"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln
We live in a society that constantly reminds us to save for the future, be financially responsible, and prepare for the unknown.
We are told to stash away our hard-earned money, to save the finest china for special occasions, and to preserve the best wine for later.
And if you've been following my writings or listening to my podcast you'll know I often talk about the importance of delayed gratification.
You know how tempting it is to instantly indulge in our desires, right?
But here's the kicker - holding off on those immediate rewards can bring about even greater benefits in the long run.
First off, it teaches us patience and self-control.
Learning to manage our urges helps us in various areas of life, be it sticking to a diet, maintaining a budget, or focusing on long-term asset growth through property investment.
Plus, it adds a layer of appreciation to our achievements.
When we've waited and worked hard for something, we often value it more.
I’ve found that we make resolutions every year as the calendar flips from December to January.
They often involve denying ourselves immediate pleasures for the sake of some future benefit: We vow to eat healthier, exercise more, save money, or quit bad habits.
But what if our most transformative resolution was to do the opposite?
What if we decided to indulge in life's pleasures now, instead of postponing them for an unspecified future?
The most enlightening New Year’s resolution I ever heard was to start relishing all the most cherished things, instead of saving every small pleasure for a nebulous future.
This paradigm shift is not about reckless spending or squandering resources, but about releasing the mentality of scarcity and embracing the joy of the present.
I embraced that and began drinking the good wine we saved for a future occasion, started burning the good candles and wearing the expensive aftershave.
It's easy to recognize the archetype of the person who is too loose with money.
We see them as reckless, spending beyond their means, and accumulating debt.
However, there is a less recognized, but equally limiting archetype: the person who isn't living their best life because they aren't spending enough.
That’s just good financial discipline, right?
Well, not necessarily.
While having a healthy savings account is certainly better than drowning in debt, being overly frugal can also be problematic.
It's not about money per se, but about denying ourselves pleasures and experiences that we can comfortably afford.
Often, this behaviour stems from a place of fear and scarcity—a belief that there isn't enough now and there won't be enough in the future.
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This behaviour goes beyond finances.
It permeates our approach to all pleasant things and experiences.
Psychologists refer to it as "deferred happiness syndrome" – the tendency to put off doing the things that make us happy until a later date.
But that later date never comes and so we never get around to being happy.
This tendency is deeply ingrained in our evolutionary biology.
The organisms that over-prepared and deferred immediate pleasure were the ones that survived.
However, in our modern world, this instinctive drive can lead us to over-save, over-hoard, and miss out on the joy of the present.
However, it's crucial to remember that while survival is important, it is not the only goal of life.
We must make time for happiness today because it is both an end in itself and a vital source of nourishment. It's what makes life truly worth living.
Not only is happiness an end in itself, but it also nourishes us in profound ways.
It adds colour to our lives, fuels our creativity, and enhances our resilience.
So, instead of deferring our happiness, it’s worth asking ourselves:
How can I bring more joy into my life right now, in a way that aligns with my longer-term financial goals?
Of course, I'm not advocating for reckless spending or for squandering your savings in a single spree.
I believe it's important to spend less than you earn, save the balance and eventually invest your money.
And I understand the importance of delayed gratification.
If you do the easy things now you'll have a more difficult life later. If do the hard things now you'll have an easier life later.
But it is worth reflecting on the thought are you deferring your happiness too much?
If the answer is yes, how can you invite more joy into your life right now, in a way that aligns with your long-term financial goals?
Maybe it's using the good bath crystals you've been saving for a special occasion, breaking open the fresh notebook you've kept pristine, or sipping the nice bottle of wine you've been storing.
These small indulgences can serve as potent reminders that life is happening right now, not in some distant future.
Life is not a rehearsal—it is happening right now, and it's up to us to make the most of it.
I know this is saying good things come to those who wait, but in my mind, it's all about balance.
So let's strive to live fully, savouring each moment, because as the saying goes, "Life is for the living."