Imagine that you are a young child at your first carnival, and you are very excited. There are rides, loud noises, exotic people, mayhem and cotton candy.
You are having the time of your life; you pay your dollar and ride the tilt-a-whirl.
You are so excited you almost wet yourself. You ride it again!
Loss of Innocence
You want to ride it again but you hesitate. There are lots of rides and you have spent two dollars in less than 10 minutes. You have hours left at the fair and it doesn’t appear that your money will stretch that far.
Nothing is free, and you have only three dollar bills, four quarters, two nickels and 11 pennies left in your jeans pocket.
Yesterday it seemed you had all the money in the world, now you are running out.
You want to ride every ride, taste every aspect of the carnival but you can’t. Your unlimited imagination runs aground on your limited resources. You feel small and confused.
You must budget your money, curtail your enthusiasm and become your own accountant. Now the carnival, viewed in dollars and cents, denial and limitation doesn’t seem like such a nice place.
Where did the fun go?
You are caught up in the money math of it all: missing the joy and frowning as you plop yourself down on a bench feeling the weight of the world.
You get your first job
After a while you are up again, walking around, torn between the carnival and your thoughts.
Luckily, you notice a refreshment stand with a mountain of unwashed cooking pots. You offer to wash them for a price. The woman who owns the stand agrees and you start scrubbing. Three hours later the pots shine, the woman pays you five dollars and you are pleased with yourself.
You have almost doubled your net worth, increased the number of rides you can ride and are a tycoon again.
But you came to the carnival to have a good time and have worked your butt off. You could have done that at home.
Things appear to be turning around as you decide to ride a particularly scary looking roller coaster. It rises high in the air, and from there you notice other rides you would like to take. Even the quick descent of the coaster doesn’t totally distract you from the nagging thought of running out of money.
Once off the coaster you count your money repeatedly. You still have more money than you started with but it doesn’t seem like enough.
More work for you
You don’t want to spend money on another ride. But this is a busy day at the fair and you buckle down washing more pots. Your new boss offers you the job of cleaning pots anytime there are dirty ones. Good news! But not fun.
Time runs out
It’s getting dark and your day is coming to a close, you are tired and hungry. The woman sells you a hot dog and some onion rings for half price and you sit down to dinner. By the time you have finished eating, it is really dark and you have only enough time and energy for one more ride. You can’t decide which one to take.
The biggest roller coaster costs two dollars and the bumper cars only a quarter. You ride the lack luster cars thinking of the roller coaster.
You finish your ride and head home as they are closing the carnival for the day. You are tired, disillusioned and dirty.
Your mother is waiting for you at the door. She asks you if you had a good day.
You break into tears and are unable to explain to her why you are crying. Between tears, you ask her if you can go back to the carnival the next day because you have gotten a job, one that must be done and that you do well. She asks you how the rides were, and you break out in tears again.
Most people work their butts off and forget that they came here to have a good time. They put their heads down and get to work. They fall into the party line of wanting things they don’t have, and are continually reminded of their own limitations. They eek out a living without really having a life.
They aren’t kids anymore, and being a responsible adult focusing on a life of limitation sucks.
Noticing that this is a carnival can be a bit tricky
What makes this a carnival isn’t how much money you have, it is where you focus your attention. When you focus on not having enough money life becomes a grind.
Wanting what you have makes you peaceful, happy and grateful.
Get curious about what you want, not what other people want or what culture wants for you. Ignore those marketers who make all sorts of promises that they never keep.
You don’t need a contrived carnival ride to be happy. You can step into the sunlight, the shade or your own being and find everything you need.
As you get curious about what you want you will discover that your wants are few and that life looks like a carnival again.
I’ve worked with multi-millionaires and people trying to make ends meet. There is no correlation between amounts of money and happiness. But everybody who thinks or imagines that they need more money smiles a little less, laughs much less and has a more difficult time enjoying life than those who embrace what they have.
There is good evidence that embracing what you have makes it more likely you can embrace more, while resisting what you have just inspires more resisting.
Dissatisfaction is complex: wanting something to be different than it is, striving to change things, trying to wake up or alter the people or places around you.
Satisfaction is simple: see, hear and feel what’s here.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Robert Huffstutter