After spending a decade working for one company, and with a little encouragement from his wife, he decided to take the leap and move into a better job. More money, better hours, and a significant increase in job satisfaction followed.
Within a year, they had found a great house in a nice part of town. It needed some work, but Owen’s really handy and finished it with ease. What was an eyesore to many was just a diamond in the rough to him. Even better, the house he’d lived in for over a decade was suddenly in a desirable part of town and fetched top dollar at closing. This all resulted in his family living a much better lifestyle than he ever dreamed of before.
As we talked, though, he started to tell me about where he wanted to go from there. Get a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood. Learn a new skill that would make him an extra $4/hr. Keep going until you can’t stop!
It was at this point that I asked him a very difficult question that I had to consider myself just a few years ago: when is it enough? When is the house big enough for you? When is the salary enough for you? At what point have you arrived where you want to be?
He hadn’t really considered that before. Frankly, I hadn’t considered it myself until recently.
Think about it this way: how much space does a family of four need? 1200sq.ft.? 2000sq.ft.? 5000sq.ft? If you keep increasing the size of your house beyond what you really need, then you’re just paying a mortgage for nothing. Okay, maybe for status. But how much is that really worth to you when you’re 40 hours into an 80 hour week just to pay the darn thing off?
How much money is “enough” for you? Is it worth it to work an extra 20 hours per week to make that extra little bit? Is the stress of that high-paying job going to destroy the enjoyment you have in your life outside of work?
My wife and I were having these conversations as I transitioned from one job to another. We were going to get a bump in salary, and we were going to be able to sell our house for much more than our purchase price. So, why not upgrade?
As I started looking at the mortgage payments on a “nicer” house, I realized that it wasn’t worth it to me. We didn’t need the extra space, and those fancy amenities didn’t mean anything but more upkeep. Honestly, the kids would likely destroy most of them anyway!
Instead, we could use the extra money to save for retirement, pay off debt faster, or start a college fund for the kids. Or, take a vacation for crying out loud! (That’s the point that got my wife on board. We hadn’t had a vacation in about 3 years at that point!)
“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.” – Solomon, King of Ancient Israel
What it all boils down to is this: am I running after “things” because I need them, or because I’ve been told I need them?
Contentment is knowing when enough is enough. It’s taking an inventory of what you want in life and learning to enjoy it when it comes. A content person is able to enjoy life’s precious moments without fretting over the future.
When I am lying on my deathbed, I want to know that I squeezed out every good moment in life. I don’t want to look back with a long list of regrets, because I can’t buy back the time I’ve lost.
Run toward contentment, and enjoy the peace it brings.
[This post first published on Medium.com.]