I remember years ago watching a documentary on the last months of a terminally ill Warren Zevon. I knew his music and liked it well enough, but wouldn’t have considered myself a fan. Having recently lost my own mother to a slow, painful death by cancer (and equally toxic cures) it was essentially an early ‘reality TV’ show letting you see the life of a man facing his own mortality. Aside from a powerful reminder that we are all fortunate to have been given this one and only life, he shared a quote that struck him, and me as well … “We love to buy books because we believe we are buying the time to read them.” This comment struck me in several ways.
Let’s Look at What’s Important
First, as a terminally ill man, his most valued resource must have been time – the months and days he had remaining. In fact, that should be true for all of us. How is it we so easily take our time for granted? That is what life is… the time we get to be here and to experience this amazing world, these amazing people and do these amazing things. What is more valuable than that? Sure, we sell some time for money, but really only to make our time and experiences better in ways that we each get to define.
The second thing that struck me about this observation, was how accurate it was in my own experience. I have probably read a fraction of the books I’ve purchased over the years. I like to read, but finding (or more accurately making) the time in an otherwise pretty full life isn’t easy. In fact, I believe this insight can be extrapolated to a good many things we purchase, in search of a benefit we simply can’t buy.
I have found that home buying is heavily influenced by the unconscious expectation that we are buying the life we wished we could live and the time to live it. Time with our partners, kids, families and friends. Future memories of holiday dinners with the extended family and BBQ’s with good friends. As home buyers, we play out little scenes in our minds like a commercial for beer or life insurance… good friends laughing around a patio table on a warm summer evening or your daughter’s bedtime hugs when she was ten.
Let’s Look at a Different Perspective
I’m afraid there is some bad news…and, fortunately, some awesome news. First, the bad news: you can’t buy that life. A home purchase does not make that happen. Now for the awesome news: you can simply choose to make that life happen. You can, but don’t need to buy a new home. You can probably make that life happen where you live now, even if it’s an apartment. However, you must choose to make the life you fantasize about living a priority. Perhaps most importantly, if you don’t make your dream life a priority – a new home purchase will not make it happen. Much like my boxes of unread books, the decision to buy something is no substitute for the discipline to be who you wish you were and live the life you imagine for yourself.
And a word of caution, often in our pursuit of this “better” life, we make choices that actually undermine the life we hope to create. A misguided home search in a quest for the biggest, best, most feature-rich house we can find has left many buyers too deep in debt and too far from the things that really matter. Having the unwelcome effect of increased stress levels and commute times with decreased time with family and friends.
How did you think a home purchase would change your life? Comment below and let’s share our collective insight.