Over the years, I’ve struggled with what I’ve been brought up to want and what I actually want. This seems to be a common trend for most children of immigrants. My parents came to the United States with nothing yet managed to do very well for themselves. I’ve been brought up to understand that money doesn’t come easy and it’s important to work hard to be able to afford the nicer things.
Growing up, we had lots of parties with others in the same community. There was an abundant amount of showing off during these parties. My mom took out the Mikasa bowls and Johnny Walker Blue. Looking back, I can understand why she did it. She worked hard to have a good life and wanted to make it known.
I’ve always thought the goal in life is to have enough money to be able to afford what you want. Over the last couple years, I’ve been thinking about what I want. I’ve daydreamed about making it big with a newly thought business idea. I’ve daydreamed about having a bigger house with room for my children to play. I’ve assumed the harder I work, the more money I’d have to spent on things I wanted. More money meant I’d have more to give my children.
It’s taken me several years to realize my thoughts were misplaced. When considering my wants in this life, they aren’t many. I want to live comfortably. I want to contribute, and potentially cover, all of my children’s college expenses. But what I want for myself is to live simply. I want to slowly enjoy the moment. I want to see beautiful views. I want to hike. And hike some more. But most of all, I want to experience. I actually want to live life.
The things I want to experience aren’t expensive. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled a lot while on consulting projects in my 20s. My parents took us on many international trips as children. But aside from travel, I don’t have many expensive goals. We live in a moderate split level home. It’s smaller than the house I grew up in but meshes better with who I am. We have a beautiful backyard that I look forward to enjoying when summer rolls around. While it’s not other people’s dream home, this is certainly the home of my dreams.
On days off, my husband and I usually take the children hiking. If it’s rainy, we’ll do another activity. We’ve hiked in 20-degree weather with the children. We make it a point to get outside and breathe fresh air. There’s something very special about the hike up a mountain. When you get to the top and see an expansive view, you realize how small your view is. You realize how much you can experience. You feel accomplished. There’s a sense of freedom. Hiking is the simplest thing you can do yet one of the most rewarding.
If I won the lottery, I’m not sure how different my life would be. It would be nice to have time to spend the day the way I wanted. If I won enough to quit my job, I’d ensure my finances were covered to adequately take care of my family. With that out of the way, I’d spend my day simply. I’d enjoy good coffee. I would hike. I would learn. I would keep hiking and keep learning and spend my day doing things that made me better as a person.
You’re probably thinking this is bullshit. If she really won the lottery, she’d run out and buy jewelry or upgrade her home. You may be right. Maybe I would. I do know my overall plan in life isn’t to have material things. I want time. I want time to experience more.
If money can buy me simplicity, I’m all in. But what I really want is time. I want time to experience new things. I want time to learn.
There’s a shift that occurs when you come to this realization.
1. You are less stressed.
Early on in my career, I chased salary and title. I wanted to make six figures by 30. I wanted to be Director by 35. By focusing on what I want in life, I’m less stressed. My job now pays my bills and it’s up to me to determine how I spend it. I no longer want increased salary or title because I’ve realized that comes with additional responsibility. Additional responsibility will result in more time. That is time that I’d rather spend on experience.
2. You feel free.
I don’t feel consumed by the rat race anymore. Yes, I have a day job and have to work in order to get paid but I don’t feel like I need to compete. I am thankful for my job and the opportunity to work with good people. I am thankful to have balance and the ability to enjoy my personal time. It’s a very freeing feeling.
3. You enjoy what you have.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten rid of things that don’t bring me joy. I’ve removed so much clutter from my home. As I continue to remove the unnecessary items from my life, I’m valuing what I have more. If I do end up purchasing an item, I discard a similar item. By doing this, I am keeping my possessions minimal.
4. You spend less.
Realizing that you’d rather spend your time on experiences means you question what you purchase. I don’t want to buy something I will eventually throw away. I’d rather save money to take my family on a trip. I’d rather save money to buy another piece of property that we can enjoy.
5. You value experiences more.
With the perspective that money isn’t responsible for your happiness, you value experiences more. I don’t need a lavish vacation to make life worth living. I’d rather spend less and experience more. A good example of this is an extremely low budget trip my husband and I took to South Dakota. It was one of my favorite trips to date and the entire trip cost about $1,500 (with flights). We hiked and went sightseeing. We stayed in a low budget hotel and we enjoyed nice dinners.
If you’re anything like me, try shifting your focus to what you truly want and revisit your actions to see if they match. If you want a simple life with time to explore but find yourself spending to keep up with the Jones’, your actions aren’t matching your values. Stay true to yourself and what you want out of life, and you’ll be surprised how freeing it is.