The Value of Perspective

We’ve all been raised with the notion that success means bigger, more, moving up. You start with a small house (in my case, 1,400 square feet) and then go to a bigger house (now, 2,400) and keep going bigger, bigger, bigger.

You start with a 13×13 dorm room full of cheap stuff and then inhabit a college apartment and fill that, too. Everything about our culture tells us to acquire, fill, expand.

Except that maybe there is a limit. In fact, I daresay there definitely is.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of carpooling with a variety of other families for birthday parties and soccer games. Their houses, I noticed, were all beautiful – and not large. For the longest time, I’d felt that my next step should definitely be a bigger house, though our house is the perfect size for us – and some rooms we don’t even use all that much.

So why move? Take on bigger bills and the stress of packing up and moving, only to live in a house just slightly bigger with no more rooms than we already have?

Doesn’t make any sense.

So here’s a revolutionary idea: what if we wanted exactly what we have? What if we embraced where we are right now and appreciated all the gifts in our lives – instead of wanting, yearning, wishing for more?

That’s where I’ve landed. I love my neighbors and my house. I love the tall trees that keep us cool in summer. I love the stone on the exterior that matches the fireplace.

So we’re staying. Because what we have is what we need and it’s all good.

That perspective extends to salary, to vacation (we’re driving to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving this year, not flying). 

Opening the windows and slowing down to read the newspaper, the stack of magazines, the books with dust on them – isn’t that what life is all about? Not running, buying, dealing with debt.

Where would our country be if we stayed put and were happy with what we have?

One of my long-time wonderful clients, Woodward Asset Capital, is in the process of writing think-piece blogs about how this is the new normal – not moving up, but staying put. Not buying more than you can afford, but affording the life you’ve built.

What if there is no housing recovery? Or economic recovery? Or other kind of recovery? What if THIS is it? What then?

We must be where we are at this moment and stop looking back or looking forward. Neither exists, you know – the past is gone and the future has yet to be born. All we have is the NOW.

So while we were raised on the notion that you keep moving on up, keep buying and acquiring and growing your salary, growing your bank account, buying the better car, the more expensive shoes, etc., that is not today.

We live in a new era of just-enough or make-do. Look at what you have. Does your budget allow for that purchase? If not, keep walking. It is perfectly OK to live within our means (or – radical notion – beneath!). And in fact, I’d prefer that we all learn to do just that. Perhaps our country – and our world – wouldn’t be in such disarray if we had learned the lesson of enough long ago.

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