November 2, 2022

Instant Gratification vs. the Pause: We Get What we Pay For.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
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I recently found myself in a conversation with a friend who was complaining about only being allowed to read two free Elephant Journal articles a week.

I, of course, began passionately detailing of all the benefits of becoming a paid subscriber to this independent, online magazine.

I reminded this person that she was obviously enjoying the time she spent reading her two articles a week, and that subscribing would give her unlimited access to all the entertaining, informative, and many times life-changing articles available.

I went on to explain that this low cost subscription also benefitted the many writers who contributed by offering valuable insights, advice, new ways of thinking, and heartfelt stories to enrich our lives.

This fee also paid the staff and operating expenses of Elephant Journal so that it could continue being of benefit to its readers.

Her reply was a simple but frustrated, “Well, I just can’t afford it right now.”

We are all repeating that phrase more often these days as our economy struggles and our budgets shrink with the increasing cost of everything.

At the same time, the line curving around the Starbucks drive-thru is still long and the Amazon shopping carts are still full.

This has me pondering how we make decisions on spending our hard-earned money. I am not talking about the struggle to juggle rent, food, and medications, and the painful decision of where to cut back on these essentials. That is a heartbreaking story of another kind.

I am talking about the small choices we make every day when spending our “extra” dollars when we have them and what we choose to spend them on.

I am guilty of the occasional Starbucks mocha latte and throwing an unnecessary new pair of sandals into my Amazon shopping cart. I am also becoming much more aware when I do these things.

Instead of instant gratification, I stop myself and give it some thought. Wouldn’t I rather put that money towards an Elephant writing class or the “live your best life” course from one of my favorite writers? Or maybe I could spend some time browsing in my local independent bookstore and buying that book a good friend recommended. I would get much more pleasure from the hours spent reading on my porch barefoot than the short-lived perk of drinking an $8 cup of coffee while wearing (probably) ill-fitting new shoes.

I want what I want and I want it now! But taking a pause to figure out what I really want just might be more beneficial to me. And as it turns out, taking a pause is free.

So here are some ways I’ve learned to take a pause before rushing to spend: 

1. Meditate. I know, I know! That is my answer to everything but, well, it really is the answer to everything.

2. Take a walk. Being in nature has a way of calming the mind, relaxing our need to be busy, and clearing our thoughts so that we can discover what is really important to us.

3. Read. I would bet some of my “extra” dollars that we all have books on our shelves or coffee tables that we have the best intentions of cracking open. Getting lost in a good story will definitely distract us from the itch to fill our online shopping carts.

4. Nap. This is definitely my favorite. There is no guilt in taking some time to do nothing. Climb in your hammock or stretch out on your comfy sofa, close your eyes, and surrender.

5. Spend time with a friend. Home brew a sweet smelling cup of your favorite herbal tea, sit across the table from your friend, and share life’s happenings. It is always comforting to realize we are not alone in our experiences.

I am breathing easier just thinking about taking one of these pauses today.

Afterwards, I’ll reassess my needs and wants. Maybe I will still buy the coffee—but maybe I’ll spend my money in ways that will enrich my life and be of benefit to myself and others.

No matter what I choose, I will get what I pay for.

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