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…
Dr Sock says
Great advice, Kathy. In my life, I have tended to spend a long time thinking
through pros and cons before making a major decision in my life. This was true for all the big decisions in your bulleted list (whom do you choose to love, where do you live, etc.), except for the first item. When I met Rob, my gut said “yes” and our love affair blossomed very quickly! It was the right choice and I still know that for sure.
However, sometimes even after the fact it can be hard to determine if a decision truly was the right one. An example for me was when I chose to move into middle management in my organization. When the opportunity presented itself, I was torn. I knew that I was ready to move on from the work I was doing, but was administration the right choice? There were points on both side of the pro/con list. I was at a fork in the road, and I could see two major directions to proceed. However, I had an opportunity to take an administrator position, but not a similar opportunity to move in the other direction I was considering. Ultimately, I chose to do it and I thrived and learned a lot. I still wonder, however, about the path not taken.
But sitting the fence too long may not be the best choice either. Sometimes you just have to jump in after thinking it through carefully, even though there are some unknowns. When I am not certain about a choice, I reassure myself by saying that if it really doesn’t work out, I can always make a different decision later. Whatever you do in life, you learn from it, even the wrong turns.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jude! How very important to remember that we can OVER-THINK as well as NO-THINK important decisions. And like you said, “sitting on the fence” can be equally problematic. For me at least, the biggest challenge is learning to listen to my intuitive voice and alignment and then making decisions from there. I firmly believe that my inner being knows what is best for me even if my head doesn’t. But we aren’t trained in listening to that voice so we often confuse ourselves with all the many choices.
I also agree that it is tempting sometimes to wonder about those choices we didn’t make. But I like to imagine that in some alternate reality or dimension, maybe I did take that choice. 🙂 What’s most important is that you discovered how to thrive and learn from the choice you did make. I can’t help but believe that was best for you. Thank you for your thoughts on this. ~Kathy
Hi Kathy, this is my first visit to you blog and I will definitely return. I am a hopeless romantic and fall in love with every place we visit. There is always a quaint little cottage, condo by the ocean, Inn or B&B calling my name.My husband is the practical one, who reminds me of the work and associated costs of owning a rental property, etc. etc. and then he reminds me that we can visit anytime for a fraction of the investment. We rarely ever return to the same place twice, which speaks volumes about making impulsive decisions.
The Inn sounds wonderful, and the photo makes it look very appealing. I can certainly see why you gave it consideration. Something that we live by and have drilled into our daughter is to prepare yourself (get a good education), be observant, keep moving forward and don’t stress about the big decisions; let life unfold and the right opportunities will present themselves.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Suzanne! And welcome to SMART Living 365. I very much appreciate you mentioning something that I don’t think I did…and that is the fact that I like visiting new places most of the time too! While going back to the same place over and over might satisfy some people, even if I LOVE a place there is a good chance I want to try something new in the future. But if you own a place you are going to be tied there financially and emotionally, right? Plus, every little problem that pops up you are going to have to deal with (at a distance) and that isn’t fun. I know lots of people who own “mountain property” close to where we live and they often spend nearly every visit there taking care of maintenance. Meanwhile, we just Walz in and enjoy. Sure it’s fun to dream but it must always be balanced with how it fits a person’s long-time intentions. And your advice to your daughter is great. When you do all the things you suggest, life does unfold in perfect alignment! ~Kathy
Very insightful post, Kathy. And, I can certainly see why that B&B sounded attractive to buy. It would to us! But, the decision would be made easy by the fact that we wouldn’t have the funds. 🙂 I think it is a great idea to consider the long-term commitments and goals when deciding which path to take, especially as one gets older and wiser.
I used to be very impulsive, which led me to many adventures and even to my current husband. I like to follow my heart, but try to keep the “risks” or possible downfalls low if possible and predictable. As I get older, I give my decisions more thought. We have so many options before us in many aspects of our lives, which makes choosing difficult. So, the heart might have the last word when it comes to those life directions where the mind just can’t figure it out.
I so agree with your statement “We live by default rather than design.” which I think is a pity. Most people do live this way and I hope they realize that life is short and precious sooner than later. One of the things I taught my students when I was a teacher in Belgium was to “think critically” and not follow the masses just because they thought that was the right thing to do. No, this skill was not in the curriculum, but by my actions, examples I showed and questions I asked these teenagers, I hoped to make a difference. 🙂
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Liesbet! Thank you for bringing up something that I don’t think I really expressed. That was identifying what “part” of ourselves is best for making those big decisions. While I do think the heart is an important part of the process, I actually prefer, for myself, to use my “inner guidance”. Of course, that might be your heart or not 🙂 Most of the time we attempt to figure things out with our heads alone–or we get the opinion of everyone we know and believe to give us their thoughts. But not all of us take the time or are even aware of our inner guidance. A big intention of mine is to get more and more clear with that “still small voice within.” When I listen to it, I never go wrong.
And good for you for teaching children to think critically and NOT be sheep! ~Kathy
Terri Webster Schrandt says
The wisdom of the ages really makes a difference in these types of decisions, Kathy, and excellent post to remind us all of the idea that “just because we can doesn’t mean we should…” Wow, My husband could have used that advice 20+ years ago when he bought that house in upcountry Hilo on the Big Island. He had intentions of making it a B&B but didn’t have me back then to talk him out of it. It’s great to say “I have a house in Hawaii” but how often does he go? Twice in 15 years? It still needs a lot of work to even make it rent-able, so how will that happen? This eats at me a little– he has to pay taxes on it every year but it’s paid off…which is all good but it just sits there. One of these days we can stay there and get it properly constructed but it will be awhile. Too many folks say NOT to sell, so we’ll see. Glad you and Thom learned your lessons and can just enjoy your vacations.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Terri. Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. And yeah, it DOES sound so romantic to have a house in Hawaii. I actually know of 2 or 3 other couples who did the same thing. One of them lets a family stay there FOR FREE so it won’t be vandalized. The other just relies on neighbors to keep an eye on it. But even though we’ve known both couples for several years…they BARELY get there once a year. And as you say, even when it doesn’t cost you anything it is STILL own your mind. What’s the saying, “everything you own, owns you” at least to some extent. And who is telling you not to sell? It’s always easier for others to tell us what to do with something like that–especially if they have their own agenda. When it comes down to it, NO ONE can decide for us because they don’t know all our circumstances. Just make the choice that works best for your “rightsized” life! ~Kathy
We also have toyed with the idea of a second home, at the beach, we would use but also rent a bit. After two major hurricanes the last two years we are glad we haven’t. We were in Italy two weeks ago when Florence hit. Imagine being that far away and unable to prepare, as well as worry about the outcome. But we didn’t have to do a thing except enjoy where we were. Case closed. Travel, no responsibility, have fun……
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mandi! Isn’t that the truth? Every time we go to a rental–even those we have rented many times–I am so happy and pack up when we leave and hand the keys back to the landlord. Our apartment in Ajijic had several bad leaks in the roof when it rained hard. It only bothered us once really, but we could only imagine how expensive and troublesome it would be to replace that roof. Sure, things cost somewhat less in Mexico, but by renting we saved ourselves the hassle. And the same goes with so many impulsive moves people make. Far better to use our “wisdom” to avoid them if possible! ~Kathy
Tom Sightings says
I love this post. I agonized, literally for years, over whether to buy a house or condo in the south as a rental/vacation/retirement place. I finally decided that just because I could doesn’t mean I should. I can barely keep up with one home, so there’s really no way I would want to bear the work, the worry, the risk and responsibility of owning a second residence. So now we rent. Yes, it costs money. But as long as we can afford it, we will, and when we can’t afford it, we won’t be stuck. Anyway … I’d never heard of the Spandex Rule, but you can bet in the future I’m going to be citing it often and with conviction.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Tom! Glad you liked it! 🙂 I do think it is one of those things that only sinks in after we have lived a while. I don’t think anything is a mistake as long as we learn something from it–but once we’ve learned we shouldn’t need to make that same one over and over again. That’s why the awareness of “just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should really slips in.” How many times have we said, “I shouldn’t have bought that, I shouldn’t have eaten that, I shouldn’t have dated him/her (let alone married them!) and then later regret it. I’m all for living free and spontaneously, but when we repeat past “lessons” I’m hoping I’m over that! And YES to remembering the Spandex Rule! ~Kathy
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should is a good way to look at things. I was approached several years ago to become a board member of a nonprofit that I thought was capable of really doing great things. I became an executive board member and devoted my time and energy to it. The charity was started by family members and the outcome was just because you can start a non profit doesn’t mean you should. Who knew starting a non profit would be so easy? After 5 years the charity dissolved because it was not growing and the sibling infighting was greater than the outreach goals and mission of the charity. Definitely an example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Haralee! Thank you so much for providing another great example. Every time people find out I’m a writer (and I’m sure you get this too) I am asked to volunteer to do all sorts of writing assignments for this group or that group. Sometimes I say yes but I REALLY need to pause to find out whether I really should be spending my time and energy with this particular group or not. However, I’ve found at least for me, that sometimes my ego drives the decision. When I KNOW I could do a better job than how it’s being done now, in the past I have volunteered just to make myself feel good. Thank goodness I’m over that! It doesn’t matter if others think I would be really good at something and should do it–what matters is whether it fits me. Thanks again for your example. ~Kathy
Janet Mary Cobb says
Another great post, Kathy! I totally agree with the saying and appreciate the way you so nicely lay it out within your specific example but make it so easy to extrapolate to my own life!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janet! I was hoping that my examples were relatable but I’ll bet we can all come up with others. This concept applies to so many choices we all make but don’t always think about. Do we buy that expensive purse? What about take that drug? Do we need to eat that ice cream? What about having that extra glass of wine? There are so many choices we make and while not all of them have huge repercussions, I can’t help but believe if we got more in the habit of stopping and asking our inner nature what we should do, we’d make better ones. Thanks for your comment. ~Kathy
Mona McGinnis says
I’m learning to live my life more purposefully. I’ve lived alone for 27 yrs now after having been married twice; I savor my single life and wonder if I should ever have been married. My 85 yr old mother is requiring more caretaking. Some people may suggest that she live with me, the retired nurse. I know that won’t happen. Many of my friends go to warmer climates in the winter. I know that’s not for me. I can enjoy the change of seasons right where I am and I don’t need to put any geographical distance between myself and my circle. How about creating a life that you don’t need to take a vacation from? I needed to choose a contractor to build my house 17 yrs ago. One of my friends asked “Who do you want to give your money to?” That was so helpful and I hired the artisan rather than the big contractor. I’ve also learned that “No” is a complete sentence. There’s another line that I was reminded of when I read your response – if you don’t know where you’re going you’ll end up someplace else. It’s something like this – If you don’t believe in something you’ll fall for anything.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mona, That’s a perfect way to say it…living more “purposefully.” It’s so important to know what you like and what works for you. And I love the idea that you used to hire your contractor. Indeed, who do you want to give your money to? And I also agree with that statement, “If you don’t believe in something you’ll fall for anything.” There’s a good reason why some of those sayings stick around! Thanks for your thoughts on this. ~Kathy
Laurel Clay says
My kids heard that saying a lot from me, not when they were small, but as they came into adolescence. Certainly applies just a well though to those of us who are already “of a certain age”.
I am so glad I found your site. So much of what you talk about is relevant to where I am today. Thanks for the ideas and wisdom!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Nancy! Thank you for your encouragement. It is always appreciated. And always feel free to share your thoughts on anything I write. ~Kathy
Darn… I would love to stay at your B&B! 🙂
I can hear my mother’s voice in the admonition, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” along about the same time she’d say, “if everyone was jumping off the cliff, would you also?”
I can get wrapped up in the fantasy too; dreams are fun to explore. Fortunately, I haven’t made any REALLY BIG bad decisions, but I surely have made some small ones. I love The Spandex Rule! I have see that broken enough times literally (what were they thinking?) and think it should be followed both by businesses and individuals. Unfortunately, life skills are not taught in schools for the most part but should be. Learning to make wise choices ranks right up there with basic finances 101.
Great post, Kathy (and I’m glad Thom convinced you to add the picture of yourself… you look so happy (are you sure I can’t talk you into buying that B&B?).
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janis. I agree! it does sort of sound like our mom, huh? And my first reaction whenever ANYONE tells me not to do something is to go right ahead and do it. And while that worked (sort of) okay when I was younger, I really don’t want to be so reactionary these days. I guess there is something to be said for some of those messages our moms and dads gave us years ago huh?
And we were actually thinking of hitting up all our friends to see if they wanted to buy the B & B with us at one point. But talk about something that does not line up well with our life intentions! It could work out well or it could have been an enormous disaster! :-)As I said, even when it’s romantic it is best not to go through anything you don’t want to live with long-term! And thanks, I WAS happy in the photo! ~Kathy
I’m not sure if I’ve heard this saying before, or if I had, it didn’t stick! After reading this, I hope it will stick as one to keep at the top of mind. If I had followed this rule, there are probably a lot things I would have done differently. But I’ve always just accepted my choices and moved on, and I’m happy where I am. Thinking this way could have saved me some money and heartache over the years. Thanks for a thoughtful article.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Heidi! Thank you so much for commenting. Nice to chat with you. And I appreciate you adding the importance of learning to accept the choices we have made and move on from there. So important. We can’t go back and do them over. But once we get to a certain point, it is really helpful to pause a moment and think them through. I don’t know about you but I am much more aware at age 63 that I don’t necessarily want to bounce-back quite as far as I did when I was young. Hopefully, we are all wise enough not to spend money on things that don’t matter that much these days. Thanks again for your comment. ~Kathy
I’m just not ready to start acting like an adult! LOL. I’m only 61!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hahahaha! Yes, you’re just a young-un! Maybe when you get to my wise-old-age you’ll understand 🙂
Joanne Sisco says
That quote – just because you can doesn’t mean you should – is one of my favourites and we too have used it on several occasions.
Right now we are in the early days of evaluating whether we should sell our home and move out of the city. Trying to isolate the meaningful issues from the jerk-knee emotional stuff is not easy. You’ve just reinforced in my mind that changes have to be for the right reason and not just because of the ‘romance’ of it … and changing homes is a MAJOR decision.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Joanne! Doesn’t it just fit sometimes? Deciding if and when to move is a big decision. And I agree you can’t figure out every possibility in advance, but at least pausing long enough to know if it will fit with where you want to end up is really important. But again, as I said in my reply to Leanne, nearly all purchases and many other decisions we make could benefit from a “pause to consider” whether it fits our intentions. I’m a big fan of Abraham Hicks and she is repeatedly saying that if we are listening to our inner voice of alignment that every decision we make will be good ones. Of course, most of us aren’t that in tune so we end up making decisions that lead in every direction–some good, some not so great. My personal intention for myself is to get where I listen more and more from that guidance/inspiration and all the opportunities and possibilities will fall into place. ~Kathy
HI, Kathy – You look good on the top deck of the B & B in Ajijic. I can easily visualize you and Thom as the owners. I agree with ‘The Spandex Rule.’ I also believe that it is essential to dream and to consider a wide range of possibilities. I’m glad that your recent trip to Ajijic consisted of all of the above. As Leanne wisely mentioned, if meant to be, the opportunity will present itself again. I agree that the Universe does not give up on us that easily!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Donna! Thanks…I wasn’t going to put that photo in the post but Thom wanted me to 🙂 . Anyway, I agree that sometimes it seems like a fine line between following our inner guidance and being “spontaneous.” I would never want to stop someone living their dream. But if most people are like me, it is very easy to get sidetracked and I don’t think we give our choices nearly enough thought. What’s the saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” And that someplace else may or may not be what really brings you closer to your dreams. And I don’t personally believe that the Universe cares. I think it just says “Yes!” to wherever we are headed with unconditional love. That’s why I come back to the idea that “we either live our lives by design or default.” I just need to be reminded of it all the time! ~Kathy
Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au says
It’s kind of like the saying “when something seems too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true” The romance and the ideal can sometimes carry us away – my husband and I bought a block of land in a lovely little town – to one day build and retire on – then realized it was costing us more in annual fees and rates than it was worth – we ended up selling at a loss, but it was better to bite the bullet and take a small loss, than hold onto something for many more years of slowly draining our finances.
I think you made the right decision – and (as with our block) if it’s meant to be, then the opportunity will present itself again somewhere down the track and it can be reconsidered then 🙂
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Leanne! G’Day! How’s things in Austrailia this morning? I definitely agree that when we are in the right frame of mind, opportunities are everywhere. Something that Thom and i learned in that regard is another saying we have, “There is ALWAYS another opportunity–there is always another real estate deal.” It is only when a person starts thinking they HAVE to have one particular thing or another out of fear of losing it, that gets a person in trouble. And that is with ANY purchase. Think about it, if we impulsively buy anything without considering our needs, intention and the “why” behind it, then we will likely learn to regret it (and very likely lose money too!) I was talking with a new friend recently who admitted that she was having a bad day at work and on her way home decided to stop in one of the highend department stores to buy herself something to make her feel “empowered.” And even though she was struggling with debt, she ended up buying a suit for $800…because it was on sale for 80% and she was saving so much money!!! Then she got the suit home and tried it on for her brother, and he said, “Seriously, that suit looks awful on you!” She hasn’t worn it since, and she can’t take it back because she bought it on sale. Of course we all make mistakes–but hopefully not once that are quite so obviously painful. Far, far better to find out how we are really feeling and decide whether our actions are motivated from inspiration or from habit. ~Kathy