When I was about ten years old, I dreamed of being a major league baseball pitcher. I got a book on pitching as well as some instructional videos for my birthday and I spent most of a summer learning how to properly throw a baseball.
That fall, I went back to school with my classmates. Several of us were out on the baseball field adjacent to the playground during recess, playing a pick-up five on five (or so) game of baseball.
I wanted to pitch. I wanted to show off what I had learned.
The first batter I faced was one of the slowest kids in the school and I struck him out swinging on three pitches. I felt good.
The next batter hit my first pitch far enough that he was able to walk around the bases.
The batter after that hit my first pitch even farther.
I was frustrated. I handed the ball over to someone else that could pitch better than I could and I manned the outfield. I stood out there and wallowed in my self-pity for a while.
Afterwards, one of the teachers who watched us play came over and talked to me. She told me that not everyone was meant to be a pitcher but that if I loved baseball I could find other ways to play the game.
It took me several years to really accept that idea.
Now, I can fully accept that there are some things that just aren’t going to work out for me. I’m not going to ever play major league baseball – that ship has sailed. I’m not ever going to be president of the United States.
That doesn’t mean I can’t be involved with baseball in some fashion if I wanted to. That doesn’t mean I can’t help with the campaign of candidates I care about.
It simply means I can’t do everything that crosses my mind – and I’m content with that. At some point, you have to choose among the things that you most want.
My life constantly deals me these choices, although perhaps in a less dramatic fashion.
Let’s say, for example, that I wanted to replace my desktop computer. As I’ve mentioned before, I play a few computer games with some old friends a few times a week. My old computer runs those games pretty slow – the animation of the games is pretty choppy at best.
Now, if I dove into a hardware replacement cycle that’s more frequent than my “get a new computer every half a decade or so” cycle, then I’d be spending more money on computer hardware. That would mean I would either (a) have to earn more or (b) have to incur debt or (c) cut back on essential retirement and education savings.
Honestly, none of those options appeal to me at all. I am content with a low frame rate because I know that I have lower stress in other aspects of my life and a solid path toward my financial future.
Other people might make different choices depending on what’s going on in their life.
The only thing that you really need to watch out for is when the choices you’re making lead to a less content life. You might have been able to choose to go out to eat twice a week for the last five years, but if you’re now facing mounting credit card debt, you need to ask yourself which option leaves you with a more content life: a credit card mountain that keeps growing or two more dinners at home each week?
For me, most financial choices come down to that. I take the path of least resistance every time. Most of the cost cutting measures I take in my life introduce far less displeasure than the worry and stress we had when our debt mountain felt insurmountable.
Do I wish I could have it all? Sure. It’d be great to have someone making me meals every single day, washing my laundry, and cleaning my home. It’d be wonderful to have every material thing I’ve ever imagined. However, if I lived like that for a month, I’d be under such bone-crushing debt that my life would be a nightmare.
I’m content with what I trade for financial security. I don’t drive a brand new car. I don’t eat out every night. I don’t have every little thing that my hobbies might desire.
What I do have is relatively low stress, a lack of debt, a secure home for my family, and plenty of time to spend with them. Those are the things that I have and that I cherish and that I don’t ever want to sacrifice.
I’m content with that trade.