I don't want to be perfect, just better...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gail Vaz-Oxlade: Willing to Wait

This is a post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I read this today and it hit home. I have decided that I desperately want a netbook. I was all prepared to buy one but realized I have seen them with better memory and a better price on HSN or QVC than the one i was going to purchase. After reading this post, I have decided to wait until the next sale on HSN or QVC to purchase one. That way in the mean time I can do my own payment plan to myself to pay for it.

I was having a chat on the phone with my girlfriend Victoria. She’s been through some interesting experiences of late and learned some important lessons. She decided to sell her house well over a year ago – prescient wasn’t she? – and has since been renting a very small place, mostly because she’s been shopping for a new home and didn’t want to make any big commitments. She’s been living with about 1/40th of her stuff and she’s learned a lot about what she actually needs.

Our conversations always dash all over the place, from books we’re reading, to stuff in the news, to the economy. I love talking to Victoria because I always come away thinking.
At one point the topic turned to shopping. She’d just bought a few new items of clothes, after waiting for several weeks for the store she really likes to put its stuff on sale. She knows the store does this every year, so she doesn’t go in until the stuff is on sale, avoiding the temptation to acquire at anything but the best price. Instead, she waits for the sale, and then she goes in prepared to find 4 items, to qualify for the 70%-off deal. She’s seldom disappointed. And she adds four new items to her wardrobe for about a hundred bucks. Not bad.
And so the conversation turned to waiting. Waiting for things to go on sale. Waiting to be sure that the thing you think you want, you know you want. Waiting for the next part of your life to start unfolding.

We’re all waiting. Most of us are just waiting; we’re doing stuff in the mean time. But we’re still waiting. And how much of our waiting comes naturally or must be carefully monitored?
If you want a new [your pleasure] and you decide to wait until you find it at a price you can actually afford, how hard is it to do without the item until you finally get it? And how “deprived” do you feel while you’re waiting? Or do you find ways of enjoying the experience of waiting?
I think this is one of the key differences between those people who can’t wait and those who can. Those who can’t wait feel deprived and the itch is so strong they must scratch it. Those who can wait feel anticipation… they enjoy the not-quite-there-yet feeling, imagining the potential pleasure they’ll derive.

I’m good at waiting. I’ve always said, “It’s not the having, it’s the getting.” By that I mean, the anticipation of something new holds much more pleasure than simply walking into the story and acquiring it. And so I tend to defer purchases for a while, as I anticipate the pleasure. In the mean time, I’m happy to watch the price come down.

Can you anticipate your way right out of whatever it is you wanted? Sure. And that’s happened too. Which is where my second philosophy kicks in: “I do not want what I have not got.” If I can’t find the item I want at a price I can afford, or if the I miss the item through bad timing, I reconcile myself to the fact that the anticipation was the best part anyway, and I let go of the want. There will always be another want.

Once upon a time, before there was credit, if you wanted to buy something, you saved up for it and paid cash. With credit thrown at us from every direction, western culture has moved to the principle of spend, spend, spend. And for people who are young, who have no experience with the idea of Waiting, it’s pretty hard to ignore the urge to splurge. See the pretty, shiny thing! Want the pretty, shiny thing! Buy the pretty shiny thing!

Waiting is an important lesson to learn. In life, we can’t just have the best job, we must wait until we’ve taken the training and developed some experience. We can’t just have a home, we must wait until we’ve save enough of a downpayment.

Waiting can be hard. Waiting can make time pass as slowly as a snail on sleeping pills. But waiting has it’s upsides too. Waiting sometimes means we don’t buy what we thought we wanted because the impulse has passed. Waiting means we have time to evaluate that want against all the other wants that will crop up in the meantime, so it makes us better at prioritizing. And if we learn to enjoy the pleasure of waiting, we can revel in our anticipation right up until we scratch the itch.

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