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How to Have Everything You Want

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Problem: Everyone says you can’t get everything you want from life, and they’re probably right.

Solution: Stop trying to “get” and focus on a few other worthy pursuits, and you may end up with everything you want anyway.

***

Every once in awhile, I’ll tell someone about the many things I’d like to do in my life. For instance, I’ve really enjoyed sharing my mountain climbing and marathon running plans with other travelers as I work my way up Africa and through Europe.  I admit it can come off a bit outrageous at times, but I’m still excited to be doing these things.

Though I rarely encounter it on the road, one of the usual responses in conversation to something like this is, “Well, you can’t have everything you want in life.” It’s not meant maliciously; it’s only a figure of speech to make you feel better about not getting around to everything you might want.

Danger: time to start ignoring.

Well, I don’t really like being told I can’t have everything I want. I also don’t like feeling like I can’t have anything I want. Reading that might make it sound like I have some sense of entitlement, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’d wager that you don’t enjoy the thought of not being able to have something you really want, either. I don’t think it’s a pleasant feeling for anyone.

So, I’ve just decided that I’m going to go ahead and have everything I want from life. Notice I didn’t say “get.” No, I already have it. I already have everything I need to enjoy the perfect life, all I need to do now is realize it.

There are an infinite number of experiences to be had in life; all I have to do is pick the ones I want the most, and go after them. Of course, the same is true for you, as well. The trick is in realizing that all the things you want are really just objects that you tie to an experience, or a way that you want to feel. There are a lot of ways that you can feel successful without buying a mansion, having seven TVs, or driving a sports car. There are a lot of ways to feel loved without buying expensive gifts for people, having a trophy wife (or husband), or trying to make friends you don’t actually care about.

The trick isn’t to learn to stop wanting more, but to learn to start wanting more of the right things.

It’s okay to want more out of life, but if you’re always looking for more things, you might have a hard time getting them all. Once you do, you’re going to want even more.

What if, instead, you realized what you really wanted was more experiences instead of things? What if you were able to disconnect how you want to feel from the TVs, cars, houses, and toys that are supposed to help you feel that way?

Then the options are limitless, aren’t they? If you decide how you’re supposed to feel and you allow yourself to decide what things will make you feel that way, then the whole entire world can be yours.

Not everyone’s answer can or will be the same, but that’s where the beauty lies. If you want to get started for yourself, here are some of the things that have helped me start wanting more of  my own “right things.”

  • Focus less on material things and more on experiences. My life has changed dramatically since I stopped trying to have more things and started trying to do more things. If you really want, you can get creative and acquire just about anything you set your mind on, but I’ve found it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable to get all the experiences I want out of life instead of all the miscellaneous things that I used to think I wanted.
  • Record everything you own. How many things do you have? How many of them do you actually use? How did you feel years ago when you only had half of those things? How do you feel now? For me, the answer to that last question was “about the same.” A complete eye opener. The fewer things I have, the more important each thing is to me. I don’t have the energy in my life to care for 500 different objects. Only 100 of them are actually important to me, but the other 400 create a lot of noise. By getting rid of those 400 things, I have far more attention to give to what I actually care about. That’s simple math. Keep in mind, though, that I’m not a minimalist, and you don’t have to be one either.
  • Focus on a passion and throw away everything that doesn’t fit it. There’s a lot of talk about how important a balanced life is, but I’ve decided that a balanced life doesn’t work very well for me. Rather than trying to keep every part of my life “fine” I prefer to pick one part and make it amazing, knowing that I can do that while still maintaining enough balance elsewhere in life. These focuses shift over time, but the point is that, whatever part of my life I’m working on, I’m incredibly happy about it.
  • Find gratitude in what you already have. Do you have a home that keeps rain, snow, and the sun off of your back? When you go to the sink, does clean, drinkable water come out of it? Are you reading this article from your own computer with an Internet connection you can afford to pay for? Maybe you even own a car that takes you places you want or need to go? I can answer yes to all of those, so congratulations to me; I’m in about the top 5% of the entire world. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in worrying about what I have and how to get more of it, and realizing just how much I already have is the fastest way I know to get those feelings in check.

I don’t want to stop dreaming about the future and what it could hold for me, but I also don’t ever want to forget how good I already have it. That’s a balance I don’t mind keeping, and the longer I hold it, the more I feel like I have everything I want.

So what about you? Do you have everything you want?

~~~~~

P.S. Hello from Nairobi, Kenya. I’m in transit to Warsaw, Poland right now for a bit of relaxation before heading to Russia to climb another mountain, so I’ll have to ask  your forgiveness in my slowness responding to comments.

Image by: Crashmaster007

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What smart people are saying about this...

  1. I’ve been more focused on experiences and less focused on things for about a year now. That shift in focus is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    • It’s a pretty small shift, but it can make an enormous difference, as you’ve noticed. I’ve had the same result.

  2. Whenever I tell people that I don’t like my corporate job and I know I can do better in life, they always say “yeah, but everyone hates their job”, and write me off as entitled for wanting to feel passionate about what I do. I’m currently planning my own epic adventure (bicycling from Vancouver, BC to Los Angeles, CA) and am making a lot of changes in my life, along with launching a new business. Thanks for the continued inspiration!

    • Good luck with the big goals, Ethan. You’re the only one that needs to “get it,” though it certainly helps if you have a few people on your side. I think you’re in good company here. :)

      I don’t know what route you’re taking on your ride, but if you come through Portland, get in touch (that goes for anyone that comes through Portland, too).

  3. Tyler – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gratitude, so this is perfect timing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting, but it’s so important to realize how much we already have. The fact that I have a job that pays the bills, I house that I own and love, a wonderful husband plus amazing friends and family members is a tremendous blessing that far overshadows wanting the latest gadget or a newer car.

    Honestly, the only thing I’d change right now is the fact that I have some credit card debt to pay off, but I’m working on that as quickly as I can.

    (PS – I love this phrase “Danger: time to start ignoring” and I think I’m going to start using it whenever people start bugging me about how my dreams and goals aren’t realistic… :) )

    • Finding contentment without giving up the drive for more is the ultimate goal, isn’t it? I think it’s completely possible to balance both.

      And yes, please use that phrase wherever you like!

  4. You and my boyfriend would make great friends. He recently has listed everything he owns on a piece of paper. We are leaving on a world trip to gain experience, he was the reason I have learned the value in travel verse owning nice things. I am excited to travel with him not only to have a great time but to learn from him adventure. I think the one I need to work on most is “find gratitude in what you already have”. I am getting much better at this but finding gratitude not only in my belongings but my present life and situation. Great post!

  5. You’ve probably covered this in your archives somewhere Tyler but there is a whole load of psychological reasons, why it’s better for happiness to focus on experiences rather than objects.

    Objects: novelty quickly wears of(have heard 6-12 weeks). Acclimatization sets in pretty quickly and you just take the thing for granted.

    Experience: your memory is faulty, you quickly forget all the bad things and just remember the good. I.e. you will quickly forget how annoying the bugs etc were on your trip to Africa.

    I wonder if this is something bloggers should take more note of. The research suggests that people would be much happier if instead of selling them an object(e-book), you sold them an experience.

    Is there any way you could turn your product(not aimed at you Tyler) into more of an experience. Maybe something like limited time access to you by email, limited time access to videos etc.

    The evidence is that they will be happier with this in the long run and thus more likely to pass on positive feedback about your product.

    • Yes, that’s an excellent point. Over time, people tend to value their experiences much more than physical things. I can think of at least 5 moments in my life now that were very upsetting at the time, but I now value as part of my own world experience.

      And good idea about creating products that are more experience based; it’s something I think about a lot now, actually.

  6. Tyler,

    This was a phenomenal post.

    I recently realized experiences > stuff and wrote about it on my blog as well.

    Keep on truckin’ friend.

    -ka

  7. This is such a necessary post. I truly appreciate it and totally connect with it. I am living this way now more than ever. Every human being should read this and take what they can from it. Much respect to you…

  8. I recently did the first of what will be many clean outs of junk from my room at home this week, I threw out 3 bags worth of useless crap that I was hoarding for no real good reason.

    I too, also value experience over things and am willing to save for a while if I actually do want something instead of getting a loan to buy it, like many other people would do.

    I haven’t needed to buy a new mobile phone in 5 years because I kept getting phones handed down to me by other family members. The laptop I am typing on was from my sister. In fact, just about the only thing that I use regularly that I actually paid for new is the Xbox I have ( and that was because I’m a member of an Irish gaming community and the older one died on me. )

    Point is, I don’t value having things as much. Sure, I would like to have better things but I coping pretty well with what I have as of now.

    I’m all for experiences as well and have some amazing ones recently, I’d value those more than any possession I have.

    But seriously, thanks for the article, it was a good read and has reminded me that saving for the next while for my next big adventure is workable and not a bad idea at all.

    • Hey Adrian,

      You sound a lot like me, actually. I’m all about the hand-me-downs. The older I get, the less often they come, though, so now I’m the one doing the handing down.

      In either case, though, knowing that you can have whatever you want, whether it’s new, used, or whatever, is a pretty powerful feeling.

  9. This is an awesome distinction, Tyler. Thanks for pointing it out. (experiences vs. things)

    I also like the shift you made from “getting” to having. It’s subtle but makes all the difference in allowing those things we desire to flood our experience.

  10. Tyler, I just wanted to let you know that this week I quit my job of nine years. I may not have always agreed with your posts, but you made an impact on me. So much so that I’m not afraid or concerned about leaving a stable paycheck for the great unknown. Fact is, my cubicle life was death. And to add insult, I had to commute three hours a day in the worst traffic Chicago has to offer to experience it. When I think about the time I wasted it makes me sick to my stomach. Living simply with only a modest mortgage to handle has made this possible (in part). I’m looking forward to engaging a new life of purpose and passion rather than monotony and dread. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Thanks Tyler.
    -Dean

    • Very exciting news, Dean! Congrats on the big change as well as making the lifestyle changes to support it for the long-term (something often ignored).

      And yes, please keep me posted. Would love to hear your success story.

    • Congrats Dean! That is really exciting. I’ve found that the hardest thing when transitioning out of traditional 9-5 employment is staying actively engaged with the world around you. I hope the past month has been good to you. Stay hopeful and focused on your goal of really living life!

  11. I think you are right-on Tyler! At age 45, I’m slowly making the shift. It’s never too late!

  12. Tyler,

    “Stuff” is so completely unnecessary beyond the things you hold dear. In fact, in my experience it carries an emotional burden that can weigh you down and greatly limit your options. Currently I have a ginormous, expensive home and while I have liked living in it, and will look back at it fondly, I will probably mostly remember the wildlife I saw, the fishing we did at the canal, and that sort of thing. What I might like back are the investment and mortgage payments :) So for sure the experiences and the people you had them with are what matters – that’s pretty much all you’ll remember anyway.

    • And those are experiences you could have had in a home of almost any size or price, right? You can always write those mortgage payments off, despite how much it hurts, to lessons learned.

      Enjoy your new place, wherever you land.

  13. One of the most difficult to read and the most insightful books that I have ever read was The Theory of the Leisure Class” by Thorstein Veblen. I stumbled upon this book while an undergraduate in college. The chapter on Conspicuous Consumption is a very telling exposition of the myriad reasons behind our desire for material acquisitions.

    I look forward to your posts !

  14. What a great post, Tyler, I love it :)

    I’ve learned so many priceless things in the past six months, and one of them is that getting what you want and allowing the things you want into your life are two very different things. The latter is bringing far more joy and meaning to my life, and I’m continually astounded at how the shift in my consciousness has opened things up.

    Really enjoying reading about your current adventures…here’s to more awesomeness!

  15. Tyler- thanks for reminding me to emphasize the “experience” rather than the “things” in my life. We can choose to live in the past, present, or the future, but the present is the only thing we can truly experience and act upon. It’s all we have. Everything else is either a memory or a dream.

    -Kristoph

  16. Insightful post Tyler.

    I have so much stuff that I don’t actually use, that my house is full of junk!

    Rather than having things, I’m focusing on doing important and passionate things. For me, at this time that means reading good books.

  17. Hi Tyler,

    I’ve been reading for a bit and haven’t commented till now. Love a lot of the posts, but this one really hit me as I have been scaling down to drive to Brazil from Canada. After renting the house out, it is such a freeing feeling to not have to watch over “stuff” and only have as much will fit in the truck. I absolutely encourage anyone to even temporarily scale down, it is truly liberating!! Thanks for the great post!

Founded with love by Tyler Tervooren

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