22 Sep The Curse of Too Much: Why Most People Never Live Their Dreams and What to Do About It
“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.”
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.
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
Joe DeGiorgioPosted at 09:56h, 22 September
Great article Scott—
I believe the biggest key to success is to be aware that you have enough, and to be grateful for it. Everything else falls into place.
A trip to Italy is among one of my great dreams. I plan to get there soon.
ScottPosted at 10:04h, 22 September
Thanks Joe! I could not agree more. Enough is so much less than most think, which means the odds are that any one of us already has much more than we need. ‘Need’ is such an over used word too. Think for a second of the things in your life that you actually need. Takes a little pressure off, doesn’t it?
Perhaps we’ll cross each other’s path in Italy one of these days.
Really appreciate the comment,
Mary E. UlrichPosted at 13:28h, 22 September
You’re right, we don’t need what we think we need. We usually have enough.
I hang out with people with severe disabilities. And they seldom have the money to buy anything other than the necessities. And actually sometimes not even that. I was in someone’s home the other day and they were eating soup. They had little teaspoons even though both of the men had severe motor problems and were having a terrible time. When I asked if they had soup spoons, or cereal spoons I was told “no” like it was none of my concern. The next time I visited I just put a couple big spoons in the kitchen drawer and found they were down to two forks and no knives.
The thrift store has a half-price off sale the first Monday of every month. I hope to find a whole new set of silverware for the guys. It brings me joy to know I can help.
ScottPosted at 16:02h, 22 September
Inspiring to hear your story Mary. That is the ultimate. You not only realized that you had enough for yourself, but you realized that you had plenty to give to others who needed it. That’s huge. Imagine if we all did that.
Thank you for the great comment,
CPosted at 19:32h, 07 May
I don’t have soup spoons either.
KristinPosted at 13:47h, 22 September
A nicely timed post. Thanks Scott. I think many of us have been sold a dud career dream of always striving for that next level up the ladder, where you can buy more, own more (be in debt more) and supposedly be more. Maybe we’re more controlable as a society that way. Lately I’ve been thinking about what’s next in my life – going back to the ‘big’ career job 80 hrs a week, with excess money, but almost never seeing my children – as a mum that just kills me vs starting my own thing and only achieving 1/3 of the income.
It suddenly occured to me that sure I could go earn more, but why? With the exception of having to pay the (albeit scary) mortgage, 1/3 of what I currently earn would pay the bills, clothe my kids and keep decent food on the table – it wouldn’t be glamourous, but we’d probably all be much happier and we’d have to be more thoughtful about what we as a family consume. Maybe that’s the point, we’re so busy innoculating ourselves against the stress of today with more stuff, we just don’t want to have to think for ourselves anymore.
ScottPosted at 16:07h, 22 September
I could not have said it better Kristin and you have clearly experienced if first hand. The problem is that the only quantifiable thing that people compare in terms of career is the money they earn. But I argue that the time and happiness is worth magnitudes more than the money. I think you’ve realized that, which is why I bet you decide to stop selling your mind (and time with the people you love) in exchange for more money than you can enjoyably use. You only really want that money to apply it to the things you most care about–i.e. spending time with those you love. It’s a crazy circle that you actually don’t have to enter in the first place.
If you can get all the goods without having to earn all that money, the decision seems pretty clear.
Congrats on finding your way out!
ChelseaPosted at 14:30h, 22 September
Great article! I loved what you said “Saving does not have to mean less enjoyment. It just means taking a new view on what’s already in front of you.” Perspective is so important! Thanks.
ScottPosted at 16:11h, 22 September
Well thank you. There are so many fun creative ways to see and experience life without having to burn through a pile of money that you have to give away part of your life to earn. We are on the right track!
To those unforgettable meals,
Kevin BroderickPosted at 16:09h, 22 September
Great article Scott! Travel to any “underdeveloped” country really makes you realize the beauties of a simplified life! Americans fast paced lifestyles to acquire one more “thing” takes away from the most important things in life, like time with you family/ spouse, spending hours to enjoy a meal, sitting down at a coffee shop to actually enjoy your coffee with some conversation, or something as simple as sitting somplace with your loved ones and watching the beauty nature has to offer…
ScottPosted at 16:16h, 22 September
You said it Kevin. It’s too bad we have to travel half way around the world to be reminded of this isn’t it! It is refreshing and takes a ton of stress out of life to realize and reaffirm this as we go on adventures to far off lands. The fact that the most important things that make us the happiest, are the easiest and least expensive should make this whole figuring out life thing a little easer, right?
Here’s to enjoying a coffee outside.
Leisa LaDellPosted at 07:26h, 23 September
Great article. Thanks for the reminder that we are always after an “emotional state.” It’s smart to start there when looking at what you want. Because there are a world of possible ways of having that, not just the one “thing” or “way” that you may have started with as your goal. Also, loved the ‘We think we need more…’ lists. Very insightful.
ScottPosted at 12:20h, 23 September
Glad you liked the list and article Leisa. It really is all about achieving some emotion. Everything is. There are plenty of ways to get there. It does not have to be by accumulating a bunch of crap–especially since this doesn’t end up usually doing the trick any way.
Thanks for stoping by,
JenniPosted at 14:28h, 23 September
“We only have right now. You will never be in your future. Happiness not spent now does not mean more happiness later.” These words could never be more true. I spent a great deal of time feeling unhappy about losing some of the things that once made me happy, instead of feeling grateful that I ever had the chance to experience that joy. Once I made sense of the fact that there is a life and death cycle to just about everything, I stopped lingering on the things, feelings, people, etc that I desired. This moment – this exact moment – and what you do with is what matters. I choose to spend this second not just content with my life, but thrilled that I am where I am, that I have been where I have been, and that I am going wherever it is that I am going. Life’s a journey, so enjoy the ride!
ScottPosted at 22:41h, 23 September
Awesome Jenni. You have officially inspired me! If we could all live the way you just described, the world would be an absolutely different place. At least we know two people who are. As long as you and I spred that to as many people as possible, we’re on the right track.
There is only right now. No doubt about it. Unbelievable things can be accomplished with a mindset as such.
Here’s to being thrilled,
CaroleePosted at 16:26h, 23 September
I have always wanted a huge house.
We started camping in a 22″ camper w/ no TV.
We love it and now I realize I could live in a smaller house if needed…
…definitely no huge house needed here!
ScottPosted at 22:42h, 23 September
Well put Carolee. The liberation is awesome once you realize that. Congratulations!
Thanks for the thought,
RyekanPosted at 15:54h, 24 September
Just finished my day’s work and I find myself drawn to this blog. Familiar with some ideas already, but had fresh lightbulb moments in others.
Thanks for this Scott. This is a simple, direct, personal, and (interestingly enough) calming and reassuring article.
ScottPosted at 11:55h, 25 September
Thanks for stopping by Ryekan. Awesome to hear the site is serving it’s purpose for you. It indeed can be pretty calming to realize we don’t need all the stuff society tells us we do. And it makes so many other awesome things possible.
I hope you’re stick around!
Melodie LichtPosted at 16:34h, 25 September
Great insight for someone so young! If only people would stop for a minute to realize what they hold in their hand is not what makes them happy. Many years ago, my Mother used to ask me periodically, if I was happy. I was surprised when she first asked that question, that I couldn’t answer it ‘yes.’ Why? I didn’t know what HAPPY was. It was great food for thought. Over the years I finally concluded that happiness was people: family, friends, acquaintances. What brought me happiness was doing what I could to make others happy, or ease some stress somehow making their lives easier.
I like material things too, but I’ve realized those ‘things’ don’t make you happier. They might make life a little easier or bearable, but not happy. So here is to happiness and love of life. May many more people wake up and realize this so they can experience it before it is too late.
Thank you for your insight and heartfelt emotion. 🙂
ScottPosted at 11:23h, 27 September
It my pleasure Melodie and thanks for reading. It’s amazing how simple the things are that really move the needle in life. Granted, there are some important ‘things’ we need and a minimum amount of money we need to be comfortable. But that level of necessity is so much lower than many of us think. Once we get to that point, the only thing that can truly enhance life are the intangibles like you mentioned above.
Here’s to waking up to the awesome parts of life that cost nothing and are likely right in front of us.
Steve LPosted at 17:00h, 27 September
Great article Scott. Rock on.
(this comment does Not suffer the curse of too much). =)
ScottPosted at 09:54h, 08 October
Well put. Awesome seeing you with Tim Ferriss last Friday. Thanks for the invite! Waiting For Superman was an eyeopening movie to say the least.
James GomezPosted at 05:58h, 06 October
Wow. You just made me very embarrassed with myself for my greed and thirst for more and more and more. Sometimes I do think, why am I still not contented with my salary etc.
Great post Scott, you made me think.
I want to change to be a better man and to live my dream as someone who is appreciative.
ScottPosted at 09:57h, 08 October
What an exciting corner to turn James. Awesome to hear.
I just watched Wall Street and in one scene a man is asked what amount of money he would need to quit his job as a big banker and go off and enjoy life. What’s “his number” he was asked. His answer (with a greasy smile): “more”.
That really hit home. There are too many people who’s number is more. That will lead to nothing but dissatisfaction. Get a number and realize how low it can be and do something about it.
MaryPosted at 06:49h, 06 October
Great post scott! @Melodie, hey, i feel the same way when you mentioned that you like material things. But they never make you feel happy.
That is absolute true. I have the latest gadgets, iPhone, calvin klein perfumes, but this kinda things, they dont make me happy. Its only temporary happiness, what im looking for is a permanent happiness, and i find that through spiritual and worship.
ScottPosted at 09:59h, 08 October
One opposite way to find happiness if this is your situation, is to just stop consuming and feel how proud it feels to know you don’t need it and your life is simpler and happier as a result. That will give you some momentum!
PamelaPosted at 06:55h, 06 October
Too much of everything is never good. Remember this, Always live life in moderation.
That is the best form to keep you spiritually,mentally and physically awake.
ScottPosted at 10:00h, 08 October
Moderation certainly has it’s important place. My favorite rule when it comes to moderation is: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Simple Goal Setting that Gets Results + Free Goals Workbook | Reading For Your SuccessPosted at 17:44h, 05 January
[…] exactly. If you want to lose weight, then how much and by when? If you want a bigger salary, then how much is enough? You want a girlfriend, then how many dates will you go on each month? You want to write a book, […]
Mike SmithPosted at 16:56h, 10 December
Interesting article. I’m a self made millionaire and I’m no happier than I was prior to becoming one. My initial goal was to save £100,000. After I reached that level I then wanted to save £200,000. I guess in some ways it became like a bit of an obsession always wanting more. I’ve discovered it’s the simple things in life that make me happy like watching a good movie, walking along the seafront or going out with friends etc. I once read somewhere the difference between someone who earns £15,000 per annum and someone who earns £50,000, their happiness increases by approximately 40%. Over and above the £50,000 threshold there’s very little difference as you have sufficient income to pay for all the basic necessities to survive i.e food, shelter and household bills. Like the old saying goes the more you earn, the more you spend, the more you owe.
brandPosted at 23:07h, 22 December
outletPosted at 19:43h, 28 December
found your website on del.icio.us these days and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some a lot more later !!.
yahooPosted at 19:44h, 28 December
You made a number of good points there. I did a search on the issue and found the majority of folks will agree with your blog.
Money: Four Awesome Benefits Of Living With LessPosted at 01:20h, 22 July
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LizzyPosted at 14:40h, 09 February
Even thought I am still very young (I’m going to be 20 this year), I have already realized most of the things of what you said. It does indeed feel good to already have realized these things because then I won’t spend my life with unnecessary things. But as a student, I see nothing of those realizations around me. It’s too bad. Almost all of my friends have an iPhone and most of them also have an iPad and some even more than that. But I don’t get why they need all of that. I have a very simple and rather cheap phone and I am perfectly happy with it. It can call and text, that’s all I need.
For some time I was jealous that my friends could buy loads of clothes, a better phone and loads of stuff, but deep down I know that I feel pity for them. I am the one that has knowledge and I am the one with an amazing boyfriend. I should be happy with that.
A lot of times I wish there was a way for me to share my thoughts with people of my age, but it is so difficult to make them realize things or even to make them listen. I wish I could make a difference in peoples lives, as you are here.
Thanks by the way for reminding me again of the things you said. It’s not because I have realized these things that I am already living by it. So thanks, for reminding me again 🙂
ChrisPosted at 19:18h, 20 February
That’s funny when we are lost in our thougts and we find it interesting to search on the web if someone, somewhere thinks the same as we do. Obviously, this is more special when this person has the same age as you and she realise the same things.
Personnaly, the big thing I learned about myself is that I feel an inner drive that push me to discover the world before having to settle down with my girlfriend!
Your message made me smile Lizzy.
Thank you very much
Christophe, Québec ,Canada
New movies coming soon to theatersPosted at 19:53h, 21 March
I was curious if you ever thought of changing the layout of your website?
Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures.
Maybe you could space it out better?
Sanjay ThakurelPosted at 11:52h, 28 December
I was curious if you ever thought of changing the layout of your website?
Dude! Wisen up and smell some coffee! She talkin about changing the layout of your life and you talkin about her website?hehe
Rebuttal – John Gross | Counterintuitive 2014Posted at 11:14h, 06 May
[…] Scott. “The Curse of Too Much: Why Most People Never Live Their Dreams and What to Do About It.” Live Your Legend. N.p., 22 Sept. 2010. Web. 09 Apr. […]
Annotated Bibliography – John Gross | Counterintuitive 2014Posted at 15:47h, 06 May
[…] 3.) The Curse of Too Much […]
samPosted at 11:20h, 18 March
I love the ideas you present here, but your links are no longer working to the minimalist ideas.
Wendy JPosted at 13:37h, 27 October
I need much less. I seek simplicity. But the love of my live wants a house, pets, the “security” of a steady job, etc…. Articles like the above are almost always written by single people.
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AndThisIsWhyUsGoodMenAreSinglePosted at 06:49h, 24 October
Well for many of us good men out there that really wanted to meet a good woman to settle down with to have a family which unfortunately it still hasn’t happened at all. And the real excellent reason why it never did happen is because we live in a very completely different time today since this isn’t the past anymore. With most women sleeping around with different men all the time would be a very good reason since they will never be able at all to commit to just only one man anyway, and these are the type of women that just like to party and get wasted all the time too. So it is very difficult for many of us good men to find love today since these very pathetic loser women are everywhere now which is a real shame. And now you have so many of these women with their careers now that really think they’re all that which they’re really not at all anyway. Most of these type of women are very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, narcissists, and very money hungry as well since they will only want the very best of all and will never settle for less either. Today most women don’t even have no respect for many of us men anymore when we will just try to start a normal conversation with the woman that we really would like too meet which they will be so very nasty to us and walk away as well. And now you have all of these very stupid reality TV shows as well as social media that has certainly corrupted many of these women’s minds altogether since most of them nowadays are real Feminists and men haters to begin with. And to think that in the old days how most of the women were back then that were the very complete opposite of what these pathetic loser women are today, and most of the women in those days really did put these women today to real shame altogether as well since meeting a good woman back then would have been no trouble at all for many of us single men either. Now i can see why how very blessed our family members were finding real true love with one another back then.