As many of you know, Thom and I recently returned from a trip to Ajijic, Mexico. Like every place we travel and enjoy we tend to end up looking at local real estate. Sure we have a background in the business, but in this day and age I believe lots of people have toyed with the possibility after watching television shows like House Hunters, International. Who doesn’t dream now and then at living somewhere exotic, in a unique and special property? This visit we seriously considered buying a Bed & Breakfast Inn attached to the apartment where we stayed. Not only was the property for sale, it is located in a great location, is in excellent condition, has great income potential and plenty of romance to make the purchase intriguing. We even contemplated converting it to co-housing where we live part time with a bunch of fun-likeminded people. And with our background, we know we could figure out how to buy it if we set our minds to the task. But the thing is, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
I’m not certain where Thom and I picked up the line, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” but we’ve been using it with each other for years. In some ways, it sounds like something a parent would say to a child to keep them from running out into a busy street. Regardless of where we heard it first, it has saved us both many times in our lives from doing something that wasn’t in our long-term best interest. A key of course, is knowing what your “long-term best interests” are. If you haven’t taken the time to discover what gives your life meaning and purpose, you might be tempted to keep running and trying this or that just to make yourself happy. Far better, at least in my mind, is to “Rightsize” your life and then live from that mission forward.
One of the first times I can remember running this statement in my mind was years ago when I considered a job in the travel industry. It sounds like a no-brainer, right? I love to travel. Plus, I think I am the best travel-planner on the planet (and at least Thom agrees with me!) So why not? That’s when something inside of me spoke up loud and clear, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” And you know what? I knew that even though I love to travel and plan my own vacations, I would feel like an underpaid babysitter herding others around on a trip. It might be a dream job for others, but that wasn’t my path.
Conditioning Or Inspiration
We are all faced with choices and decisions every single day. Unfortunately, I don’t think we usually take the time to see how they fit with our life goals. Even worse, I’m not sure some people even know what their purpose or life goals are—I didn’t, especially for the first 25-35 years. When we are young we tend to go through life reacting to whatever is in front of us or doing things we are trained (conditioned) to do. Some things worked out really well for me, like finding and marrying Thom. Other things didn’t work out that great. Looking back, I have to wonder if those decisions were guided by conditioning or inspiration?
When you think about it, the idea of knowing whether you should really do something touches just about every area of our lives. But again, are we paying attention? Do you remember EVER taking a class in school that taught us to think deeply about our choices before making them? Most of the time we stumble through life just doing what is expected of us or what others tell us we should do. In other words, we live by default rather than design. If we’re honest, how many of us took much time thinking through the following questions before jumping in feet first?
- Who do I choose to love?
- What career or occupation do I want to spend the majority of my future days doing?
- Where do I want to live and make a home?
- Is getting married important to me?
- Do I really want to have children enough to do what it takes?
- Do I take care of my health or just take my chances?
Now I am actually the first one to say that being adventurous is sometimes the most awesome thing we can do—but only if it flows from inspiration and is in alignment with our deeper purpose. If we are reacting or running away from something, acting daring and spontaneous can be just another addiction or blind reaction. Knowing the difference is essential.
Plus, when we are young we may have plenty of time to try new things and see how they fit. But after a certain age, do we want to spend our precious days and resources pursuing things that a little forethought would have made obvious?
Using The Spandex Rule
Marketing genius Scott Bedbury came up with a term to help businesses like Nike and Starbucks relate to their customers. According to him, businesses need to evaluate in advance any strategies or changes they are anticipating by using The Spandex Rule as a benchmark. In other words, just because you can wear spandex, that doesn’t mean you should. Businesses make decisions all the time and most of them are motivated by profit. Yet Bedbury does his best to remind them that if they make choices that will ultimately hurt their customers, they will destroy both their reputations and profits in the long term. That’s not good business.
Many people do exactly the same. Sure, some of us can do whatever we want to do, whenever we want to do it—especially once we are retired. That freedom is intoxicating and I’m the first to say it is wonderful. But again, staying mindful enough to know whether a choice or decision fits with our long-term mission or circumstances in life is critical—especially on those big choices. At this age, I’m finding that I want to take better care with the choices I have before me like:
- where to live?
- where to spend my time and energy?
- what to spend money on?
- who to spend time with?
- how will it affect my health?
So will Thom and I be buying a Bed & Breakfast in Mexico in the near future.? Not likely. I’ll admit that it did tick off a few of our long-term goals and offered some other exciting possibilities. But overall the decision was more motivated by romance than rightsized—and that makes the decision relatively easy. On top of that, learning to say “No” to things as easily as saying, “Yes” is a vital life skill.
A major intention with SMART Living 365 is to share ideas and generate thoughts for anyone who cares to follow along. I firmly believe that none of us can decide the really important choices for another. But what we can, and hopefully do, is make our choices as conscious, meaningful and SMART for ourselves whenever possible. Oh, and to always remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!
Okay, your turn! Have there been times in your life when you stopped and realized that even though you could do something, it was really not in your best interest to do it? Or what about the opposite? Did you not do something that now wish you had? Please give examples of how this has worked in your life in the comments below…