My brother Jeffrey came over around 8 o’clock to say goodbye. He was heading back to Colorado in the morning. When he came in, we sat on the couch and talked for over an hour. I told him I’d been working non stop since morning. A client had asked me if I could finish a website sooner than the deadline we originally set. Without thinking I said ‘yes’. That simple ‘yes’ meant I’d be working long hours throughout the day and into the evenings.
I asked him, “When someone asks you to finish a job sooner than you originally told them, what do you say?”
Without skipping a beat he said, “I tell them I can’t do it, I’m a one man show. Sometimes people would offer me a lot of extra money to finish the job sooner. When this happened, I started saying ‘yes’ a lot more. I couldn’t say ‘no’ to the money. Friendships and relationships were slowly falling apart because all my time was spent working. I realized if I wanted to have a life outside of my work, I had to find a way to say ‘no’. Once I realized this, it didn’t matter how much money they offered me.”
I said, “Wow, I need to start saying ‘no’ more often.”
He said, “It’s so hard though, especially when you have something you want and that extra money could make it possible.”
I told him, “I’ve been wanting to buy a house for the last year or so. Having a larger down payment will help lower the monthly payment, so I’ve been working very hard to save as much as possible. I don’t want to keep saying ‘yes’ to everything. If I do, I’ll have to maintain the same level of workaholism once I get a house, just to keep it. That’s a recipe for a very miserable life.”
We both realized that we want to live a simple and fulfilling life more than we want material things or large paychecks.
Recently, he purchased a truck he’s been dreaming of owning for years. When he came to town a few weeks ago, I got to ride in it with him. I’m so proud of him for having a dream and finding a way to make it happen. When we went for a ride in the truck he didn’t seem super excited like I thought he’d be.
I said, “Are you over it?”
He said, “Yeah pretty much. I worked so hard to get it and now that I have it, the excitement is wearing off.”
I hardly knew what to say, because at that moment I completely understood where he was coming from. We are so similar. We see something we want, we figure out a plan, we work the plan, and we make it happen, that’s just who we are. Somehow though, just before we accomplish what we’ve been working so hard for, we pick something else to chase after. Once we get what we’ve been working so hard for, all we can think about is the next goal. I still can’t believe after so many years working so hard, we’ve never actually sat down and talked about this topic together. He’s owned his own business for a little over three years now.
Looking back on the times he spent working at his shop he said, “Man, I was so happy back then, but as soon as there was a new opportunity in Colorado, I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of there. I was booked out for 3 months at a time, but I felt so stuck.”
I relate to that so much. I generally don’t book myself out for 3 months for this very reason. It’s not that we don’t love our work, we love the challenge the work brings. Starting a business is a challenge, getting clients is a challenge, and that challenge is so fun to overcome. Once the business takes off and clients are coming in all the time, the challenge starts to fade away and so does some of the satisfaction.
There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Honestly, I don’t know how to relate to people who don’t have big dreams. I’m slowly learning that no amount of money or material items will bring a deep sense of meaning or fulfillment.
There’s a quote by Victor Frankl that says, “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning they distract themselves with pleasure.”
Finding meaning through our accomplishments is like running on a treadmill thinking we’re going somewhere. When in actuality, we never stop running. Don’t get me wrong, I have big dreams and goals I’d love to accomplish in 2022. After our talk though, I realized I needed to shift my focus a bit. I’d love to buy the car and the house of my dreams, but setting boundaries and creating a lifestyle that brings peace and contentment is so much more important to me now.
My mom has always told us, “You are never stuck. There’s always a way out.”
No matter where I’m at in life, this simple lesson has reminded me that things won’t always be this way and I have the power to change them. Setting boundaries isn’t easy once they’ve already been broken, but it’s not impossible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m deeply grateful for my business. I’m grateful for all the clients I get to work with, because without them I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I have. I spent years dreaming about being where I’m at now, but now that I’m here, I have new dreams. Going about achieving those new dreams is where things will be different. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it.
“Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, you didn’t settle for it.”