If you’re going to do it, make it count.
Call it a motto for the modern generation – the people like me and you who want to live simpler, stronger, and happier in these times of cheap excess. Call it a standard, too, to hold our lives up against, and an idea burrowed deep in my skull over these early weeks of 2012.
But for our purposes here on 3NL, folks, we might rejigger that phrase like so:
If you’re going to [eat/buy/watch] it, make it count.
Notice, now, the half that doesn’t change. Notice the key theme laid under all the letters: do it well, and do it so well that you’re left with no guilt or regrets.
Simple enough, right? Like any idea, it sounds easy-breezy on paper, but putting our new motto in practice might take a little more effort. Not sure where to start? Try these on for size:
Cake. Cookies. Pie. Insert your favorite sweet here, and then sit back, slump your shoulders, and sigh. Craving something sweet? You’re not alone.
But I want you to remember one thing: nobody is perfect. You will enjoy the occasional indulgence. I will too. If we accept this, realizing that a 100% black or white attitude towards what we eat is unsustainable — let alone undesirable — then we can put our best foot forward. We can adopt a new approach to our occasional indulgence, one that empowers us to chow down with a smile.
If you’re going to eat that slice, you’d better make it count. Don’t settle for a cheap box of cookies. Don’t pluck an old donut from your local grocery store bakery. Don’t settle for any low-quality, highly-processed piece of tasty entertainment, but do go out of your way to make that indulgence worth your time.
Enjoy a slice of red velvet cake (guilty!) from the best bakery in town. Split a slice of tiramisu after dinner, wine, and long conversation with the person you love most. Eat a slice (or three) of a pizza that you made with some of your best friends in the world, a night that may or may not have ended in an epic flour fight.
Make it earn the label of an indulgence, in other words, and be so satisfied with your decision that you feel no need for guilt. A dessert like this, after all, is what indulging is all about: relaxing our rigid standards, taking a deep breath, and enjoying something so damn good that you have no regrets the next morning.
This is the classic minimalist argument, in a sense: if you’re going to buy something, make it count. Don’t spread the wealth over a half-dozen things whenever you step into a shopping mall, but do track down the one item in particular that justifies the expense. This is a wee bit harder when you’re losing weight, sure, but the idea is always relevant: opt for durability and quality, and realize that having multiple pairs of every part of your wardrobe has never been necessary.
Rather than throwing down an entire paycheck on kitchen gadgets, why not settle for a high-quality set of knives? Instead of buying DVDs and CDs by the dozen, why not save some coin and rent them instead? (I own three movies: Amelie, the Darjeeling Limited, and Black Dynamite, all of which have great significance to me for several reasons. The last one is just hysterical.)
The difference, I think, is in preparation. Whenever you pull out your cash to pay for something, stop and realize exactly what you’re doing. Take a long second to study what you’re about to purchase, and take a few seconds more to ask yourself a few important questions:
1. Do I really need this?
2. If I do, can I get it (legally!) without paying? Borrow it, perhaps?
3. Do I want to spend my hard-earned coin on this?
If the item survives the process, I’m that much more likely to buy it.
The TV and I have a love-hate relationship.
On one hand, it’s a fantastic source of information. On the other, it’s a fantastic source of entertainment. There’s a powerful allure in plopping down the minute you get home from work, and likewise it’s easy to spend all weekend with a remote by your side. In the interest of getting things done, though, you might find yourself at a crossroads.
Should I watch American Idol, or should I go take a walk?
Should I watch the Thursday night comedy lineup, or should I play a board game with my family?
And, on a more personal level: should I watch one of my favorite (albeit kind of mediocre) shows, or should I spend that hour learning more about web design?
More recently, I’ve chosen the latter. The difference has been astounding: I’ve sunk hours more per week into a field I’m increasingly passionate about, and my skills have jumped up by leaps and bounds to compensate. I do plop down for the occasional episode, sure, but I try and ensure just one thing: make it count. I’m not in the market, now, for cheap and easy entertainment. If that glowing rectangle wants a few hours of my time, it had damn well better make it worth my while — and I’m sad to say, folks, that too often it fails to deliver.
It’s not black or white. TV, I want to stress, is not evil. But it’s an easy way to distract ourselves from the things that matter — our family, friends, food and growth — and too often little more than wasted time.
Quality Over Quantity
There’s another theme, here, that I’m sure you’ve seen: quality over quantity. That’s not a new thought, but nor is it a common one. We’re surrounded by stuff and things and excess on every level of our lives, so is it any wonder that we grow used to the oversaturation? Is it surprising, in other words, that we start thinking more is better? More is normal?
It doesn’t have to be. But you have to make a decision, now, to emphasize quality over quantity, and to make your quality count as much as possible.
This, I suspect, is one of the keys to a happy life.