Mandatory

The more you have to do something, the less you enjoy it.

My father told me that one of the worst decisions he’d ever made was when he turned his passion for photography into a business. Even though he was successful and ran that business for 15 years before retiring from it, he said it sucked all the joy out of it.

An old story I’ve heard many times: bright young minds whose love of reading is absolutely crushed by the way the factory that is school chews up and spits out any real enjoyment from the act, reducing it to a narrow pipeline of books you didn’t choose, which you read just to regurgitate facts about them. Then, some of those kids rediscover reading later in life and fall in love again – sadly, many don’t.

But we can’t avoid all responsibilities in life. Some stuff is just mandatory. Are we doomed then to always hate the stuff we have to do? Will work, permanent relationships, and maintenance of your home always be grey and loveless endeavors?

I don’t think so. I think there’s a secret ingredient that lets you split the difference.

Make sure you always have a walk-away point. An exit strategy. Keep things from ever being truly mandatory, but instead make them things you choose every day.

For instance, take your job. For many people, the need for gainful employment is just a fact of their life. But the people that need jobs the most often end up being the most miserable in them. Instead, be frugal. Reduce your needs. Live well below your means, so that you have enough of a cushion that you can walk away from your job any time. Sure, you may have to get another – but you’ll have the economic/financial mobility to do so. The very fact that your dependence on the job is reduced will in turn lower your stress and increase your enjoyment, making it more likely that you’ll remain and thrive!

A mistake I’ve seen many people make in terms of romantic relationships is moving in together just to save on rent, far earlier than is appropriate. Suddenly you’re with someone not just because you want to be, but because you can’t afford to live on your own. That’s a recipe for disaster – dependence breeds contempt if done too early.

There are sometimes good reasons to become entangled in such a way that you can’t easily walk away from something. But they should be taken only with great consideration. The less handcuffed you are to anything, the happier you’ll be with everything.

Image result for handcuffs

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