Exercise One: Master your wants
Controlling expenditure is not about conquering our needs but about mastering our wants! This was probably one of my key AHAs. But realising that to control spending one ought to control their wants and working out a way to really do it are very different things. Important as the AHA is, without taking action it is not very helpful. This got me thinking again and this is what I worked out:
• Most people don’t want everything most of the time. People want specific things but these may change over time. I bet that if you look around your house you will easily spot the things you have far too many of. Make a mental note of these things.
• People’s wants form stable but changeable hierarchies. This means that there are things that you want so much more than others, things that motivate you so much that these will be hard to forego.
• Things that rank lower in your hierarchy of wants are usually things you will find easy to give up. Interestingly some of these things may be the things you have been acquiring.
It seemed that working out my hierarchy of ‘wants’ was essential. Furthermore, I guessed that controlling one’s wants is probably rather similar to controlling one’s cravings – forbidding something we crave only makes it more desirable and much harder to resist. Completely rejecting what one really craves is not sustainable long term and often, if not always, results in excess. I decided that just like I don’t tell myself that I can never have chocolate again, I will not tell myself that I cannot have the things I find I most desire. To work out my ‘protected wants’ I devised the following exercise.
Work out your ‘protected wants’
To complete this exercise you need about 10 minutes quiet time, a pen and a piece of paper and imagination.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply for couple of minutes. When you feel calm and your mind is still imagine that the door bell is ringing. You open the door and you see couple of men in suits. They tell you that you have to leave your house and will never be allowed to return. You have ten minutes to pack and you are allowed to take twenty things with you; once you leave you won’t be allowed to buy anything for a year.
What are you going to take? Write down the twenty things you are going to take with you; it is important that this is done quickly, without much thinking and please don’t try to reason – just write what springs to mind.
Now that you have your list of twenty things look at these carefully. If you were told that you can take only five things which ones of the twenty would you take?
Congratulations! You just worked out your ‘protected wants’. Allow yourself to have these things and enjoy the result. Oh, and you already know that the rest is not that important anyway.
If you feel like taking this a step further you can look at the detail, at how you expressed yourself, what words did you use? This can tell you much about the other ‘wants’. I, for instance, always thought that I like jewellery but after this exercise realised that this is not the case; I like the stories that my pieces of jewellery carry.
I’ll post my results and my analysis of the exercise another time. But this exercise and the self awareness that it gave me curbed my spending like nothing else has ever managed to do.