Posted by Todd Smith
What are some of the things you enjoy most in life? What do you value most? What kinds of activities are on your list of the most favorite things to do?
I’m guessing that making repairs, paying bills, managing investments, shopping for insurance, filing paperwork, or dealing with problems aren’t anywhere near the top of your list. If you’re like me, they don’t even make the cut.
I like the simple things, like spending time with my family and friends. Going for long walks on the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Relaxing in the majestic, serene Smoky Mountains where there’s no phone or internet service.
Today’s lesson is about recognizing the advantages that a simple life has to offer. And I truly believe that a simple life is about making decisions that result in your ability to spend more time doing the things you enjoy—the activities that bring you happiness and fulfillment.
Accumulation of Possessions
Over the years, I have learned that it is the accumulation of things that prevents us from doing what we enjoy. I know this having lived both kinds of lifestyles—one of material affluence and a simpler, unencumbered life. I can tell you with certainty that a simple life is a better life.
From the earliest days, my goal was to make enough money so that I could invest wisely, retire early, and have plenty of time to devote to the things that bring me the most joy. Ironically, I ended up getting trapped (temporarily) by the very things I purchased to make me happy.
As most people do when they achieve a certain level of financial success, I made a list of things to purchase, including a dream home, new cars, and a boat. I succumbed to the false notion that having bigger and better things—jet skis, properties, and yes, even a Harley Davidson motorcycle—would lead to more happiness.
What I quickly discovered was that when you accumulate more than you need, you pay a much higher price for these things in terms of your time, worry, frustration, and emotional energy.
How to Avoid the Trap
The best way to trap a monkey is to build a cage with an opening just large enough for his hand to fit through so that he can grab a cookie or banana inside the cage. He will grab the item in his fist and will not be able to pull his hand back out of the hole. This makes for a very effective trap because it never occurs to the monkey that he will be free if he will only loosen his grip and let go of the treat in his hand.
While I like to think I’m smarter than a monkey, it took me a while to realize that my responsibilities as a landlord, repairman, and investment manager were taking over my life. In short, taking care of my stuff was consuming me. I wasn’t even able to enjoy what I had. I knew I had to let go of something in order to get out of the trap.
Are you enjoying your favorite things at this time in your life? If you find that you’re too busy to do so, it may be time to prioritize. Do you enjoy a balance between work and your personal life? If not, what could you change about your present situation?
Deciding to let go of things you own and have worked hard to attain isn’t always easy. But usually, it’s letting go of things that frees you to live a fuller and richer life.
Start Living a Better Life
I now think twice before buying anything that has the potential to add complexity to my life. We live in a modest home that meets our needs. It’s easier and less expensive to maintain than any of our previous homes.
My family and I like to travel during the hot summer months, so rather than purchase a vacation property, we rent one whenever and wherever we want. When we check out, we don’t have to worry about a thing.
The concept of renting instead of buying certainly isn’t new, but it used to be thought of as an option for people who didn’t have money to buy things. I say that even if you have money to purchase something, always consider renting as a first option. This is one of the wisest ways to not only live a simple life, but also to live within, not beyond, your means.
When you do have money to spend, ask yourself:
More often than not, you will find that the purchases you’re considering will cost you much more than the price tag leads you to believe. As your income and success grow, I encourage you to keep things simple and put an emphasis on saving and giving, not on spending.
Happiness doesn’t come from the accumulation of things. It comes from being satisfied with who you are and the pleasure you get from the relationships and quality of life you enjoy.
Emotions, Family, Goals, Relationships, Things you were never taught
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.
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