In this article I want to discuss the topic of choosing goals.
I was watching a TV programme last night called ‘How The Other Half Lives’. The programme specifically covered the lives of billionaires living in New York (which apparently has more billionaires than any other city in the world.)
After watching for a while I turned to my wife and said ‘I honestly don’t think that they have anything I really want‘.’
In fact their lifestyle slightly disgusted me because of the excess consumption. It was almost as if they really didn’t know what to spend their money on.
We were introduced to $4m plus ‘sneakers’ covered in diamonds, a picture that cost $3m which was a black ‘V’ on a white background, watches costing $400,000, a city apartment on sale for $54m (reduced from $60m) etc. Most of it looked like worthless, over-valued junk. The owners no longer knew the value of anything in my honest opinion.
One of the wealthy widows lived in an opulent apartment inside an exclusive hotel at a cost of $38,000 per week, excluding room service! The apartment looked somewhat cramped because it was over-filled with ‘priceless’ objects. The main advantage to the apartment was that room service was on call 24/7 and the lady had security. In fact,from the outside, it looked like a gilded cage to me!
The latter profile introduced the idea that having wealth was in fact a huge security problem. In other words, these wealthy people needed to secure themselves from other people that wanted to steal what they had.
Also, it occurred to me that in our relationships with other people, we would never know whether they liked you for who you are or because they wanted something. This suspicion would infect every human interaction, no matter how innocuous.
In fact, having wealth carries it’s own high price – firstly in acquiring it and secondly in keeping and spending it.
Perhaps we are all guilty of over-looking the things that truly have value:
Time – such as the time we have left between now and when we die. Queen Elizabeth I said on her deathbed ‘My kingdom for another moment of time’. If someone said to me, ‘you have a week left to live’ suddenly each minute would have a much higher value than it had before – would we really spend it chasing after more money and more ‘stuff’?
Living in the moment. Most of us live our lives in our head, worrying about things that happened in the past or may happen in the future. This means that we don’t live properly in the present moment and appreciate everything we already have in the current moment. We are looking for life satisfaction at some time in the future through the acquisition of more things, which only provide a short-term pleasure before we soon start looking for the next ‘fix’.
Peace of mind. Without peace of mind, we cannot truly enjoy anything. I don’t believe that the constant desire to acquire more stuff and the effort required in keeping and maintaining it securely from other people can really deliver peace of mind. Too many possessions, beyond the necessities in life, can in fact be a burden (- buying, insuring, storing, organising, maintaining, repairing and selling are all necessary actions that absorb our valuable life.) My wife and I have two garages full of surplus junk – a huge burden to us because we cannot summon up the energy or motivation to deal with it.
Maintaining health – both physical and mental health. Ironically, we usually take our health for granted until one day we have a health problem. Then nothing else in life can be enjoyed until we recover. Whilst it is true that we can purchase better health care if we are wealthy, perhaps we need to ask ourselves to what extent the pursuit of wealth impairs our physical and mental health?
Our connection with nature. I walk my dog for at least two hours every day – in the early morning and early evening. These are my favourite times of day – on many days it feels almost like a meditation as I try to enjoy the present moment in nature. Sometimes, I get lost in wonder, simply watching life around the river or staring vacantly up a tree. (Nothing gives me more delight than walking past a long line of commuter traffic with people staring out of their car windows as I amble slowly past with my dog on my way to the river and the park.)
Doing what I want to do. Simply having the time to do what I want to do – whether its working or simply reading a book or watching a video or gardening or visiting my grandchildren – without someone else dictating what I do with my times is priceless to me. I don’t think that I would have the same time freedom if I was super wealthy, even if I employed others to do what I didn’t want to do, (because I would have to employ them, pay them, monitor their performance, meet with them, lead them, train them, sack them etc etc)
Relationships with others. Often the time and effort required to accumulate huge wealth means that we have less time for loving and caring human relationships. Is this a price that is worth paying? On your death bed, you may not think so…
I think the secret to living is largely embodied in the teaching of Eckhart Tolle and the degree to which we can live our life in the present moment. This enables us to connect more deeply with life – even the simplest of things have increased value and piquancy. It is a way of savouring life as it already is without craving satisfaction at some time in the future or the need for anything more than we already have.
I have a theory that the reason why people are constantly travelling and going on holiday is that they are constantly looking for something more in life – some satisfaction that can be acquired by going somewhere else.
The problem is that wherever they go, they take themselves and their faulty thinking.
It’s true that we can sometimes get a new perspective by changing our circumstances, but often, as soon as we return to every day life, we are back in the same way of thinking and living– worrying about things in the past and what the future holds, always looking for satisfaction at some future indeterminate time and date.
I wonder how many people take the time to sit down and really think through what they want in their life. Even if we do this, it easy to think superficially and put down a lot of stuff like houses, cars, boats etc
The reality is that those that actually achieve goals like this often find very little satisfaction (or at least only short term satisfaction) and quickly need to strive for something more to make sense of their life.
What if personal freedom was the goal? Or helping others?
This means setting a goal that delivers a reasonable quality of life without having to surrender personal freedom of choice.
This might mean that we look at what is essential to living a comfortable life and giving up excessive desires.
For example, having a fast super-car may be struck from our list of goals when we consider that our existing car essentially does the same job i.e. gets us from point A to B albeit with less speed or comfort.
Setting a goal to make a million pounds in our business may be a goal that is abandoned in favour of a business plan to deliver enough to live a simpler, more connected life – a life where we don’t have to give up enjoyment of the present moment in order to strive excessively to achieve a goal that ultimately delivers a superficial benefit without real value.
Projecting forward to our death bed, what is it we would want to say about our life? That you made a huge pile of money and bought a lot of man-made stuff ?
Or… you savoured each moment of your life and connected deeply and gratefully with what you already had?
Perhaps you would want to say that you enriched the lives of everyone you interacted with? That you lived a life that added some real value to their lives?
These are questions that we all need to answer when making our life choices if we are not to lead a life of ‘quiet desperation’. Sifting through choices and selecting what is truly important is time well-employed but you will need to connect more deeply with yourself in order to do this effectively.
I hope that this article will help you to reassess your personal and business goals and to think about what you really want to achieve in your life.
You may even find that you already have everything you need in order to live a happy and fulfilling life! How amazing would that be?