15 Mar 2014
Bill and I spend a lot of time discussing our long-term goals and how we might better achieve them. Our goals interlock and support each other: you can’t be prepared for disaster if you are up to your ears in debt. Weather stripping and insulating your house leads to less money spent, less burden on the environment, and fewer dollars sent overseas to terrorists. The more things we learn to do, the more we reskill, the more self-sufficient we become. This saves us money which we apply toward financial independence.Many of the things we do (or try to do) are those things that everyone is supposed to do and so few of us actually accomplish. It seems that our lives get in the way of all those shoulds. But doing the shoulds can greatly improve our lives and make us more resilient in the face of problems. There is nothing on this list that you don’t already know. The difficult question is why aren’t you doing them? Why aren’t you living the values you claim are important to you?
How does it harm you to have a will? Basic paperwork stored safely such as marriage and birth certificates? To have a week’s worth of food (that you and your family will actually eat) stored in your pantry at all times? A three-day minimum of stored water at a gallon per person per day? Are you hurt by having good relationships with your neighbors? Does voting harm you? Does it damage you to participate with your local community on some level, even just being a safe and attentive driver and keeping your sidewalks shoveled of snow and clearing the storm drain in front of your house of debris? How does it harm you to be debt free? To have some money in the bank, emergency savings and a retirement fund? To exercise every day? To admit you have some responsibility for your health? To watch your diet and floss your teeth every day? Does it hurt you to learn new things and develop new skills instead of playing endless rounds of solitaire? Is it damaging to cut back on the booze and tobacco and gambling and pornography and drug abuse? How does it harm you to say no to things you can’t afford? Are you really damaged by being able to clearly distinguish between wants and needs?
Does anything in the list above make your life and existence worse off? Or do they make it easier? Being debt-free and having money in the bank make all kinds of problems easier. Having food and water in the pantry mean you don’t have to fight the crowds at the grocery store when a blizzard is forecast. A little cash on hand means not having to deal with empty ATMs during an emergency. A will means your money goes where you think it should and not according to what the state decrees. Daily oral hygiene (which is cheap!) can save you thousands of dollars down the road on expensive, painful tooth reconstruction. Maybe even enough to pay for a trip to Disney World. That is how much I spent because I didn’t get six-month checkups for years and wouldn’t floss. How long would flossing daily have taken? Not as much time as I spent in Dr. Larson’s chair having him repair the damage.
Our individual choices, hour by hour and day by day, build up over a lifetime. We try hard to make our day-to-day choices match up with our long-range goals. Some days are considerably more successful than others; such as days when a big project is finally finished. Other days, well, they are treading water, maintenance, and putting out fires. But maintenance has to be done every day to keep small irritations from becoming big problems. Something as basic as washing dishes every day! If you don’t do this, you end up eating out of take-out containers while sitting in a kitchen filled with every single dish you own, dirty and festering. Laundry is the same way. You can put off vacuuming for two weeks. Two weeks without laundry leads to no clean clothes at all and a mountain of wash, dirty and festering.
Mindfulness and awareness is the key. Is what I am going to do today in accordance with my goals, both short and long-term? Does it meet my values? Will I be better off or worse off? And, if this action or omission is going to make things worse, then why am I doing it? Easy to say and hard to do. We struggle with it every day.
Next Week: Building Your Home Library