Thursday, February 07, 2008

It’s all about YOU

Allllllllrighty. Back to work. This week is almost shot and also this is somewhat of a large task, so I’m actually going to make this my ‘rest of this week and all of next’ goal.

What I want to do next is work on my ‘have-do-be’ list. I know I’ve brought this up ad nauseum a few times, but in case you’ve missed those posts, here’s how it goes.

Find a little quiet time, and think about your life. Not your debts, not your income, not how much you hate those curtains or how much you wish your mom would quit comparing you to your Perfect Sibling.

Think about your life. Yourself. Your own individual groove.

What makes you happy? What specific things give you joy and fulfillment? What are the things that you dream of? What keeps you up at night that you’d like to change? What are the things that keep coming back to you again and again?

In your quiet time, write it down. Don’t worry about whether or not it is “meaningful” or “cosmic” or “deep”. You’re not going for a Nobel Peace Prize, here. There’s no right or wrong answer. You are your own person, and if a big bag of pretzels and a football game is what gives your life meaning, more power to you.

This isn’t about anybody else. This is not subject to the approval of anybody else. This is only and purely about you, looking for your perfect life.

Write down things as they occur to you, then walk away and ignore it for a little while. Overnight is usually pretty good. Then, come back and look at the list again. There will likely be things you forgot, and things that on second (third, fourth) thought really aren’t that important.

Tweak it. Then leave it alone again.

Once you’ve got a fairly stable list, the real work begins: Figure out where each thing falls in relation to each other thing. It’s like your vision test: Better 1, or 2? Better 2, or 3? OK, how about 3, or 1?

Again, don’t worry about which goals are ‘loftier’ and which ones are ‘mundane’. Don’t think about how expensive, impossible, or otherwise crazy your list is. There are no limitations right now. Money, time, background…none of that is important right now. It's OK to be more interested in what others might consider a lower-priority thing.

Remember: It's all about YOU, baby. Only YOU can decide where things fall in your personal priority scale.

Where are going with all this?

Simple. Think about your money for a second. What do you do to earn it? No, no, not “I’m an accountant”.

You trade your life for it. Instead of living that time for you, you live it for your employer, right? Those are hours you didn’t spend with your friends or family, painting, knitting, reading, doing the things that you love to do, right?

Our cash is a physical manifestation of our life-energy.

I know. That’s, like, deep and some junk.

We often don’t give it the respect it deserves. We complain about how little of it we have, we whine about how we can’t do this, or that, or the other. We spend it like water on random things at the mall or the supermarket, without stopping for even a second to think about what we’re doing.

We obsess about it, and yet fail to understand just how bottom-line important it really is.

With a clearly defined list of what we really want in hand, and more importantly, in mind, it is far easier to look at each of the thousands of spending opportunities we are confronted by each and every day and compare it to the dream life.

Just because you can get the shiny whatnot, should you? Is it what you really want? Are you trading all your fondest hopes and dreams for some new thing that happened to cross your path when you were bored or tired or down and feeling the need for just a little something to perk you up again?

The most powerful tool we have for managing our lives is not our net worth, our credit scores, who we know or where we live.

It’s our intelligence, our unique human ability to stop before we do something, even something pleasurable, and think about where it will end up. Our ability to say, “Yeah, that would feel good right now, but it is not good for me in the long run”, and close up our wallets and just walk away.

Am I saying I’m OK with not going to Rome next year, I’d rather have the shoes? Suddenly I’m more interested in a cruise this summer than sending my kids to college, ever? Since when is a Blackberry more important than retiring comfortably and early? I need a mocha right now, more than I need financial stability tomorrow?

Stopping to think is what makes the difference. You can make a million bucks a year and still have nothing if you can’t stop and think; you can make a pittance and retire a millionaire if you can.

And that is way more than enough sermonizing for one day. Now that I’ve blistered you with fire and brimstone, go relax and have fun with it. It’s a neat exercise, and sometimes the answers can kind of surprise you.


Anonymous said...

I think that this is brilliant! Someone posted a link to this in a livejournal community I belong to and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Thank you for sharing this, it's something I've needed to stop and think about for a long time and I'm sure I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...


I'm still on my first cup of coffee - I don't think I can handle this much serious thought! But that's exactly what I need to do. I don't know if I'll ever be able to resist the siren song of a white chocolate mocha, though....

Science PhD Mom said...

It is a good exercise...also a way to tap into your creative side. Having goals written down is a powerful way to keep on track towards achieving them!

Anonymous said...

Someone who knows how much I struggle with how much I shop/spend sent me this link, and I thought it contained some very wise thoughts. I have passed it along, as well. =) Thank you for sharing.

Siercia said...

Thank you for this! I've passed in on to a bunch of my friends as well. You frame the ideas of figuring out the trade-offs we need to make to get to where we want to be very well, and although none of it was really *new* to me, you brought it back to the front of my mind, and got me thinking about it again.

Marty52 said...

Excellent exercise for the weekend. I think my hubbie and I will have to have a go at this. Thanks!

Amy Lane said...

Ayup...part time next year... (yeeha...)

Neat exercise! Great post!

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. I hope this one goes in the book.

Rena said...

And that, dear sister, is how why I started a press. Will it make me rich. Yeah right! But am I having a great, fulfilling time doing it? That's a big YES.

Kaviare said...

I've been thinking about this for a while. One thing that I don't even need to stop and think to know it's on my list is 'work less'. Just one day, or even a half a day, less. Just enough to get thigns done without feeling like I'm always rushed or cramped, always tired and irritated.

Because I've been feeling, definitely, that I am trading my life for my money. I am trading that time, that cleaning, shopping, creating time. I am trading that headspace, so that when I *do* get free time, I zone out in front of the computer is a desperate effort to (quick!) relax.

And my job is not particularly hard or busy. But since I'm in admin, it does involve running around after people who should know better, teaching people how to do things like use the photocopier or spell check. Over and over and over.

Also, I don't have a car, and while I don't mind public transport (knitting time!) it does take me longer to get to and from places - shopping takes an extra hour, visiting friends is an exercise in logistics. I like not having a car (and not spending the money on rego, etc), but it's becoming an issue. But, if I *do* get a car, or even a scooter (current plan) then there goes all my yarn budget.

Unfortunately, at my current rate of pay, and living situation (I live alone. It's a luxury I consider well worth paying for)there is no way I can go part time. Now. But I am aware that I can't be in this job too much longer, I'll get bored, I'm already getting restless. It's soemthing to think about when I move on.

Maybe I'll talk to my boss. I'm usually in early, I could maybe negotiate a half-day. She's pretty good about stuff like that, but I'm always afraid to mention it. Female inadequacy syndrome, I guess.

Thanks! You articulated that really nicely, really made me think about *why* I feel so crap about working full time. I'll let you know if I work up the nerve to renegotiate!