Life is an illusion, we are always chasing the next thing, hoping for permanent happiness. – Buddha
Thinking about this quote can apply to so many aspects of our lives. The next purchase, the next vacation, the next dinner out, the next drink when I already had 2, the next new piece of electronics. Do any of these next things permanently make us happy? They don’t unfortunately it is part of the illusion.
Retail therapy: Chasing the next thing might be the reason I have 30 golf shirts in the closet. Did I need 30? Of course not, but I saw the new one and it was a different pattern and at the time it made me happy to buy it. Does it make me happy hanging in the closet? No, but it did momentarily when I bought it. Shopping is an event that might make us happy while we are actually shopping. It is the thrill of the hunt, finding the bargain adding to a collection. Unfortunately, it some times ends in up being returned, or worn once, or given away 2 years after the purchase.
Better use of the stuff you already have: On the opposite side of finding and buying the next new things, I have been working to better organize the things have. By doing so it helps me understand what I already have so I don’t buy more, to give away things I no longer use, and to appreciate the blessings and abundance that he have. I am proud to wear an old dress shirt on Saturday. The collar may be worn, but it is perfect the weekend.
Cost per use: I like to think of purchases in a cost per use measurement. When I bought my new bike 3 years ago the bike seemed pricey. It was 3 times as much as the bike I bought when I was in my 20s, yet still very inexpensive relative to what people spend on bikes. I used a pair of walking shoes so much that they have holes in them. Things like that give me a bit of satisfaction.
Think about it, if I never used the bike it would have been a very expensive purchase. However, this summer I probably road my bike 40 times, and the prior summer maybe 25. If I take the cost of the bike and divide it by the number of uses and the fact that I keep my bikes a long time, the last bike I bought about 25 years ago, the cost per use goes down dramatically the more you use it. Additionally, I really enjoy bike riding, I enjoy the views, the exercise and how good I feel afterwards. Did you ever get a really expensive hotel room on vacation and you only end up sleeping in the room? You might have had just as much fun on vacation in a less expensive room. The take away is, if you bought it, did you use it? Did you enjoy it, did you wear it, did you cook with it? If not, maybe you don’t need to buy more until you better use what you have. It is a proud moment for me when I wear something out.
Things you never used: Do you have a few things you never used, a shirt you gave away with the tags still on it, a gift certificate you bought that expired before you could use it, food you never ate, gadgets you never took out of the box. They tie back to the illusion, we thought these things would make us happy when we bought them. They can provide some enjoyment and happiness if we use them. They don’t if we never do. Take a look in that closet, the drawer, the garage, what are things that are under used or never used. Pull them out and use them. Just knowing that you used them once can provide a level of satisfaction. It’s like board games, the old fashion one, you pull them out and play them and I wonder why don’t we do this more. It is great family time, friends time and you look forward to the next time you play them.
Being there, getting there Thinking about vacations, dinners out, a party, or going to a movie. Specific events, some simple, some more complicated and possibly expensive. Have you ever been on a vacation and it ends up raining a lot. It can be a real downer. You could sit in the room waiting for the rain to stop and getting worked up about how this sucks that it is raining on your vacation? You could also buy an umbrella and a rain jacket and go see or do what you planned to do that day anyway. Unfortunately, external events, weather, and other things can ruin your trip, experience or event, if you let them.
27 rainy days in Germany: I had an opportunity to go to Germany with my family for a month. I was working and my family stayed at the in town and and the hotel during the day. We did 3 day weekends to give us extra time to do site seeing. Unfortunately, during the course of the month it rained 27 days out of 30. The first Saturday we were there we decided to stay in because it was raining. The next day it was raining again, but we decided to go anyway to see Burg Eltz castle in Koblenz Germany area, that was our list of sites to see.
I was amazed at the number of people going to see the castle during the rain. I will never forget the image of all the visitors walking down the hill with their colorful umbrellas going to and coming from the castle that we were visiting. It reminds me of my father in law who use to take us fishing on the weekends in the summer. It could be raining at 6 am and he would still go out and fish. Some days we would come in early if the conditions were terrible, other days it turned beautiful and he always would say, “You don’t know what it will be like until you get there”.
Just last weekend we had a very rainy Saturday, my wife and I had a gift certificate for The Townhouse in Birmingham, MI. It was not ideal conditions to go out, you needed a rain coat and an umbrella, however, it turned out to be a really cool day to do this. The restaurant was awesome, a little tiny place, with great food, it felt like we were in a cafe somewhere in Europe. The sound and look of the rain outside, the people walking on the side walks. It was amazing.
The point is we don’t need to always chase the next thing. We can pull something out of the freezer and have that for dinner. Grab that book on the shelf and read it, you bought it. If you are on for what ever moment life hands you, you can learn from it, you can enjoy it.