October 16, 2019
I hate shopping for cars. I would probably enjoy it more of I had a lot more money, but as it is, I typically go into car buying with a strict set of rules and a limited budget. The worst part is when you talk to a salesman and he has you test drive a fancy car that is out of your price range or doesn’t fit your needs well. You wind up sitting in a car you want, because it is attractive and fun, but know you shouldn’t buy because it costs too much or has some impractical aspects that make it the wrong choice for you. The salesman is just doing his job: convincing you to spend a lot of money on a car. He gets paid based on your spending, so he shows you the flashy and fun option that draws you in emotionally. You want the fun car, even if the logical/practical part of your brain is pulling in the opposite direction reminding you that you can’t afford it or that it’s just not the right car. The tension that exists between what we want emotionally and what we know to be true or important is difficult. It turns up every time we swear that we will start exercising in the morning before work, only to have the desire to sleep late duke it out with our desire to be healthier while we lay in bed first thing in the morning. It happens when we have to choose to walk past the cookie aisle in the grocery store. It also happens when we have to choose between mindlessly surfing the internet or spending quality time with our family or reading. This is why reading books, saving money, eating healthy, and a ton of other good choices are a struggle. Our desire to indulge is often stronger than our commitment to our values. Often, this comes about because our values are not entirely clear in our heads. Most folks don’t sit down and rank the most important things in their lives in order to compare it with the how they use their time and money. When I ask people what’s most important to them, the top 5 are usually: God, family, health, finances, and work. When I ask the same folks how much time they invest in those aspects of their lives, the reality doesn’t match the theory. Please don’t read this as condescending or judgmental. This is a huge struggle in my own life that is brought to my attention routinely in my work as a pastor. I see folks struggling with all 5 of these and often counsel them on bringing their lives into balance. Much of the advice and direction I give can be boiled down to a few simply ideas: focus on what you consider to be the top priority and keep paying attention to those things. Don’t let yourself drift from your objective. With my car buying story, this would involve knowing what matters and resolving to make decisions based on that, rather than what makes us feel good or is the most exciting choice at the time. This won’t happen if we don’t walk into the decision with our mind made up as to what is and is not non-negotiable. Our desires will overtake our standards, and we will indulge if we are not resolute in our approach. Often, we end up regretting the indulgence later when we have to work extra hours or make sacrifices to pay for a car that is less exciting 3 years into the 6-year payment plan. The same is true when we find our decision to indulge in extra dessert or skip exercise has resulted in clothes that don’t fit or health complications. The reality is, if we wait to make a decision about what’s important until we are hungry, tired, and staring at a bag of cookies, we will make the one we don’t consider to be right. The trick is that we can forget what matters to us. This is why we must focus every day on what’s important to us and remind ourselves what our major life goals are so we can stay on the right path to accomplishing them.