The funny thing about the markets is that they always seem to be surprising and mind-boggling. They’re like catching soap in the shower, always slipping out of grasp right when you think you’ve got it nailed down. Think about it: how much control do you really have over your life – what interest rates and housing prices will be, how much you’ll have in the bank, or what you’ll be doing in a few years? Not very much – is the right answer.
Of course, diligently saving and investing does put you in the best position to achieve success, but still – it’s not guaranteed. But we pretend that it is – or at least that the payoff will quench our desires. We pretend that if we achieve this return, we’ll be satisfied. We pretend that if we had more Twitter followers, we’d be content. We pretend that if we get over this hurdle, our lives will be normal.
What if the purpose of all this work to reach a goal is to teach you something rather than get you something? What if the process is an end in and of itself and actually achieving the goal is a very small cherry on top, which pales in comparison to the banana, vanilla ice-cream, hot fudge and peanuts enjoyed along the way? What if the rewards come throughout the process – not at the end?
In the case of sound personal finance practices, you learn to give, you learn to save, you learn to spend your money on things that matter, you learn to restrict yourself, and you learn that you actually don’t need a lot to be happy.
Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to. That’s plain reality. This truth can stop us from expecting too much from all the good things we do pursue. We learn to pursue them for what they are in themselves rather than what we need them to be to make us happy. That’s why life is meant to be a gift – not something that leaves you in the black.
Ordinarily, we save and invest not just to build wealth but to find satisfaction and purpose and to make a reputation for ourselves and achieve success. What if saving and investing was never intended to make us successful and happy but simply to make us faithful, generous and self-controlled?