I’ve met many people over the years who, when talk turns to making changes that would save them money and/or give them more freedom, start in with “I can’t” and “I won’t” without ever giving any serious consideration to the ideas being discussed. They never step out of their own way long enough to ask, “What if?” they just stick to their narrow view of life as they know it and never dare to imagine that things could be different.
For example, one day my friends and I were discussing moving to a different area, one that is more pedestrian, carpool, and cyclist friendly. We were exploring the idea of ditching our cars and the associated maintenance and gas bills and we knew it could never happen here. (I live in what might as well be the poster child for crappy urban planning. If you walk or ride around here, you’ll do so on a four lane highway with no sidewalks or cyclist lanes. And you won’t do it long. Chances are you’ll be dead within the week with the lunatic drivers. We don’t even have carpool lanes on the interstate.) Anyway, we were all tossing out ideas and places that might be fun to live and we were dreaming big dreams of no cars, better health, and money saved.
That is, until Mr. Joy Killer spoke up with, “It’ll never work. You guys know you’ll never do it. And if you do move, you’ll still drive. You can’t seriously have spent the last hour talking about this!” Oh, but we had. And we’d had fun doing it and some of us have already made the dream real. One member of the group has already gone through with a move, and two others are actively working on lobbying local governments for more bike and pedestrian friendly options. Sadly, I’m still here, but I’m looking at options.
The point is that these people had the courage to see a different life for themselves (and in the case of the lobbyists, for others, as well). They didn’t just say, “I can’t ever save on car expenses because there’s no way I can quit driving.” They looked beyond the life they live every day and said, “I can’t do it here, today, but I can do it somewhere, sometime. What are my options?”
I see this happen all the time. Someone complains about not being able to cut down on housing, taxes, or food expenses and when someone says, “Move to an area with a lower cost of living,” they simply shut down. “Can’t do it,” they say. But they could. It’s a free country and you can move wherever you want. Sure, you’re going to have to apply some thought to the process, do some research, and it’s not likely going to happen tomorrow, but it can happen.
Someone complains about not spending quality time with their kids and someone suggests, “Take them out of some of their activities so they’re home more,” or, “Cut down on your working hours so you’re home more.” And the person responds, “But if I take them out of activities, I’ll upset them and I can’t cut down on my work.” Well, maybe you can’t cut down at your current job, but maybe you could get a different job. And the kids probably won’t be damaged, especially if you can find some great family activity to replace the one you’re removing them from. Maybe you can’t do it today, but you can work toward a better life with your kids.
If you want to get serious about making big changes to save money and improve your quality of life, sometimes you have to do something drastic, and that often starts with having the courage to envision a different way of life for yourself. If you nip every idea in the bud with “can’t” and “won’t” nothing will change. If something is important to you, you have to be willing to find a way to make it work. And if you’re not willing to do that, at least stop trying to kill everyone else’s dreams. Just because you can’t or won’t do something, doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of people out there who would like to try. They have the courage to envision something different, radical, and which goes against the herd mentality. Do you?
(Photo courtesy of Paul Simpson)