After a rough few days, and a lot of hard decisions I was struck by a thought as I walked up to my friend's house last night. The world often feels like opportunity is hidden behind a wall. It often feels like it's extremely difficult to get past barriers and the things you want are kept from you. What i'm actually realising is that often the capability to achieve the things you want is within most people's reach, its about effort and desire. What I mean by this is that when you have goals, the actual path to them is often not as complicated as it first seems. What holds us back, in my opinion, is that we often crave things that we don't want enough to follow the path to get them. The path is hard, but its not impossible, and this difficulty stops us taking it. For instance many people crave money. They seek a way to have a large bank balance, because they desire the particular life it will bring them. Very often the primary driving goal behind this desire is to be able to quit their jobs and live a life of leisure. The pragmatic path to doing this usually involves many risks. It can necessitate starting a business, going into property development and, crucially, can take many years. What people normally mean is they want that end goal, the money, now. They see successful rich people and assume that it must be luck. Yes, some get lucky but what you find is that those who have gotten rich by pure luck often set out with other goals than simply to be rich. The money comes as a consequence of their other desires and the work they put in to achieve them.
So what am I saying here? That we are all lazy slackers who want the world handed to us on a plate? No not at all. I am saying that humans are largely irrational beings who tend to crave. What these cravings often do is hide the things we actually want or need behind a haze of fleeting desires and a feeling of unfulfilled yearnings. The path to the things we really want can be absolutely gruelling, but because we really want those things that is a path we will gladly walk. At this minute in time I am writing this blog from my bed, still in my pyjamas. There are people in the world currently out climbing mountains and I genuinely could not force myself to get up and do that without breakfast, a shower, coffee etc but that doesn't mean i'm lazy. It means they have a goal and a desire to climb the mountain and it gives them some meaning to their life and their day. Other times I might want to be the mountain climber and they might be blogging in their pjs.
One, particularly insidious, side effect of this craving things we don't really have the motivation to achieve is envy, the green-eyed beast from the pits of our belly. We see someone with something shiny we want, in a better situation than ourselves, living our dream. The problem is again to do with timing and perspective. We have no idea what they have sacrificed for that which we envy. We don't see the path taken, only the end result and the pot at the end of the rainbow. We are viewing the last few pages of a book, without any notion of whether the preceding chapters are something we'd even want to read. Modern consumerism encourages this viewpoint of the world with credit, high interest loans and buy-it-now-to-save deals. Money is being made on people's envy by offering them a way to bypass the path to goals. Its a cognitive trick and people don't even realise they are being taken in. The problem is that all this actually does is place people on the path, but with no reward. The path is now harder, due to the downside associated with all shortcuts, and there is no payoff. In general if you couldn't take the 'path before goal' approach to something you desire, it might be worth questioning whether you even desired it in the first place.
An example from the last week came up when our boiler broke down. We have been living in our new home since last September and since then various parts of the house have started to break and need repair and replacement. It was really starting to get on top of me and the boiler going felt like the last straw. Replacing it with a new boiler will wipe out the last of our savings and leave us once again staring at a blank ledger to begin saving for any home improvements we want to make. My first reaction was to despair. I was pissed off and really not able to handle the situation. I went out for a walk and on my walk my mind cleared a bit. I realised that I could actually cut quite a bit out of my budget each week from things like buying breakfast on the way to work and ordering take-aways etc. These were things I had largely being doing to deal with the pressure I had been feeling, I comfort eat a lot. I thought about it and what I really wanted was to fix the boiler and get the house done up as i'd like for me and my family. The idea of giving up treats from my daily schedule seemed terrible but not when I weighed up how badly I wanted to not be worrying about how we were going to fix up the house. So we sat down and looked through the budget and realised that we can have most of the things we want done in a couple of years, just by cutting back on these extra little tit-bits (starbucks coffee, I am no longer your bitch). Its not like i'm even losing the treats, i'm just bulk buying them, taking them with me and not falling prey to commuter prices for things like a morning roll. The path is difficult, but the end goal is something I truly want so I take it without issue.