Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Life?

Vernon Coleman

I know a handyman who earns his living painting, bricklaying and doing bits of carpentry. He's a real jack-of-all-trades and he's very good at what he does. But it's difficult to get him to come and do anything because he only works two or three days a week. The rest of the time he messes around on his boat or in his garden.

A few months ago I asked him why he didn't work harder.

He explained that he didn't see any point in earning more money than he needed to satisfy his fairly simple needs. He told me that he has paid off his mortgage, that although old and rather battered, his car is his own and that he has all the furniture he wants. He has, he told me, managed to put aside a few hundred pounds in the building society for emergencies.

I asked him if his wife was happy with this philosophical approach to employment. He said that she was very happy and that they spent much of the week gardening together, walking along the cliffs or, on sunny days, bobbing around in their little boat. He also told me that he and his wife don't have holidays away from home because for them home is a pretty constant holiday but that they do spend a day every month travelling to demonstrations against hunting, vivisection and other examples of cruelty to animals.

I found his attitude enormously refreshing. This local handyman is leading the life of a true revolutionary. I suspect that Henry David Thoreau, the philosopher of Walden Pond, would have been proud of him.

Before you dismiss the handyman's lifestyle as impractical ask yourself how much of your life you spend earning money to buy things you don't really need and are only buying to impress people you don't really care about.

Here's a simple little exercise you can try.

Make a list of everything other than food that you've bought in the last six months. By the side of each item on your list make a note of the price you paid.

Then divide your annual income by the number of hours you work to find out how much you earn an hour. Don't forget to deduct any expenses from your income before you do this calculation.

Now you can easily use this figure to find out how long you had to work to buy each of the items on your first list.

So, for example, if you earn 6 an hour you would have had to work for approximately 17 long hours to earn enough to buy something costing 100.

If you earn 10 an hour the new living-room carpet you bought for 800 will have eaten up 80 hours of your life.

If you earn 7 an hour then a pair of 90 trainers will have taken around thirteen hours of work.

This can be a frightening exercise for you'll quickly realise that you've given a great deal of your life in order to buy junk that you don't really need.

Add up the cost of all the unnecessary stuff you bought last year and work out how much of your life you wasted earning money to buy stuff that hasn't improved or changed your life.

The whole point of modern advertising is to persuade people to buy things they don't need; to turn shallow wants into desperate `must haves'.

It is skilful advertising which encourages otherwise sane people to spend a fortune on double glazing which will never pay for itself and to spend thousands of pounds ripping out a perfectly serviceable kitchen and replacing it with another slightly different kitchen.

I'm not suggesting that the handyman's life style is right for everyone.

But you might like to think about all this a little for the next day or two.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2005

This article is taken from the book Spiritpower by Vernon Coleman which is available from all good bookshops and from the shop on this Web site.