When We Don’t Follow Our Own Advice

We write a lot about optimizing life and living as simply and efficiently as possible. But do we actually live it out? Or better yet, have our lives evolved and changed to the point where things that were priorities years ago now have changed? That is the internal (and now external) debate that has been raging in my head the past few months. I’ve started to question many of the assumptions we’ve made to determine which aspects of our life are passing fads and which are grounded principles.

adviceI don’t really like giving advice. I’d rather tell stories about what works for us and give examples of how it is possible to live efficiently in one area or another. There is a point where I still encounter the mental challenge of trying to live out my own advice. I often find myself in circumstances where I can rationalize my way into almost any possible scenario. I find myself saying things like, I would never recommend this to a friend but our family is a little different. Or, we could probably make that work- it would be a stretch, but we could do it for a little while. So, when the dust settles, will we be able to live out what we actually think is best for our life?

Personal Organization
In my head I’m a minimalist. However, I still tend to accumulate clutter over time. I have many more items than I need and I still resist getting rid of things that have “value”. I also haven’t perfected the art of limiting my intake- but I’m much better than I’ve been in the past. I think part of my brain still has a ‘buy-sell’ mentality. I enjoy getting great deals and selling things on ebay/Craigslist. This works great when I’m not too busy, however, when time gets tight I tend to have less time to sell things. I recently read the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and it was pretty cool. I’m in organizing mode at the moment, but I still need to work to keep it up through slow and busy times.

The House
Theory: A big house won’t make you as happy as you think. Intuitively, I know this is true. I know that every time we find ourselves moving we adjust to the new space very quickly. A year after living somewhere we almost forget about what it was like before we moved in. A tiny in-town home was our dream for a while but our options and needs are expanding as we age and have more kids. In addition, the debt free position we are currently in is fighting to maintain itself as we consider borrowing money again for a different home. I’m not sure where we will end up. The bank says we can afford it all, but I’m still trying to balance out the trade-offs of every different house and area of town where we could relocate.

I really want a simple life. But I find myself often committing to “opportunities” before I really think through the implications of the time required to do them well. I’ve had points over the last few months where I realized that I had too many competing priorities. I sort of set a ‘no new commitments’ rule for the time being, but I still have a few lingering commitments that need to run their course. I’ll take even more time to decide over the next few months if I need to add anything else.

Wasting Time
I wish I could say that I’m efficient with my time- all of the time. But I still put important things off. And I’m really great at putting kind-of-important things off. In fact, I actually taught a class in behavioral economics this summer and one of my lectures was on procrastination. Guess what? I waited until the last minute to prepare for the talk. I still spend a little too much time browsing Facebook, twitter, blogs and slickdeals. I have a knack for getting the absolute most important things done, but I’ve had plenty more days of to-do-list-rolloever than I’d like to admit.

I know we should be more intentional. We should at least attempt to be the perfect parents. Although we plan and do lots of fun things, we probably still let our kids spend a little too much time on the ipad, eat nasty foods and get away with being disrespectful. I’ve also noticed that my ability to parent well is a reflection of the other stressors and complications that are influencing my life. I have plenty of time to spend with the kiddos at the moment, but I need to be more intentional about protecting the few hours I do get to spend with them each day.

Career Decisions
I’m about to finish my coursework for the PhD program I’m working through. It has been a pretty cool experience thus far. But as I near the end, I’ve had solicitations for several different types of jobs. I really like my current employment situation but I’ve been tempted to trade my free-time and flexibility for more money. The time-intensive, well paying jobs keep popping up; however I’m hanging on to an ideal and the relaxing balanced life/work situation while I can.

Bike First Lifestyle
Several years ago I sold my car to be a bike-first kinda guy. But I kept the two wheeled motor vehicles around after I got my motorcycle license and a few Vespas. I realized about midway though the year that I was riding my motorized two-wheelers a lot more than my lonely bicycle. So I sold everything but the bike. It’s worked out well about 90% of the time. I only walk or take my bike now, but there are some instances where I wish I had another form of transportation. I still love the ole rusty red bike but I’ll probably get another scooter when a deal rolls around.

The Urban Walkable
Although we live within walking distance to work/school/downtown at the moment, we are planing to move in the next year or two and we are contemplating many different options for our location. While family friendly walk-able neighborhoods with great elementary schools exist in our town, they are now highly sought after and priced accordingly. Our first choice is still an in-town neighborhood, but we’ve reluctantly considered both suburban and slightly rural areas as well. We’ve written out the pro-and-cons list and it seems equally possible to justify almost anywhere we decide to live based on which item we deem most important for the week. I’m personally curious to see where we actually do end up.

So, as much as I would like to say I’m great at following my own advice, I still find myself trying to match my ideal with the realities of my current situation. We are continuing to evolve and I am convinced that’s pretty much the only thing that will not change. I’m actually enjoying the process of sitting back and watching myself grow up. I’ll be sure to continue sharing the ways our thoughts and actions develop as time passes. I’ll enjoy the ride either way. Now, if only I could figure out how to take my own advice.

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