We are all used to a certain way of life. Obviously our standards differ from person to person, but we each have our own. We call it a ‘standard of living’ because it generally doesn’t change. For years we can buy certain brands of clothes, drive a certain type of car and drink a certain quality of alcohol. We generally don’t take stock of our situation. Our standard of living is our normal and we don’t truly know anything else.
As humans we hate losing things. That fear and hatred of loss is so strong that the average person would need to be able to win $200 just to risk $100. The upside needs to be twice as high as the downside for the average human to take the risk. There was an uproar in New York this past winter about some bankers not getting as much for a bonus as they were used to. There were articles in the NY Times about people making $500,000 a year complaining about the fact that they would only be earning $450,000 that year and how much it would change their lifestyle. It’s very easy for a person who is living on the poverty line(this guy!) to laugh at their rich white guy problems. But to do so would ignore a huge truth about humanity and a lesson about coping with such losses.
The first and most obvious option in a situation like this would to just feel sorry for yourself, make the necessary budget cuts and try to pretend that nothing has changed while knowing and hating the fact that things are not the way they were.Has anyone ever tried to diet? Diets don’t work. We all know that. Not because it’s impossible to stop eating sugary junk food(it most certainly is) but because we hate the loss of such foods. So maybe at first we eat perfectly clean. After a few days we miss our cupcakes and slowly go back to eating poorly. Why? Because we left a gaping hole in our life where cupcakes used to be, we were depriving ourselves of cupcakes. We need to fill that hole with something else, be it fresh strawberries or maybe some roasted carrots drizzled in honey (Just try it).
With every loss we have an opportunity to redefine our normal. We simply have to suppress our initial ‘gut’ reaction. Obviously this path is more difficult. But it’s possible with a little work. Start small. For instance– I’ve always wanted to ride my bike everywhere and become less dependent on my car. It’s tough to do that in NYC and sometimes very dangerous. So my plan is to make it happen in Atlanta. I’ll only be 2.5 miles away from school so it will actually be faster to bike depending on the traffic. I’ll be burning calories instead of gasoline and money.
Am I going to buy a new shiny bike and do the math so that over my 2 years of grad school I’ll start to see a positive return? No way! I’ve always wanted to become more handy and something simple like a bicycle is a great place to start. I hit up craigslist and found a pretty good bike for $100. Once this summer heat wears off I should see a positive return on the bike. Especially if I can make riding to school a habit. A 5 mile round trip four days a week should pay off well after 6.5 months.
L Bee and I went to several ‘antique stores,’ rummaged through the mess and came out with tons of great bargains. A wine fridge for $20, a few framed paintings-$5 each and one for $50(it’s worth the cost to me, I’ll have that one my whole life). It actually turned out to be a fun way to spend a few afternoons. Though with the temperature above 100, I’m sure anything inside would have been fun. I know we would have preferred something new, but we just couldn’t afford it. So we made the best of the situation by shopping antique stores and ending up finding some pretty special items.
While these are pretty small examples the concept is the same. We first need to know that we as humans hate losing things. We need to accept that. But we can also overcome it by filling the hole. A cut in salary could mean learning how to cook. You took a negative and found a hobby that will save you money as well and make you a better person. It works when you dive in. You have to believe that you can learn to cook amazing quality food. And of course it helps to know that our initial reaction to loss is really just our old monkey brain being sad because we used to have something but we no longer do. We as humans are smarter and can easily fill any hole in our life. Be it cupcakes or dollars.
Drewski, property of L Bee, has a bachelors of music from the Hartt School of Music and has completed graduate work at The Manhattan School of Music. He has worked as a stock broker in New York City before leaving to teach financial regulatory exam prep. Now at age 25 he resides in Atlanta, GA and is working towards his MBA at Georgia State University. He enjoys crossfit, eating lots of food and his puppy dog-Murray.