What Do You Want ?

What I really want to do is ….get out of this town, this job, this debt….but

I heard this twice today, not that much different from any other day, except today it was from two different, very bright 30 somethings. Really? You’ve got the world by the tail and you’re letting that stop you?

As much as I’m blown away by people who actually do the work to get what they want, I’m saddened by the majority that just can’t commit.

I suspect in most cases the real problem isn’t the inability or an unwillingness to do the work, it’s the failure to clearly see the dream.

“What I really want” is too lightly spoken and in the heart of the speaker, they know it. It is not what they really want; it is something, anything to distract them from where they are right now.

Like most of us, they have no clue what they really want. They only know that they are not satisfied with what they have.

On the surface, it would seem easy to answer the questions:

What do I (we) want?


What is most important to me (us)?


Is the way we live in alignment with the first two answers?

but it’s not.

It takes a lot of time and effort to discover what is important to us- it’s world’s easier to let the marketers tell us what we want.

Start with why. Why do you want out of that job or that debt? Why did you get in?

If you are thinking, If Only, about your situation, your not looking deep enough. If only I had a better job, more money, less debt, could wear my skinny jeans, etc.- life would be grand. Bullshit. Someday, you are going to find yourself in your dream job with disposable income and a completely new list of If Onlys.


Continue on to examining where you are. What works and what doesn’t work about your current situation? What can you do to fix the part that doesn’t work?

Do this with the knowledge that the pull is always strongest to stay where you are. No matter how uncomfortable, unreasonable and future-killing your present situation; you will be compelled to find a bazillion reasons you cannot change it, at least not now – right up until you get the urge to bolt.

Don’t Bolt. Our first reaction when we have finally had enough but don’t want to ask the hard questions of ourselves is to bolt, to quit, to walk away without a plan.

Not smart. Sit with it. If leaving is the right thing, leave to go somewhere better. Leave with a much clearer picture of who you are and what you want.

Chasing a Dream

I am blown away by people who set outlandish and unconventional goals for themselves and then proceed actually to accomplish what they set out to do.

Recently I read a story of just that kind of person on one my favorite blogs – Get Rich Slowly. Here, Ian told his story of how he built his own house without a mortgage.

After deciding a normal career and suburban life was not for him, Ian made a plan to live on a big chunk of land in a home built off the grid house. Ian was able to buy 40 acres for less than $500 an acre in a place he would love living. He used a small inheritance from his great grandparents to buy the land.

After purchasing the land, Ian returned to college to finish his degree. When he graduated, he had $35,000 in student loan debt and no real assets other than the land. As much as he wanted to live in the boonies, he knew he could make more money in the city. Ian took a bar-tending job and paid off the $35,000 student loan in 53 weeks.

Editorial Comment: Did you catch that? He lived where he didn’t want to, doing what he didn’t long to, so that later, he could live his dream.

Ian then calculated that with two more years of living lean he would have enough money to build his house. He worked those two years and then returned to his land and started building. As most house projects go, Ian ran short of money before finishing.

Ian’s off the grid experience lead him to a job in the solar power industry. He now has saved enough to finish the interior and is currently saving to build a well-equipped workshop. Partially because Ian does not have to work, he does not mind working; but he still plans to retire by 30. Given what he has accomplished so far, I am sure he will be able to.

Ian consciously decided how he wanted to live his life and then he set out with great perseverance and determination to make it happen.

How about you? Are you chasing your dream with great perseverance and determination or just drifting along?

The Joy of Work

Several of the bloggers I enjoy espouse “minimalism” as a way to escape the need for a job – among other benefits. I can really get excited about some of the other benefits; for example I know renting or owning a house big enough for your stuff, rather than just big enough for you, can have long-term financial consequences and certainly, relying on the accumulation of stuff to feed your self-esteem is harmful. But to embrace simple living so that I could quit work? I don’t think so.

Work is what I do – not what I avoid. I met many of my very best friends through work. How better to forge and cement a relationship than by working side by side to accomplish or create something?

When I look around our self-remodeled home I see the results of many hard, but joyous hours of work.  One of my best-ever summers was spent with my four young nephews building our dock. It was very hot and incredibility strenuous work – requiring the sinking of new pilings, the driving (by hand!) of about a bazillion nails for stringer joist hangers and also the hauling, cutting and fastening of a lot of very heavy composite lumber decking. We did not work for pay. We worked for the challenge of trying to build something way over our heads. We enjoyed puzzling out each problem as it arose (including how to un-stick the eight year old who had been jet sunk in the mud just like the pilings). We loved the team synergy.

I’m blessed to have been happy with my work for most of my life – be it corporate, small business or self employed. I love solving problems, being challenged, and making a difference. You can find these kinds of opportunities almost anywhere.  If your current employment circumstances don’t allow you to experience the joy of work, then you are really missing out, plan a change.  Do not indefinitely forgo the joy of work in exchange for money.

Evil Credit Cards & Brownies

If your progress toward your money objective has slowed, stopped or even reversed, maybe you need to examine your goal and re-commit.

We all struggle from time to time with focus. I know I’m struggling right now with some extra pounds. I can rationalize the why in 10 seconds flat – you know the holidays, the windy colder weather that doesn’t invite a good ride, been too busy to eat right, blah blah blah. The real reason I’ve put on these pounds is that I lost sight of my goal.

Losing weight and paying off debt are both about changing our behavior. If our old behavior did not include overeating and/or under exercising we probably don’t need to lose weight. If we had not over spent in the past, we wouldn’t have the debt. When we get tired or anxious or somebody bakes delicious brownies, it becomes very easy to fall back into our old behaviors of overeating or overspending.

Step 1 – Awareness.

Ok, my knees hurt, my pants don’t fit and the scale is registering numbers I haven’t seen in quite a while.

You pull those credit card bills out of the mailbox and tally them up.

Are you now painfully aware? I know I am.

Step 2 – Give a hoot.

Do I care that my knees hurt and my clothes don’t fit? Yep, I do.

How about you? Do you care that you’ve backslid from your goal?

Step 3 – Give enough of a hoot to do something about it.

This is the hard one. Do we care enough to make the difficult choices to give up something we want right now in order to get something we want later?

It depends on what the later is. You and I both need to clearly define that long-term goal. You gotta make it something worth struggling for.

My long-term goal is to be fit enough to hike the Grand Canyon down and back with my grandchildren. Since I don’t have grandchildren and I don’t have any say in the when; I’ll have to choose an intermediate goal that I can attach a date to.

Here it is. On or before May 1, I will ride my bike on a single trip for 100 miles in less than 8 hours. OK, so maybe this doesn’t sound like a weight loss goal; but it is. There is no way I could do a century carrying extra weight without my knees (and maybe my lungs) exploding. So, to achieve this goal I need to: a) ride a lot in the coming 100 days and b) eat carefully. If I do those two things the weight should take care of itself.

As shorter-term goals I’ll do a 50 mile ride on or before March 5th in under 3 1/2 hours and a 75 mile ride on or before April 2 in under 6 hours.

OK, that was scary; now it’s your turn. What goal are you working on?

What can you do in the next 100 days that will firmly put you back on track to your goal?  What will you accomplish by March 5? And by April 2?

In the coming days every time we feel the urge to backslide, we need to visualize that long term goal. Are we really willing to jeopardize that goal for this immediate want?

OK, now that we’ve got our new goals in place, we need to commit to them. One way to do this is to tell somebody. I think I’ve got that covered; how about you? You could just leave it here in the form of a comment- that would work. Get your friends to log on and do the same. Let’s do this together.


The world is a better place today. OK, so maybe not the whole world; maybe just this little tiny piece and maybe it’s not really better, yet- but there is new hope.

A very generous and talented friend of mine started her first “real” job today as the teacher of a middle school special needs class.  This is a very hard job. Don’t believe me? Just try and have a conversation with a middle school kid. It takes work.

Morgan has a gift and these kids, who have had a difficult and rocky row to hoe, will flock to her. She will show them that they can live up to the limited expectations that small-minded people have for them or they can overcome their difficulties and be much more.

As someone who has been tested, Morgan has a testimony to give. A single mom with two young children and no money, she has worked and struggled and made-do for years to get her degree. She could have quit and waited to be rescued, but she did not.

These kids, our community and our world will be a better place – because when it would have been so easy to quit, she pushed forward. She has earned the privilege of teaching perseverance to those who need it most.