Live a Better Life: Collecting Fragments for a Bigger Picture
Whenever something seems very complicated or time-consuming, you can often simplify it by viewing and processing a certain task as a number of smaller steps. The good old advice given by experts or your relatives was probably repeated even by our great-grandparents, but many people start questioning it today. I know some will ask, “What’s the point? Isn’t it better to set aside some money each month, and then do it in a fast and easy way, when you’ve got enough?” It may certainly work, and even produce good results – but here’s what you may find missing:
As modern technologies and products can make it possible, this popular approach (mentioned above and functioning as a thesis) is extensively marketed to you, but more often than not you won’t get the exact pretty picture painted by the advertisements. The feeling of failure and disappointment due to expectations being too high is nothing nice, even if the results you get are fairly good – just not as good as promised. Sometimes you lack the experience to know better, but if you start out in small steps, you build that experience. You get realistic fragments of the bigger picture that give you a clearer idea of it.
Some things you highly desire may only be complicated in the context of a certain time period, or the number of other tasks you have to do at the moment. That’s why any ideas have to be evaluated as to how reasonable or relevant they are right now, or perhaps at some other time. This isn’t about searching for possible excuses, or putting things off, it’s about cost-effectiveness, and we’re certainly not talking about financial aspects only. Anything we want, or need to do, or to achieve, comes at the cost of something we have to sacrifice – time, space, other activities, the way we feel or make our family members feel, and so on. Sometimes, the result isn’t worth the effort, whatever you need to sacrifice to achieve it.
Personally, I want everything in my house to look neat and organized. I want my house to look anything but messy or having just survived an apocalypse, but if I have two small kids, this is the sort of “mission impossible” that even a superhero would find tough. The amount of time and energy needed for that would be a much better investment in family activities, walks, sports or getting creative with my kids, rather than having them watch TV for the most of the day while I’m cleaning, sorting, putting everything back into place.
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So, should I just wait till they both start school and the task becomes easier? Not necessarily. I can focus on smaller projects and ways to organize or re-organize certain spots, zones or items in the house. Such projects don’t eat up a large part of our family time or budget, and may look like insignificant details here and there, but they add up to make our lives and our everyday routines more convenient and less stressful. More importantly, whenever we decide we’re finally ready to make bigger changes about our house, we won’t be faced with so much clutter and chaos that will get anybody lost as to where to begin.
Not everything is as obvious as keeping the house tidy with kids around being similar to shoveling during a heavy snowfall (love that joke!) So it may be difficult to evaluate something at once – what fills you with excitement initially can turn out to be boring, or a project can thrill others who talk you into it but then leave you alone to finish it when they lose interest. On the contrary, something can seem very hard to do when you start alone, but will go fairly well when you get someone to help who can provide useful experience and advice. As you move by steps and stages, you can get a better idea of the challenges and obstacles you have to face, or any important factors changing, and adjust to those or re-evaluate your plans.
Value and priorities
Going back to the example of our house, if we had been determined to renovate it in an instant, our kids and our current lifestyle would have outgrown most of that by now, requiring major changes again. We tend to regard it as something absolutely natural, but if “a perfect house” had been a very expensive and tiresome project, any further changes wouldn’t have seemed that easy. Sometimes, you can’t place value on the finite result – just on the way this result can serve your priorities. You can’t think of it as something you’ve already invested so much into that you won’t ruin nice chunks of finished work, even if you (or others) are no longer comfortable with them.
While it may seem that getting what you want quickly is an effective shortcut to happiness, this is such a tricky thing to explain that it might be helpful to spell it differently: short-cut. As opposed to long-term, or full-size, a short-cut something like a demo version of joy is very brief, and soon gone. This is the kind of “high” followed by “low” that relates more often to what we buy than what we experience (think priorities again). However, the biggest window that love, happiness and everything positive flies out of is timing the joy to achieving some result in the future. Instead of being unhappy with what you don’t have, you can be happy with small things you’ve been able to do that can help you move towards a bigger goal.
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You can have fun and reward yourself in the process of collecting fragments to something bigger – and, hopefully, better. However, you may even find yourself enjoying the experience more than the result, but who cares if that’s something different from what you were expecting? Just like a poet said, “happiness leaves us in slow, soft steps” – but then, we can assume it arrives in the same manner, right?