It’s a perception that’s become all-pervasive. The perception is you’re not an okay person in America if you don’t have certain possessions. You’re doomed to unhappiness if you don’t have the right car, the right cell phone, the newest iPad or the coolest skinny jeans – oh, and the body to go with them.
Studies for eons now say over and over true happiness isn’t linked to money. True happiness isn’t linked to possessions. True happiness is linked to making a decision to be happy and creating a life for yourself that supports that happiness.
Even if it’s not easy – we still have a better opportunity to create the life we truly want here in the US than pretty much anywhere else. What makes it difficult is our expectations. If you have a belief that to be happy or to be acceptable to your families and friends you gotta have all these “things and stuff” – it dangles that creative, authentic, happy life further and further out in front of you like a carrot. Yet we can all enjoy life soooooo much more when we connect with what we really care about, what truly matters and go after that.
If you’re paying a big mortgage and the loan on a fancy-schmancy car or SUV, chances are you’re shelling out a couple thousand smackers a month just to maintain that status. You haven’t even turned the lights on yet or paid for insurance. Acquiring “things and stuff” to fill that house can be another huge drain that keeps you apart from living a life of meaning and purpose. Instead of living a life of doing what you’re passionate it’s a life of keeping up with the payments for all your “things and stuff.” The American dream of wealth can turn into a nightmare of chasing dollars to keep up.
“Things and stuff” don’t have meaning. They’re just “things and stuff.” They don’t have the ability to love you or give you anything in return. The marketing gurus in Madison Avenue ad agencies give them a meaning of status or okayness – and hope you buy into their notion of what creates happiness. Because advertising is everywhere we turn – we see it over and over. Subtly, imperceptibly we buy into it and gradually convince ourselves it’s our idea in the first place – not the advertising.
Last weekend I cleaned out my closet. I threw away two pairs of shoes, got rid of a sweater and a few other items. Not too bad. I know I have room for another pair of shoes now. *wink* One thing I learned from husband Ernie (he’s originally from India) is don’t buy something new unless you’re willing to get rid of something old. As a result, you must make a decision about what you’ll get rid of – which can be a bigger choice then what you’ll buy and add to your current stash of “things and stuff.”
Some people say, “Well, I’ll just make more money so I can afford more stuff.” Then you’re looking for faster and faster ways to create dollars rather than happiness so you can afford more stuff. Which at first gives people the illusion of thinking you’re “happy” (at least in the moment) rather than figuring out what truly makes you happy and do that instead.
I’ll never forget a woman I mentored a few years ago who said, “I want to make so much money that I can spend whatever I want and my husband won’t bug me about it.”
I replied, “What you’re really saying is you want an excuse to be financially irresponsible.” She was stunned I would go there, but I felt she needed to get her head out of the sand . There’s a certain amount of money that generally goes with certain jobs or businesses. Unless you do something drastically different, well, that’s the amount of money you have coming in. (Please click here now if you want to change you income picture with your current business.)
If you can buck the tide of so many businesses and people who say, “You need to buy more things and stuff to create a certain image,” there are amazing things you can do with the money left over. Start the business or charitable organization you’ve always wanted. Travel more. Save for your child’s education – or go back to school yourself. Learn to paint, play tennis or take up Tai Chi. Or, spend that $2,000 (plus airfare) for a week at that yoga retreat.
Think carefully about your purchases. Are they getting you closer to what you want to create in your life? Or, are they creating an excuse or a diversion for you so it becomes impossible to take substantial steps toward your dream? Step away from the expectations of creating an image that’s not your authentic self, anyway. Consider who you truly want to be and create THAT image and reality instead.
You may be scratching your head saying, “NEVER.” That’s a typical holiday in other highly-developed nations like Europe.
If you think the issue is just our current economic woes, it’s not. Twenty years ago, a two week vacation for Americans was average. In the last decade we squeezed down to mini-vacations. Long weekends became the trend.
Lately, we’ve ushered in even shorter vacations – the staycation. No travel, just spend a night or two at a local hotel to kick back for 24 to 48 hours before jumping back into the fray. Oh, and bring your laptop and your cell phone along.
Do you want a new life? Or, a bigger, more upscale American Dream?
I used to work with mega-bestselling author Robert Allen. He’s the original “Nothing Down” real estate investing guru. When people paid thousands to join his “Enlightened Wealth” program and learn about marketing they got me. The objective of the program was teaching people to create residual income.
Back in the day, I attended many Robert Allen seminars. People excited to break through and create wealth showed up. Some even succeeded.
Over the years I asked attendees what they wanted to create. Many had great ideas for charitable organizations to help others they wanted to develop. That was the enlightened part.
Most wanted a bigger, more luxurious version of The American Dream. Which is okay, but not an excellent adventure in my book.
Few wanted to change their day-to-day existence. Creating wealth requires shifting brain grooves, getting out of your comfort zone and taking certain action steps.
Building an excellent adventure is about shifting life grooves. Shifting life grooves is about taking action and re-designing your lifestyle. Maybe you get up at the same time of day. You still eat three meals a day (loosely!) and work in time for exercise. You’re still married to the same person (or not!) and have the same kids. However, you may not live in the same house, or, a house at all.
You could be like Mark, I wrote about him earlier this week, and wander around in an RV for awhile. You might:
• Live in an apartment in Athens for a few months
• Take lessons and learn to speak Greek
• Set up an import/export website selling local items
• Come home for Thanksgiving and Christmas
• Live in a beach condo with wifi in Costa Rica after the holidays
• Keep your import/export business growing online
• Discover the wonders of cooking Costa Rican cuisine
The American Dream doesn’t usually allow these choices. Because, “the dream” for most people means you’re paying so much for the house, cars and everything that goes with it – your flexibility to shift life grooves is hampered.
The possibilities are endless. Open your mind and your heart to the idea your life can truly look however you want. Now, you’re getting the hang of living your life as an excellent adventure.
Doris appears like a perfect politician’s wife. She’s lovely, tall and dresses well. In her 50s, her blue eyes still sparkle. My perception of Doris shifted when at my Excellent Adventure get-together at Starbucks this week, she whispered, “The biggest obstacle is deciding I deserve to live an excellent adventure.”
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.
Our American work ethic is about working hard. Then, in your 60s you retire. The world has changed. It’s not unusual for people to work in their 70s now. We work harder, more hours and take less vacation time just to keep our heads above water.
We get caught up in maintaining the trappings of success. It’s pounded into our heads. Life should look a certain way. It’s not enough to be presentable and polite. Now we must have “a personal brand.” We miss out on living our excellent adventure because we’re too busy paying for everything.
The new “American Dream” is to live our passion – which can include a lot of financial ups and downs. However, we’re still supposed to maintain all the outer trappings. It also includes the latest iPad, smartphone and other gadgets. Maintaining that “look” or “brand” costs us the freedom to live our Excellent Adventure. We are trapped by our stuff and the expectation that we must keep buying more, even newer stuff.
Doris and her husband own a home in Las Vegas and another in New Mexico. Everything about them screams success. Inside, they both want something different. With their current lifestyle they can’t afford it. So, Doris wonders if she deserves it. I believe she does. If she and her husband are willing to make changes they’ll get there faster.
Consider the possibilities: trade down from a home with a $2,000 monthly mortgage and buy a condo with an $800 mortgage. That’s $1,200 per month in independence. Trade in the fancy SUV for more modest wheels and you free up money spent on payments, insurance and gasoline. Follow the rule you don’t buy something new unless you replace something old. You instantly have more money to live your excellent adventure and less clutter to organize. Life becomes streamlined.
You can live more authentically which truly is your personal brand.