I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago as I was digging our cars out from under the second snowstorm to hit Boston in 3 days. I live in a city neighborhood with street parking and no designated spots, so the shoveling dynamic is really interesting.
By now I’ve had a lot of opportunity to watch my neighbors handle the snow (one of the “perks” of living in the Northeast), and I’ve come to recognize that there are essentially two types of people. I’m going to call them Person A and Person B.
We can learn a lot from studying these two types of people, and we can actually choose to act like one or the other as we live our own lives.
And that choice, which type of person we want to be, can make all the difference.
The story of Person A
Person A does just enough to get his car out of his space, and no more. I often see this person spinning his wheels, switching between drive and reverse, doing everything he can to get enough traction to spin out onto the street and avoid the physical labor of actually removing the snow that’s in his way.
This person saves himself some time and effort in the short term, but his actions have several long term consequences:
Consequence 1: There’s no assurance that there will be a place for him to park later on. Maybe the sun will come out and melt enough of the snow to clear up his spot, but he has no control over this. It’s just as possible that the snow he left will ice over and leave the spot unusable.
Consequence 2: Even if he can park in the same spot, it might be difficult. Maybe he has a tough time getting in. Maybe he then has a tough time getting out. Maybe the snow has iced over and damages his tires or the underside of his car.
Consequence 3: Maybe he can’t park in the same spot and needs to find another one. This might take extra time driving around, and it might also mean he has to park further away from his home.
Consequence 4: By leaving his spot uncleared, the entire neighborhood suffers. Not only are there now fewer spots on the street, making it more difficult for everyone else to park, but this person will potentially park in a spot that someone else cleared out. The entire neighborhood ends up paying for this one person’s lack of personal responsibility.
The story of Person B
Person B spends the extra time and effort to actually shovel out a spot. She not only makes sure that she can get her car out and onto the street, but removes all of the snow from around her car and leaves a nice clear spot.
This person sacrifices some time and effort in the short term, but her actions have several long term benefits:
Benefit 1: If she saves her spot, she’s guaranteed to have a place to park when she gets home later. She has taken the situation directly under her control rather than leaving her future to chance.
Benefit 2: Not only will she have a spot, but it will be easy to park in. And because it’s clear, she’s not risking any extra damage to her vehicle.
Benefit 3: The assurance of knowing she has a spot to park in that’s clear and close to home gives her one less thing to worry about the rest of the day. She can live her life with a little bit less stress.
Benefit 4: She has opened up space on the street that makes it a little bit easier for her entire neighborhood to park. She is also relieving the rest of the neighborhood of the need to support her in her quest for parking. By taking ownership of her own situation, she is lessening the burden on everyone else.
These same principles apply to our money
When it comes to our money, we have a choice. We can choose be like Person A or we can choose to be like Person B.
If we choose to be like Person A, we will spend our money without purpose. We will decide not to give any thought as to what we truly value or what our long term goals are. We will instead do whatever feels easiest or most enjoyable to us in the present moment.
The consequence of this type of behavior will likely be an unhappy life.
Without real thought given to what it is that we truly value, our quest for instant gratification will leave us feeling unfulfilled. Money is meaningless without purpose.
And without any effort to plan for the future, we will leave ourselves to the whims of the world around us. Maybe we luck out and end up fine. But we won’t have control over the outcome.
And maybe we end up having to rely on the kindness of others or the policies of our government to support us when we’re no longer able to support ourselves. We may have no other choice.
But we don’t have to take that route. We can instead choose to be like Person B.
We can put in the effort to plan for the future. We can give ourselves the peace of mind in knowing that we have built both the financial security to weather any storm AND the financial freedom to live as we dream.
We can take control of our situation and not leave our future up to chance.
This decision is not pre-ordained. It has not already been made. We have a choice. Right now and every single day. With every single action.
Which type of person do you want to be?
Photo courtesy of R.Kyle