The Lost Art of Not Having It All…And Still Being Happy

We see a number of ads and articles advising us that if we’ll just adopt this philosophy, pick up these habits, or buy this or that product or service, we can really, truly, and finally “have it all”.

Benefits include, but are not limited to, the following: our career will be on the fast track; we’ll have more money; our future will be more secure and brighter; our love life will sizzle; our kids will be healthy and productive; our leisure time will increase; we’ll drive a new car down the coast, fun-loving friends along for the ride; we’ll have energy and vitality; our smile will be brighter; our breasts will be larger and firmer, and we’ll have a full head of hair.

“Having it all”, we’re led to believe, means having all of this, all the time, without having to short-change anything or anyone. It’s almost the American Dream. And if we’re not having it all, we are often made to feel inadequate, as if regrets were a sign of weakness and sacrifice was an indicator of loss.

The truth is that everybody has regrets. It’s an unavoidable result of living life and becoming a better person. We make mistakes, or at least not the best choices, and we look back and wince. We realize we could have done better. We acknowledge, to ourselves if not to others, that there are things in the past we can’t change. This emotion can hobble or paralyze us, or motivate us to improve. So in that regard, nobody has it all.

Sometimes we choose to give something up in order to have or do something else that is more important to us, or go in a different direction. We sacrifice. This is a critical thing we must learn to do. Why? Because it makes us articulate and quantify what it is we want and are not going to have in order that we can possess or obtain something we want more or view as more valuable or noble.

Critical to this process is self-examination: we must ask ourselves if it’s worth it, whatever it is. We must ask ourselves how long we’re going to sacrifice to get what we want. We must know what it’s going to cost us and how much of that cost can never be reclaimed or redeemed, regardless of how the choice turns out.

Not having it all is beneficial. We become more self-aware, less self-involved, and we are able to commit to our choices with more honesty, passion, vigor, and reverence. We’re invested because we’ve paid a price. Certainly, we’re loyal to our marriage partners. Perhaps we step in to shepherd the family business instead of backpacking through Europe. Ideally, we save money for our children’s education instead of buying a new car.

We’re all familiar with these situations and the choices, sometimes obvious and sometimes difficult, that accompany them. We may be able to do better if we think a little more articulately about how we approach them.

Here are come concepts to remember as we endeavor to Have It Good instead of trying to Have It All:

Recognize The Choice. Awareness that we often have a choice is crucial. We then need to determine what our options are and determine the best way to behave, depending on the results we want. To be aware, sometimes we simply have to stop and think, rather than going on autopilot or reacting emotionally.

Weigh The Costs. What are you going to deny yourself, temporarily or permanently, if you make this choice? What are you getting out of it? What are you giving up for it? What’s the best that can happen? What’s the worst that can happen? What could it possibly cost you? What will it absolutely cost you? Will you be the only person paying a price for this choice?

Commit With Abandon. Once you’ve assessed the costs, risks, and potential rewards, and you’ve made your decision, dive in to your choice with complete and total commitment. Suck the marrow out of the experience. Get everything out of it you can. Savor every moment you can. Only then will the sacrifice be worthwhile, and only then will you be happy.

  • BGT

2 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Not Having It All…And Still Being Happy

  1. This is such wise advise, yet if you live with a survival mentality or just have to have everything right now; there’s no planning for the future. Thinking things through like this (and this seems to be a hallmark of the OM worldview) allows the opportunity to be in control of your life and to have hope for the future.
    So many poor decisions result from not weighing pros and cons or being fully aware of what is the acceptable tolerance level for discomfort and sacrifice.
    Thanks again for a thought-provoking post, Byron.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.