Update: 344 of your fellow adventurers are now enrolled in Stature, our new character sculpting deep dive. How would you like to grow your character for 2020 and beyond? Join us for this epic journey!
If you took all the money you spend on luxury lattes each year and saved it instead, you’d have a little bit more money but a less luxurious life. But you’d also risk getting more entrenched in a scarcity mindset because scaling back your lifestyle just to save a little extra money is mostly a waste of thought.
You’re better off enjoying little luxuries when you can appreciate them. Instead of directing your mind to fuss over small expenses, focus that thought energy where you’ll get a more magnificent return, such as pretty much any area of life improvement that’s meaningful for you. This creates better story for you to live out as well.
You’re probably not going to regret the summation of your small indulgences year after year, especially if you appreciated those little luxuries as you experienced them. You’re more likely to feel the negative impact of all the thought energy you wasted worrying about minor $5 or $10 decisions… and what that did to your self-esteem over time.
Self-discipline is a limited resource. Save it for the big stuff that matters. Don’t squander it on fussing over how you handle minor expenses.
When I was broke and deep in debt, I succumbed to this aspect of a scarcity mindset, skimping here and there on little expenses like $1 here or $5 there, such as by buying cheaper and lower quality food. Eventually I realized it was a lame waste of neural energy because that level of focus would never turn my situation around. It would only perpetuate more scarcity and keep me stuck. And it would only make me think less of myself.
Allowing some space for small luxuries that I’d appreciate actually helped with shifting from scarcity to abundance thinking. Instead of wasting mental energy on “should I?” thoughts, simply enjoying and appreciating little niceties without infecting them with self-doubt gave me more energy in return, and it helped me align with inviting more into my life that I’d appreciate, like a healthier creative flow.
One incident that I found especially helpful was when I gave someone an extra $5 just to express appreciation for the work I saw her doing. She was cleaning tables at a restaurant, and she looked a bit down, so I imagined that she probably wasn’t getting much appreciation for her efforts. I walked up to her and told her that I saw her working hard and thought she deserved an extra tip. I was just trying to practice a small gesture of kindness, but she was super grateful and got a bit misty eyed. That helped me see that there were much better ways to focus my energy than worrying about how to save an extra $5.
This also applies to time scarcity. Instead of trying to save minutes or hours here or there, that wasted neural energy can be better invested elsewhere. A big transformation for me happened when I began volunteering with a nonprofit, also when I was broke and didn’t feel I could or should do such a thing with my precious time. It was largely out of desperation from noting that nothing else I was trying was getting results, so I figured that the results might be better if I tried something radically different.
I know it’s challenging to redirect your thoughts from scarcity minded concerns like a seemingly wasted $5 or a wasted hour, even if you think that they’ll add up to significant amounts over the years. But try to recognize the long-term stuckness that this level of thinking induces. It’s an endless circular trap that just perpetuates itself, promising relief but delivering none.
Even when it’s difficult, keep directing your mind toward patterns of thought that you consider more elevated and more worthy of the person you wish to become. You don’t have to do this perfectly. You can make real progress just by leaning in a more empowering direction.
Instead of worrying about small expenses, think about making interesting contributions to people’s lives. Explore different ways to creatively express yourself. Take some interesting risks.
Instead of worrying about small wastes of time, think about the direction you want your life to go over the next 5-10 years. Work towards long-term goals that you’re not sure you can accomplish, so you’ll have to grow into them.
Recognize that you’re unlikely to achieve meaningful breakthroughs by increasing your skill at saving small sums of money or recapturing small blocks of time. Most likely that mindset will just stress you out, and you’ll gain little to show for it.
If you get the big pieces right, you can enjoy a happy and abundant life while still enjoying a luxurious latte and appreciating an hour of total laziness, without feeling that you’ve lost or squandered anything.