So then. A crazy blogger has bequeathed you twenty million dollars, under the condition that you spend half on your self and half on other people. You've made a list of everything you plan to do. Then you prioritized it, so you've got your items in order.
So now here's what you do. Strike off any items in the top five that are unrealistic—pie-in-the-sky, over the top. For instance, that gold-plated bathtub.
Then count off the top ten remaining items and strike off anything below them in your list.
Now comes the fun part.
Looking at the list you have left—ten things for you, ten for others—how many are things you could do with the resources you have right now?
The central insight is this: Some of the things most of us dream of doing if we got a windfall, we can actually do without one.
In bringing daydreams down to reality, you do have to adapt. You might need to be creative. For instance, if your list said, "Buy 100 antique motorcycles!" think hard—can you reasonably afford to buy one antique motorcycle within the next, say, three years? Could you find any other way to satisfy that ambition? Would a small collection of model motorcycles work, or is there a way you could find to ride antique motorcycles? You could create a life-list, like a bird-watcher. If your list said "Buy a brand new house for ten lucky poor families in town," how about volunteering your carpentry skills to Habitat for Humanity? Maybe you can't build a whole house for a disadvantaged person, but you could help shingle a roof.
Or you could modify the 100 motocycles item to, "Be happy with the eight antique motorcycles I already have." :-)
The list, of course, is only a way to get a handle on your heart's desires—what you would do if you could. Often we carry these "if only" plans and ideas around in our heads and our hearts. If only I could, I'd set up a trust fund for dear ------. If only I could, I'd have eight dogs. If only I could, I'd travel to Italy just to see an opera.
But you only have one life. Gotta live. Many times, we can do some version of what we desire to do, if we're willing to bring it up out of the level of daydream and into conscious reality and decide if it's really something we care about.
Daydreams do tend to be extravagant. But the opposite is true too. I remember hearing an $80 million lottery winner interviewed on the radio. Naturally he was asked what he planned to do with the money, and he said he was going to buy a new car and pay off all his bills. Driving in the car, listening, I laughed and said out loud, "gotta dream bigger, dude." The point being, a lot of the things we want to do are actually within our power to do. Is "pay all my bills" on your list of things you'd do? Because you can do that, most probably. Take stock of where you stand, write everything down, come up with a plan, cut your expenses. Hire two hours of an accountant's time to go over everything and come up with a strategy that will work for you. If you want to pay off all your bills, you can get there. (Good goal, too, by the way.)
If your list said "travel the world!" Well, think hard. Where do you really want to go, and can you afford that if you save up for it? Many people can do some version of some of their daydreams. For instance, I had always wanted to own a BMW. But when I really looked at it, BMWs have changed so much that they're no longer what I once liked. So I bought a used Miata for three years. Enjoyed the hell out of it, then sold it on. So now I've done that...my "smallened" version of my lottery daydream.
Some things just aren't practical or reasonable without actually getting a windfall. For instance, my list said "Pay off both my brothers' mortgages, and pay for college for [the one remaining niece who hasn't been to college yet]." Well, that doesn't make any sense with my current resources—both my brothers' families make more money than I do and they're doing fine on their own. But on the other hand, a daydream I had a number of years back was to give $50,000 or $100,000 to the medical clinic for uninsured people in my former hometown. Not being able to do that, I gave the clinic $1,500 over five years, which was all I could afford. That's not flashy. But I'll bet they didn't mind getting it, and it probably did a bit of good for someone.
Part of the beauty of the exercise, too, is that it allows you to retire some of your daydreams. Or get comfortable with the idea that it's just a daydream and that's all it's ever going to be. That means no Gulfstream G280 for me. But then, when I really think about it, I go whole years without ever setting foot on a plane, and there actually aren't very many places I really want to fly to!
I'll give you one little hint to think about as you process your own list to come up with ideas. Happiness research is pretty clear that spending money on experiences usually has a bigger payoff in happiness than spending money on possessions. As I always say, I'm just sayin'.
And many times, a possession is intended to be an experience...if you follow through. For instance, that trumpet you've always had a hankering to buy—it's kinda nice as just a possession, sitting up on the mantlepiece looking pretty, but if you actually go through the process of learning to play it, then it's an experience. Books perfectly embody this idea. If you buy a nice book, it's a possession. But if you read it, that's an experience.
I hate to bring this back on topic—it's off-topic Sunday, after all—but this pertains to cameras. It's how you engage with using them that takes them from "possession" to "experience." You already know that, I'm sure. Think of the camera you bought that was the biggest waste of money—the expensive one you hardly ever used. Then think of the camera you really bonded with, used for years, and got the most out of. Which one brought you more happiness? So in massaging your list, favor experiences over possessions.
Anyway, good luck with your list. I hope you find a few daydreams to give up, a few to act on, and that acting on those few brings you some happiness. And thanks to Hal Shook and his late wife Marilyn. For the exercise. I'm sure I've modified it according to my own thoughts, but then, you can do the same. I only knew the two of them for four days on a retreat in the Shenandoah Mountains way back in the 1980s. But they left a lasting impression on me. Obviously!
My funniest memory of that experience also involves a list. Hal told of how he was left reeling by the death of his first wife. He said he was depressed for two years. Then he woke up one morning determined to find a new wife. So he wrote down everything he was looking for in a woman. He read the actual list to us. Which was hilarious, because right beside him sat Marilyn, beaming, and every item on Hal's list described her to a T—her upbeat attitude, the way she wore her hair, right down to her preference of wearing big scarfs. Marilyn's obituary said she and Hal "had what can only be described as a 43-year honeymoon."
Tomorrow, I hope, an account of my [awesome/brilliant] visit to gearhead paradise.
(Thanks to the Shooks and Life Management Services)
"Open Mike" is the off-topic Editorial page of TOP, when Yr. Hmbl. Ed. lets himself off the leash to talk about another of his varied interests. It appears only, but not always, on Sunday.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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