension and created price drop alerts for specific items I’d been considering. These moves significantly reduced my online shopping time, but they were band-aids at best.
I wanted to get to the core of what was driving my behavior. I have my basic needs met, so this compulsion to feed my wants felt really shallow, materialistic, and misguided. It didn’t align with my values or leave me feeling any better off at the end of the day.
Here’s what I realized: At a very primal level, I’m wired to hunt, kill, and eat. I think all men are. I don’t know how this relates to women (if you’re one, let me know your thoughts), and I don’t imagine this gets expressed in most men through shopping, but I do think that this threefold pattern is deeply embedded within us due to our hunter/gatherer ancestry.
In the morning, the men would rise, gather their weapons, hunt for food, kill their game, and then bring it back to the village to share with everyone.
On a broader scale, we could chart this template as follows:
- Hunt – Pursuing meaningful goals with a band of brothers in service of your community.
- Kill – Working hard to achieve important wins, with each victory increasing your status, experience, and skills, making you a more valued member of your tribe.
- Eat – Being rewarded for your work and sharing the bounty with others.
On reflection, I realized that for me, online shopping was essentially simulating hunting (searching), killing (buying), and eating (opening). And while enjoyable, it was becoming a cheap replacement for and distraction from more important work.
There are many ways this pattern gets played out for men in inappropriate ways – from pornography/affairs to gaming addiction to workaholism to gangs to living vicariously through sports teams. We all have our vices (well, at least most of us).
The big “ah ha” for me was recognizing that it’s never a question of if I’m going to hunt, kill, and eat. That impulse is here to stay. It’s only a matter of what. Am I going to rise each day and pursue meaningful wins, or settle for small, meaningless dopamine hits that serve as poor substitutes for the real things?
Simply being able to see what was going on became a real game changer for me. It’s hard to break out of patterns we don’t recognize, and it’s helpful to remember what matters most.
What do you think about hunt, kill, eat? How have you seen this pattern play out in your life, or in that of your loved ones? In what ways are you tempted to hunt, kill, and eat the wrong things instead of the right things? How might valuing this impulse actually transform your work, struggles, and pursuits? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.