Instead of spending last week in the snow and freezing temperatures of Utah, I decided to go on a Disney Cruise to the Caribbean. Shoutout to the Fowers family for taking us.
The cruise was lovely. Not only was I able to trade in 5-degree weather for 80-degree sunny days at the beach, but my wife and I also left our boys behind. We had a great time basking in the tropical weather, eating as much food and ice cream as we could, and not changing a single diaper.
Needless to say, for the weeks leading up to the cruise I was looking forward to the trip.
“Only a few more days and we’ll be sitting on a beach in the Caribbean.”
This is actually one of the benefits of purchasing experiences over “things.” Studies have shown that things bring us happiness when we use them, but experiences bring happiness when we merely think about them. The anticipation, the actual experience, and the reflection on the experience tend to create a longer-lasting sense of happiness.
However, after a few days on the boat, something interesting started to happen. Gradually, my wife and I started having more and more conversations about our kids. We missed them.
“I can’t wait to get home to see the boys.”
Wait a second.
Didn’t we just spend the last couple of weeks anxiously waiting to be right here? And now that we’re here, all we can think about is going back home?
What’s more, one evening I made the mistake of checking my phone. I took a peek at my Gmail app and saw the number of emails waiting for me had grown quite large. I thought to myself, “Man, it’ll be nice to get home and start chipping away at those emails so people aren’t waiting on me.”
Isn’t the whole point of a vacation to take a break from emails and work?
Well as it turns out, this line of thinking isn’t all that uncommon.
In Billy Oppenheimer’s newsletter, he shares a confession the musician John Mayer once made:
“I’m scared to say this, but I think you can relate enough for me to not feel weird about saying this: I wait for most things to be over. I wait for this to be over to do the next thing and then wait for the next thing to be over to do the next thing and the next thing and the next thing and the next thing…”
This tendency to always be thinking about what comes next is what psychologists call prospection. “Our brains were made for nexting,” says psychologist Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness. “When researchers count the items that float along in the average person’s stream of consciousness, they find that about 12 percent of our daily thoughts are about the future. In other words, the average person spends 1 out of every 8 hours thinking about the next thing.”
To counter our tendency to always be looking at what’s next, John Mayer implemented a rule for himself:
“Everything you love and hate leaves at the same speed: Done. Done. Done. The thing you hate that you have to do tomorrow will be over before you know it, and the thing you’re looking forward to tomorrow will be over before you know it. So I have a new rule in my life, and the rule is: Never wish for less time. Waiting for things to be over is just wishing for less time. Waiting for this to be over to get to the next thing—that’s just wishing for less time. So wherever you go, just make a home right there and do that thing…Wherever you are, go, ‘this is where it’s all at right now.’ I’ve been having the time of my life because I figured that out.”
On a podcast, actor Jason Segel recounted how in one weekend in November of 2011, he was on the Late Show With Dave Letterman, hosted Saturday Night Live, and met President Obama at the White House. In anticipation of this weekend, he had a friend who told him, “It’s really important to be present for all of this. You’re not going to post-enjoy it.”
Furthering this sentiment Segel said, “If you’re not enjoying it while it’s happening, you’re missing it. I never wanna miss it. I’ve become obsessed with not missing it.”
Now, this post is mainly about life and trying to be more present. But as I’ve talked about many times before and will probably continue to talk about in the future, always looking for what’s next when it comes to your money can also be very damaging.
Always looking toward the next dollar or the next net worth milestone will likely lead to burnout and disappointment. At every stage of life, there will always be more money to be made. So the drive to make as much money as possible is a pursuit that can never be achieved.
And while I’m a huge advocate for planning responsibility for the future, we have to balance that desire for more money with living life today.
I want to end with a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. If you haven’t seen it, tonight is as good a night as any to sit down with some popcorn and watch.
“If I like a moment, I mean me personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it. Right here.”
Thanks for reading!
This article was originally featured on “Money Talks” Substack.
Jake Elm, CFP® is a financial advisor at Dentist Advisors. Jake a graduate of Utah Valley University’s nationally ranked Personal Financial Planning program. As a financial advisor at Dentist Advisors, he provides dentists with fiduciary guidance related to investments, debt, savings, taxes, and insurance. Learn more about Jake.