Categories: goals, values, personal finance
“Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.”
Wow, I’m not even sure how to interpret that quote. Walt Whitman would fit in very well with the “simplicity-frugal movement” of today. Whitman’s Walden Pond inspired me to remember to appreciate the simplest pleasures in life. His writing exudes self possession, contentment, and the joy of living.
And isn’t that what we all really want?
A friend of mine, Melody (not her real name) really really wants a Rolex watch. I think they cost about $10,000. (I’m not sure because I have never priced one and don’t want to spend my time checking!) In fact, that is one of her important GOALS. I am not sure why she wants one but if I had to guess, I assume she equates owning a Rolex with wealth, status, and prestige.
Now, as far as I know, most watches today keep accurate time. Not only that, but there are some beauties for less than $10,000. In fact, give me $50.00 and I bet I can find a stylish and serviceable watch. On the matter of wealth, status, and prestige, there is certainly nothing fundamentally wrong with those values.
Then there is another perspective on this “watch topic.” I’ve noticed that my daughter and her friends eschew the watch for the phone. In fact, they seem to have no use for a watch at all (as evidenced by the one my husband and I bought her which is sitting in her bureau drawer). When we asked her why she doesn’t wear it, she responded with the practical retort, “What do I need a watch for, my phone has the time.”
So, on one end of the spectrum is Melody, a woman of middle income means dreaming of owning a Rolex, and on the other end, my daughter (and many of her post 1980-born cohorts) relinquishing the watch to the “antique” bin.
Well, who really cares? If Melody wants a Rolex, it certainly isn’t any of my business.
And each of us has the right to choose our own goals and values.
The more things you want, the more difficult it is to fulfill those wants.
If you are unsatisfied with what you have, and always want more, you won’t be very content.
So what is the solution, as there is usually SOMETHING that most of us want?
In life and money, if you are constantly striving and desiring more and more, YOU FEEL DISSATISFIED with what you already have. You divert attention from APPRECIATING WHAT YOU HAVE to focusing on what you LACK.
Jean Chatzky, in her book The Difference, offers a wonderful strategy for upping your happiness:
Compare yourself with those who have LESS THAN YOU DO,
not those who have more.
If Melody compares herself with celebrities, she feels poor and inadequate. She spends a lot of her mental resources striving for a Rolex watch which costs 30% of her annual income.
This anecdote DOES NOT suggest that there are good goals and bad goals, or that one should not have any goals.
Here is the takeaway.
Goals in life are important and need to be self determined. The best way to make goals and values WORK in your life and propel you forward is this:
- Make some goals that are reasonable and fit in with your values.
- As you work towards your goals ENJOY THE PROCESS. Pay attention to the path along the way; the process of living and working.
You may find that the JOURNEY is just as much fun as actually reaching the goal.
Spend some time with yourself, like Walt Whitman did. Think about what’s really important to you. Set some steps to get what you want. And for whatever reason, if you value having a Rolex and think it will give you pleasure, pick one up and find out for yourself. But along the way to saving and earning the cash to buy that Rolex, be sure and commit yourself to appreciating every step along the way.
Get a notebook and label it: “(your name) Personal Finance” and store it by the computer. Use it for all of your personal finance goals, thoughts, activities, and plans.
- Starting now, really focus on what you are doing. Pay attention. Don’t just go through the motions.
- Spend 15 minutes alone with yourself. Write some financial, personal, & professional goals.
Let me know if focusing on what you are doing increases your contentment.