The Curse of Too Much: Why Most People Never Live Their Dreams and What to Do About It

Written by Scott September 22, 2010

The Curse of Too Much

“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.”

-Edna Ferber

Written by: Scott Dinsmore

Average Read Time: 4.5 Minutes

Do you know the biggest roadblock between most people and their personal freedom?

Not understanding what’s really enough.

What is enough for you? It’s a question so few stop to answer. Instead we let other people, advertisements and emotions answer for us.

How much do you need to be happy? How much money, how much status, how many things, how much free time?

Most peoples’ response is something like “a lot” or “more than I have”. Totally unclear and ambiguous.

But do you have a number? A crystal clear response to the above? If not, then we’ve got important work to do.

How can you ever expect to live life on your terms if you don’t take the time to realize what will be required to do so?

The curse of too much is everywhere:

  • We think we need more food than we do so we overeat
  • We think we need more space than we do so we buy too big a home
  • We think we need more things than we do so we overspend
  • We think we need more money than we do so we overwork
  • We think we need more freedom than we do so we end up alone
  • The list goes on…

While traveling up the Dalmatian Coast last month, I met shop owners, artists and fisherman with the simplest lives, who all shined with happiness. They didn’t have iPad’s or nice clothes and they didn’t care. They knew what was enough for them and they were content.

This forced me to rethink what I really needed to be happy. It’s an important exercise and I hope you’ll do the same.

Most dreams are a lot more achievable than people think. But you must let the rubber hit the road in order to get anywhere.

Understanding what’s enough and finding your dreams: A 3-Step Process

Step One: Define your dreams

What do you really want? Get as graphic and as detailed as you can. I’m talking lifestyle, where you live, what you own, how you work. Ask why until you know the reason behind each dream. If you say you want a big home or a boat, then why? After enough ‘why’s’ you’ll likely come back to the desire to be happy or experience some other similar emotion. Understand what’s behind the dream and write it down.

Step Two: What will it cost?

Get even more detailed. I’m not just talking about money, but also time. When it gets down to brass tacks, rarely is it the money that keeps people from their dreams, but the free time needed to live them. That’s the kicker.

How many hours, days, weeks or months are required to do it? If you want to travel the world by sailboat then charter the course, know which cities to visit and how many days at sea. Be sure to buffer time for storms, broken masts and all the other adventures you may find on the water. Talk to people who have done it so you’re less likely to miss something major. The more detail the better.

How much money will it cost? Be specific and do some research. If you want to spend a year in Italy, find apartment rental rates, Euro conversions, grocery and travel costs. These numbers may not turn out to be totally correct but the point here is that they will likely be a lot less than you expected.

Step Three: What actions are required to get you there?

If it’s time you need then what will you do to free your time? What can be outsourced? What can be done remotely? You might even want to employ The 80/20 Rule. You should be diligent about this whether you plan to go somewhere else or not. Your time is too valuable not to.

How much will you have to save? What little extras in life will you give up to make this dream a reality in months rather than never? I’m not talking about sacrificing a latte a day to afford a plane ticket in a year, unless of course you want to. Maybe you begin to realize the joy of cooking as opposed to eating out. Saving does not have to mean less enjoyment. It just means taking a new view on what’s already in front of you. Do you really need all that crap you spend money on?

For a game-changing perspective on what’s enough, check out The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life or The Art of Being Minimalist. I will never look at ‘things’ the same again.

Wanting Too Much Money

Not knowing what’s enough will keep you from your path.

People don’t pursue their own path and instead adopt someone else’s because they have this belief that they need more than they actually do.

If you always want a bigger house, nicer car, with more trinkets, you will always be fighting to keep up and it will never end. As soon as you realize that experiences are more important than things, your world will change.

The only reason we want things is to achieve an emotional state.

We accumulate money with the hopes of one day trading it for experiences and emotions-namely happiness. Why not skip the nonsense and go right to the enjoyment? You don’t think it’s possible? Go spend a week or two in Zimbabwe or South Africa watching kids play. You’ll get a new understanding of what’s enough to enjoy.

If you don’t have enough right now to be happy, it’s likely you never will.

Personal Story: Finding enough to spend a year in Italy.

One of my dreams has always been to live in Italy for a year or so to spend time writing, reading, learning Italian, soaking in a new perspective and picking up a few cooking tips. In the past years I’ve found all kinds of reasons why this wouldn’t happen. I have businesses at home that I can’t leave. I don’t have the time. My life is here. Europe is expensive. And on and on.

Just recently I went back through the above three steps to realize that 90% of my obligations can be taken care of with a laptop, skype and wifi. The other 10% can be outsourced. My rent and cost of living in Italy would be a fraction of what it is in the heart of San Francisco (even on the Euro) and my life would still be here when I returned.

All of a sudden a dream became possible. Very possible. I could hardly sleep after realizing it. I don’t plan to go anywhere too soon, but knowing how within reach it is, is the type of thing that adds passion to life.

More is in reach than we have any idea.

You’ll Never Actually Get There

Without clear dreams it’s likely that you’ll never ‘get there’.

‘I want a million dollars’ one might say. Once they get it they want $10m. Then $50m. If you believe the number is the end in itself, you will be on a road that never arrives.

If you don’t know why you want the money, status or achievement, then you will always want more. Every mountain top will turn out to be a false summit with a more daunting peak in the background.

I urge you. Get as crystal clear as possible about what you want and why. Is it all really necessary?

Are you happy now? If so then why push it so much? We only have right now. You will never be in your future. Happiness not spent now does not mean more happiness later.

The most powerful realization I had years ago was that I was not going to enter into the same game as everyone else. I did not need all that so many others felt was ‘necessary’. I was taking my own path on which there would be no comparison. It started with understanding what I really wanted from life and continued with putting it to action.

I encourage you to do the same.

Know what’s enough to be happy. I’ll make a bet with you that it’s a lot less than you’d think.

What have you realized is more in reach than you thought? How have you decided what’s enough? Please share with all of us in the comments below.

If you liked this article, please Tweet about it or tell your friends on Facebook using the links below. I’d appreciate it.

Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:

The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life

The Art of Being Minimalist

Photo 1 Courtesy of: rolands.lakis
Photo 2 Courtesy of: aresauburn
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