I grant wishes. It’s a fun way to think about life. This is partly because people are generally bad at knowing how to make a proper wish, and partly because almost every wish is easy to grant.
Here’s an example.
I was at a business event, working with a stressed out and chronically disorganized person who was ready to have a fit because she couldn’t find her business cards.
What do they look like? I asked.
Like, I know what a business card looks like. What I was asking was, are they still in their box from the printer, do they come in a plastic holder of a certain color, are they laid out on perforated printer pages in a folder? What shape of object are we trying to find?
The flustered stress case described a stack of cards held together with a rubber band.
I held up one finger - Wait a moment - and walked ten feet away. I pulled up a tote bag from where it sat between a table and a pillar. I reached into the bag and pulled out - the missing business cards!
My colleague’s jaw fell open. She gasped. “You’re magic!”
She started to turn away. “Don’t be dumb,” I said, “make another wish!”
“Five million dollars!” she blurted.
First off, five million dollars isn’t what you think it is. Shave off about half for taxes and you’ve got two and a half. Invest that conservatively and live off the interest at four percent per annum. You’ve got an income of a little over eighty k. Enough that you don’t have to work again, at least for the next twenty years until inflation starts to erode it, but in our region not really enough to support a partner and children. Just you. And you don’t get a house, a car, or a vacation. Or you could take the house, car, and vacation, and then keep working like normal. That’s... sort of a boring wish.
What I had to offer was something a little juicier.
Due to the nature of our business relationship and my precise skill set, I could grant a number of other wishes. Finding other lost objects? Handling tricky conversations or negotiations with other people on site? Executive coaching? Setting up a filing system? Taking inventory and labeling things before they get crammed back into storage? Running filters on your email?
All of those things?
Say the word and an hour from now, I could permanently lower your stress level. You could Get Organized, one of the great conspicuous luxuries of our era. Maybe you could go on to leverage that into a five-million-dollar business income.
Wishing for money or a lottery win is an indicator of a lack of imagination. Okay, and then what?
Note that many lottery winners wind up worse off than when they started. Bankruptcy, divorce, a parade of con artists, ruined relationships, and the inability to trust most of your friends, neighbors, and relatives. No thank you! Money out of context can be a really destructive force.
Not that I wouldn’t be perfectly delighted with five million dollars. I know exactly what we’d do with it. My hubby and I would start our own engineering firm. How fun would that be?
The trouble with wishing for money is that it isn’t specific enough. It can also be a distraction.
When I was young and poor and crying myself to sleep at night over my student loans, money would have solved most or all of my problems. I wouldn’t have known what to do with five million dollars, though. Not then, not at that stage of my life.
I would have paid off my credit cards and my student loan, and I would have gone out to lunch, and then I probably would have gone straight to the bookstore. I would have assumed that I should probably buy a house, but... Where? What kind of house? How many rooms? I wouldn’t have had the first clue what kind of furniture or window treatments to get, and I know for sure that it really would have stressed me out. I know that because I have more money now, and the idea of buying and furnishing a house still stresses me out!
There are a lot of things that I think are more valuable than money, mostly because they can’t be bought at any price.
Good relationships with your family
A strong marriage
Peace of mind
A high energy level
Education can’t be bought - just access to it. Plenty of people pay for that access and then squander it.
I’ve tried to figure out ways to buy sleep, and as far as I can tell it can’t be done.
Physical fitness can be bought, in a roundabout manner, but it’s easier to do for free. Quit paying for extras like snacks and junk food, then get down on the floor and do a bodyweight HIIT workout, saving yourself both a gym membership and the commute. Boom, done. If you can’t start there, then start by walking and staying on your feet an extra five minutes a day. Surely you’ll agree that you can’t simply hand over a wad of cash and receive defined abdominal muscles in exchange.
I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want out of life. For instance, if I want to “give to charity,” then which one? If I want to volunteer somewhere, then where, and what do I want to do? The way to get clear on wishes is to imagine what emotional state you want to be in on your ideal day.
‘Excitement’ is different from ‘contentment’ which is distinct from ‘sense of purpose.’ Right?
We like to think that something like winning five million dollars would provide a transcendent emotional experience. We like to think that it would solve all our problems and we could be carefree forevermore.
Really, we could be carefree today if we chose to, if we knew how.
We can solve all our problems with our own ingenuity and dedication, which are the same qualities we would need with or without a giant seven-figure cardboard check.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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