Sell me a lifestyle

27 01 2013

Pick and mix

I have recently started to watch American series “How I met Your Mother” from the beginning and have been really enjoying it. One episode really struck me. Barney is trying to convince Marshall that he needs to remain with his job at Goliath National Bank. In order to persuade him he convinces Marshall that Lily needs the “Package” – house, children, and holidays.

It reminded me of a stand up routine I watched years ago. I cannot remember the comic in question but he was complaining about coffee shops. His big issue with them was that they were not simply in the business of selling you the morning Macchiato that you cannot start you day without, but that they were trying to sell you a lifestyle. It was something to do with the excessive number of options on a typical coffee shop menu and the difficult in making what used to be a simple choice. But at the time I thought buying a lifestyle was a rather wonderful idea.

Imagine having the same amount of choice about your life as you do with your morning coffee.

It’s similar to booking a package holiday. My husband and I love package holidays and have a list of criteria that we look for when we book:

All Inclusive, Adult only, on the beach, short transfer from the airport, range of restaurants on site, several swimming pools, activities throughout the day, quiet pool for relaxation, evening entertainment, good location, interesting choice of excursions, reasonable price.

We are of course flexible about some of these things; we have ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ limits. Ultimately we check our options and make the best choice based on what is available and achievable. E.g. Adult only is essential but with the right resort we are prepared to travel a little further from the airport. All inclusive is a must and if 24hour room service is included we may be convinced to pay a little bit more than we had initially budgeted.

The point is that no one ever gets exactly what they want but can examine the possibilities and pick the option most suited to their needs – somewhat like voting in the general election.

If the same approach could be taken with lifestyle options what would our hard and soft limits be? If we knew the pitfalls and sacrifices we would need to make in order to get what we REALLY want could we accept them with greater ease? What boxes would we tick and what aspects of our life would we prioritise? We could end up with some tough choices to make:

Career or relationships?

Health & long life or beauty & fame?

Family or travel?

Money & power or spiritual enlightenment?

Comfort & stability or a roaring social life?

A pick and mix approach to life would take some of the guess work out of it as we would at least know what we were giving up and what we were gaining from the outset. I think I could accept the bad times with a little more grace.

Don’t get me wrong I am fairly happy with my lot in life. I don’t yet have the feature wall in every tastefully designed room of a home of my own which is surrounded by a white picket fence but I do come home every night to a warm flat and a hot meal; my career has not made me wealthy but makes me happy for the most part; I don’t visit the opera or ballet draped in satin and dripping with jewels but I love cuddling up on the sofa and watching reruns of “The Vicar of Dibley”; I don’t have 2.4 children 4 dogs and a rabbit but I could still ai for these things in the future; I am neither famous nor noteworthy but I do make small differences in the lives of the students I teach (hopefully for the better); I am not engaged in the battle of saving the earth, curing disease or eliminating poverty but I do have many treasured family and friends.

There are of course aspects of my life I could do without. Interfering landlords inspecting and judging my home; morons at work who increase my workload to satisfy their own sense of self importance; responsibilities to family that are sometimes arduous and inconvenient; arguing with my husband over whose turn it is to do the cooking; medical condition LUPAS causing fatigue and hair loss; average looks; insufficient funds to maintain the lifestyle choices I would like; frequent self doubt and inadequate work/life balance. Which of these would I be willing to tolerate if I could see the bigger picture?

If I could have foreseen how all of my choices in life would lead me to where I am today – I may have done some things differently or maybe not. All I know is that if somehow I could have purchased my lifestyle as easily as I can a package holiday the element of choice would have made the consequences easier to deal with.

I propose that someone out their create a spreadsheet or flow chart that enables each of us to check the boxes for our greatest priorities and also identify the things we are willing to compromise over. That is one menu I would peruse with pleasure, probably over a latte and a blueberry muffin whilst daydreaming about foreign shores.

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