sweater shoulder bumps

Sweater hangers for bump-free shoulders

I have this one top that’s nice to wear for an evening out. It’s a dark grey, faux-wrap top that’s classy and simple. I’ve had it for years and it’s been a go-to piece for things like my boyfriend’s company Christmas dinner or an evening out with the girls.

But one thing that’s always been a challenge with it is storing it. It’s a thin, stretchy material so if I hang it, it gets terrible “shoulder nipples“. And if I fold it, it gets terrible fold lines. And since I refuse to own an iron, neither of these storing options work for me.

For years I just sort of dealt with it until finally, I remembered: Don’t they make those hangers that are specifically designed for tops like this?

I wrote down on my to-do list that when I get some spare time this week I will check into this and my problem will be solved!

Well. I just spent the last hour or so looking into this, reading blog posts and watching youtube videos. And long story short, I ended up on Amazon at what I probably would have bought if it weren’t for one thing:

I remembered the Diderot Effect.

And I realized that I was about to spend $15 or $20 for a pack of 4 or 10 hangers respectively, when all I really need is one. “I wish I could just buy one,” I thought. “Maybe I could get lucky and happen upon one at a second hand store…”

And then I thought, “No. This is silly,” and came up with an alternative solution: get rid of the top.

Truth be told, this top is more trouble than it’s worth. The fact that I can’t simply, easily, and quickly store it like all my other clothes, should have raised a red flag for me sooner.

My goal is to design my life to be as streamlined as possible. Is that a goal of yours, too? One simple place to start looking is within any set of items you have that need to be stored: be it your closet, your bathroom cabinets and drawers, or your kitchen.

What fits? What takes up way too much space? What do you own more than one of? What requires too much maintenance or upkeep relative to the value it offers?

As I said, I’ve had this top for years. But I’ve only worn it a few times each year. I probably would have worn it more often if it hadn’t been wrinkled or shoulder-bumpy when I pulled it out of the closet.

Its time has come. Bye-bye, Inconvenience Top. You served me well, but I no longer choose to put unnecessary effort into you.

What do you own that’s more effort than it’s worth?

Spending less is not the same as saving

Once upon a time, a girl named Brianna (me) would go to a thrift store and buy clothes she didn’t need. She would get so much stuff for so little money — it was a great deal! She knew she was awesome because she was such a saavy shopper and she was so good with her money.

Let’s be really clear on this: Saving is not spending. Saving is saving. And spending is spending.

These two concepts have two different words for a reason. And no matter what percent off, if you’re spending money on an item you’re spending money on an item.

Josh over at Becoming Minimalist has shared this perfect quote which sums it up:

spending isn't saving

While painfully true, it’s an easy point to miss. We are bombarded with advertisements declaring how much we can “save” and we are easily led to believe that buying those items is a good idea.

Someone close to me has a house full of useless items. Why did she buy it all? Because it was such a good deal. Most of it was bought second hand, and she knew that buying the knick knack from Goodwill was costing her a fraction of what she would have had to pay from the original store. Which is very true! The only problem is, she never needed it and wouldn’t have ever bought it from the original store to begin with.

When you truly need something (or want something, from a place of moderation), it’s a great idea to get it on sale or to buy second hand. There is no doubt about this.

The trouble only comes when you are blinded by the deal and forget that you don’t need it — and often don’t even want it!

I bought a super cute winter vest which I wear all season (including as I type this), and had I paid full price, it would have been much more than the ~$3 I paid at Goodwill. This was a great deal for a useful item, even though I did spend money on it that I could have chosen to save.

In contrast, I used to buy so many decorative items that I didn’t have a spot for and never should have bought. It was all a good deal, but not for useful items for me — and I should have chosen to save that money.

We always have a choice. Ad companies know this and they also know that we have limited willpower. They know that if they bombard us enough we will start to believe we will save money by spending money with them.

I understand the concept of buying on sale, and thus saving money that you would have spent at a more expensive store. But the key there is “that you would have spent”.

Usually though, that’s not money we would have spent.

This is buying on impulse: when we not only weren’t planning on buying it, but often we had never even seen that item before or knew it existed!

It surely does take a discerning mind to see through the ads and sales. It takes a strict budget to save money when everything around you is telling you to spend. It takes a solid look at what you truly need and truly want to know that you don’t need or want every item you see at a store. And these things don’t come naturally to us.

But they can be nurtured and strengthened. Impulse shopping can be overcome. You can develop a practice of saving. You can change the way you use money. You can feel in control when you are in a store or shopping online. You can feel proud of yourself for the financial milestones you reach. You can have a clean and clutter-free home that brings you joy and not stress.

The choice is yours, every day. Make a choice that future-you will be grateful for. Make a choice that present-you will feel proud of.


buy fewer, buy better

Buy fewer, buy better

I played tennis in high school. My doubles partner was a very tall girl with super-gorgeous long hair, and I’m pretty sure all the boys admired her. She was pretty and also stylish, and I remember one day she remarked to me about her wardrobe.

“I buy quality things, so I can buy less of them,” was the general sentiment.

She explained that she needed only one tee in a given color, because she knew it would last her a long time. She needed only one bag because, again, it would be awhile before it would wear and she’d need a new one. Because she bought fewer things, she could afford to spend more on each item she did buy.

At the time, I found this limiting. Why would I spend $25 on a simple tshirt when I could buy a simple tshirt for $5 at Walmart? I thought. I could buy so much more with my money!

But over the years as I avoided expensive boutiques like the plague and instead favored shops with “3 for $15” deals, I learned that over time I still spent a lot of money on clothes. Why? Because I’d decide they didn’t fit quite right or the material was uncomfortable or it just didn’t look new after awhile.

Cheap things wear out. (Quality things do, too, but not as soon.)

The tshirt that costs $25 has a much more flattering cut and wont stretch out. The $100 handbag has higher quality straps that wont fray. Whereas those $5 shoes are $5 for a reason.

When things are cheap, there’s a misconception that your money spent on them somehow doesn’t count, because it was hardly anything. Unfortunately, this way of thinking leads to overbuying. (tweet that)

Overspending vs. Overbuying

I’ve always been a frugal person, so I have a keen sense to avoid overspending. I shop around for the best deal so I don’t waste my money.

But something I struggled with in the past was overbuying. Like the time I bought four swimsuits for only $50, which was definitely not overspending, but I certainly didn’t need four swimsuits. Or the times I would “splurge” at Goodwill and spend $30 getting “so much stuff!”, but I should have just bought the $3.88 pair of shorts that I came in there for.

I love shopping but only when I need things

I very much enjoy shopping. I like browsing and socializing with friends, pointing out things we like or things that might suit each other. But actually spending money on something is different. If I buy something just “because I’m shopping”, I’ve found that I don’t get any joy from it, and in fact I feel some guilt.

But when I have an item in mind that I need, go out with the intention of buying it, find one that’s perfect, and make the purchase, I feel both accomplished and excited to use it!

It feels great to treat yourself to something you actually need and there’s a much greater sense of joy when you buy something of quality. (tweet that) I’d rather go out to a nice meal once a month than fast food once every week.

Spend more now to save more later

It’s hard in the moment, especially when getting started, but the next time you find yourself in need of something, try not opting for the absolute cheapest version. Consider the labor and ethics of its production. Consider how long you hope it will last. Consider if saving up to buy one nice thing will bring you more joy than two cheaper things. Once you start to question and consider where things come from and what purpose they will serve in your life, you will see buying in a whole new light. And hopefully, it will bring you more joy!

What’s an example in your life of something you bought that was either cheap or unnecessary, and how did it make you feel? What’s something high quality and really needed that made you feel awesome to buy?

the life you want

Envying other people’s lives

I work as a barista a few afternoons a week, but I went in yesterday morning to cover a coworker’s shift. I’m not usually there in the morning and there’s a different vibe. In the afternoons everyone is chill and relaxed because they don’t have anywhere to be. Morning cafe patrons are often in a rush.

But I noticed a few customers yesterday who happened to have time to sit and chat at a table. It was about 10:30am and two 30-something women walked in wearing black yoga pants and tank tops. Whether they had just finished a yoga class or were merely rocking the athleisure aesthetic I wasn’t sure. But they looked casual yet stylish, and I took note of them. They were all smiles and looked to be having a pleasant morning. They ordered their drinks in mugs ‘for here’ and sat down together, after briefly stopping by another table to say hi to some acquaintances.

I watched these women from the other side of the counter, and couldn’t help but wish I was one of them.

“I want to wear cute, flattering black yoga pants and go to a cafe and meet with friends,” I thought. “I want to have time in the mornings to have a leisurely coffee date.” “I want to be able to afford that lifestyle.”

And then I realized. I can already do all of that if I wanted to.

I own black yoga pants. I could wear them out to a coffee shop.

I have friends. I could meet them for coffee.

The earliest I work each day is noon. I already do have my mornings free.

Coffee now and again is not outside my means. I can afford the occasional $5 latte.

Well, I asked myself, then why don’t I do it? Why don’t I put on some athleisure and meet a friend for coffee? Why am I standing here jealous of something easily within my grasp?

I’m typing out these questions as if I’m about to answer them for you in the next paragraph. But I don’t have the answers.

I suppose I’d rather spend my mornings quietly by myself, getting some things done, eating breakfast, taking my dog for a morning stroll. I think the idea of getting coffee with a friend doesn’t really even enter my mind. Perhaps I feel more social in the evenings?

But the point of sharing this story with you is that I found myself jealous of something that 1) I could have, too, and 2) I apparently don’t even want.

And it got me thinking: how often are we jealous of things we don’t even want? (tweet that)

I’m reminded again of Mark Manson’s post about how we don’t follow our dreams because they aren’t really our dreams. He talks about how it was his dream for years to become a rock star. Yet he never worked to make it happen because the fantasy was more appealing than actually doing it.

I think that’s what I experienced yesterday morning. I saw those two women and I pictured myself being that cute, post-yoga girl who’s casually out with a friend for coffee. Doesn’t that just sound good? Isn’t that the woman I want to be?

I see now that this is why it’s important to have clarity about one’s values. What’s important to me? What makes me happy? Who do I want to be?

So often we think we want to be a certain “type” of person. The type who wears xyz, the type who eats xyz, the type who works in xyz industry.

Yet who do we actually want to be?

Yesterday I learned that I need to spend more time figuring this out. Maybe I can get together with a friend and discuss it over coffee. (Is that what people talk about there??)

Have you had an experience where you were jealous of something you could easily have if you wanted it?

garage sale

I used to go to garage sales every single weekend

My mom and I used to go to garage sales in the summer, as a fun activity to do together. We would scour the paper and Facebook groups the night before and compile a list of all the ones that sounded good. We would then order them by location, for the most efficient drive around town to get to them all.

Oh yes. We were garage sale pros.

As a young 20-something, I was usually looking for things for my apartment: a silverware tray, placemats, throw pillows, a crock pot. I was also kind of obsessed with candles so I would buy a ton of half-used ones for a bargain!

Some of these things were useful, like pots and pans and other kitchen necessities. But once I bought those, I didn’t need more, and my list of things I needed for my apartment dwindled and dwindled.

Eventually my apartment was set up and I didn’t need anything else. So I would still just buy candles. Or maybe yet another serving platter. “Garage sales have such great deals!”

Then once the whole minimalism thing kicked in, I just didn’t see anything I needed, so I would usually not buy anything. This unfortunately (or fortunately?) made the activity of going to garage sales less fun, and now I don’t go at all anymore. Sometimes it’s still fun to look, but usually seeing all the junk just stresses me out and I try to get out of there as soon as possible.

The game

When we’re bored and looking for something to entertain us, garage sales can be fun. It’s a way to get outside, go to a new place, kind of snoop around a person’s belongings without being creepy (when else can you do that??) and maybe pick up a knick-knack along the way. There’s also the element of the search: you don’t know what you’ll find, what condition it’s in, or how much you’ll end up paying for it. There’s a bit of strategy and haggling involved, and it can be a game. Sometimes you end up with something you really needed, at a great price, and you win.

Usually, though, you lose.

When I would spend my whole Saturday morning going from one junk-filled driveway to the next, I was losing. When I would search and just hope to find something I could convince myself I needed just to feel the joy of haggling and playing the game, I was losing. When I would spend my money on things I didn’t need, even though it wasn’t that much, I was losing.

And I would see it all the time with other garage sale shoppers. “How much is this?” a lady would say, holding up some miniature figurine. “25 cents” the man behind the card table would reply.

I understand now that 25 cents for something you don’t need is not a deal — it’s a disaster. (tweet that)

What you are really doing is paying someone so you can take their junk off their hands. What a favor to them. And what a disservice to yourself.

The trap

It truly is saddening to see people’s relationship with money and what they allow into their homes. But I know from experience and also seeing my family struggle with it, that it is a trap. And it’s a pattern that is very difficult to overcome.

Especially when you are bored and looking for fulfillment. Looking for something to pass the time. I have been there. I remember one summer in particular, the way I distracted myself after a breakup was to go to Goodwill every Tuesday on 25 cent day and spend a couple hours in there shopping for clothes. They call it retail therapy for a reason.

Sometimes second-hand shopping can be more effective retail therapy than shopping in expensive stores, I think, for two reasons:

1. You are spending less money than you otherwise could be, and it’s easy to trick yourself into a self-esteem boost for being so money savvy.

2. Thrift store or garage sale shopping is much less efficient, less organized, and has fewer options, which means you have to take time hunting around to find something you like that’s in your size. Because it takes more time, it’s a better distraction if you’re really wanting the day to go by quickly.

The outcome

While garage sales definitely serve a purpose to those who need something and can find it cheaply, to most people they are unnecessary. Even to the sellers themselves, it’s usually such a waste of time: hauling all their junk outside, arranging it on tables and blankets, sometimes even taking the time to pre-price everything with little stickers. They spend a whole day (or weekend!) sitting in the hot sun, waiting for someone to come by and buy $6.35 worth of little objects. Wouldn’t it have been better to just donate it all and save the time and energy?

But that brings us back to the deeper issues here: boredom and a bad relationship with money.

These aren’t easy things to overcome, especially when we’ve been raised to have our current relationship with money, and when we never really learned how to be bored or how to overcome boredom.

These are still things I am working on. But I know that a crucial step for me to move past it in my life is to not put myself in situations where I will be tempted. And so, I don’t go to garage sales anymore. I still do go to thrift stores, but I have a much stricter set of guidelines for what makes me happy or unhappy when I shop. And sometimes, you just have to take it one day at a time.



Stuck with sentimental stuff | Ask LFB

“What do you do about things that you don’t necessarily like but have sentimental value? For example, gifts or clothing that someone gave you where they may notice if you don’t have it anymore.”

— Marissa

Hello, Marissa! Welcome to the LFB fam :).

In Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she talks about that exact thing: an item you don’t actually want or need but which was a gift, and so you feel guilty about getting rid of it. She says to hold the item, look at it, thank it for it’s service, and let it go. This idea seems to have really resonated with a lot of people!! I have tried it and had success as well.
I think the reason it works is because you are taking a focused moment to really acknowledge the item, think fondly of the person who gave it to you, and give a genuine thanks. These are things we typically skip over when looking at the item, especially when it isn’t something we like. It’s sort of like it’s been sitting in your closet this whole time not being appreciated, and now once you give it those 15 seconds of fame, you feel free from it and it from you. You can part ways.
Another thing that I have found helpful is to remember that if I donate it or pass it along to a friend, I’m not only giving someone else a chance to enjoy the item, but I’m giving the item a chance to be enjoyed. And, I’m finally giving the thoughtful person who gave it to me the chance to make someone happy from it, which is likely all they were hoping for.
It’s totally okay if the item didn’t make you happy. That’s something that either is or isn’t, and can’t be forced. So it’s not your fault if you dislike the item. But now that you have it, you have an opportunity. What do you chose to do with it? (Hint: keeping it in the back of your closet helps no one.)
As for what to do if that person comes over and directly asks you where the thing is, that is a very unlikely yet horrifyingly awkward situation. Having a response prepared like, “We really enjoyed it for awhile and then decided to change our style when we moved into the new house,” or, “I knew someone else could enjoy it more than I did and wanted to pass it along,” might help ease your anxiety about the situation.
Or, simply explain that you are trying to be more minimalist, and that you liked it but didn’t need it, so you thanked it for it’s service and let it go!
On the flip side, Sam Harris wrote a book called Lying in which he strongly encourages us to never lie, even in awkward situations. When I read it, I felt really gung-ho and inspired, but when a real-life situation arises it’s really hard to put it into practice!
I mention this because if you truly didn’t like it, it might not be the best idea to tell the person you did. Partly because that would be dishonest, and partly because they might think that’s your taste and buy you something else similar!
Personally I am in favor of sharing my minimalism journey and letting the person know that while I truly am touched that they bought me a gift, I am “not much of a gift person” and try not to keep too many possessions around. I think people can sense my sincerity when I say this and thus don’t tend to get offended. If anything they are interested, as maybe the idea resonates with a part of them they didn’t know was okay to be expressed!
It’s always tricky to navigate relationships without stepping on toes or hurting feelings, but ultimately you have to do what makes you feel happy and peaceful in your own home. After all, that’s likely all the person ever wanted for you anyway.
Good luck, Marissa!

Read more books by borrowing them, not buying them

This weekend I found some free time to sort through the things I still had in my parents’ house. I had a bunch of old tech gadgets, some papers from back in high school (ridiculous), and a box full of books. I took an entire car load of stuff to Goodwill, and threw out and recycled a bunch more! I narrowed down photos like crazy, and enjoyed a bit of memory lane along the way. I now have a single shelf of keepsakes that felt appropriate to leave at their house, and all that was unneeded is gone.

letting go of books

I want to talk specifically about the books I narrowed down. I had looked through those books before, and trimmed down the collection a bit here and there. But there were a few I always kept, because the topic interested me and I had genuine intentions to read it eventually. A few that come to mind in this category were a psychology book from college and a financial planning book by Suze Orman.

Some of these books I’d had a few years and some even longer, and yet I never found time (read: prioritized) to read them. “But some day I will!” I thought. “This is something I would like to know more about!”

Today, I finally decided to just get rid of them. And here’s why: holding on to a book, even one that’s interesting, feels like a homework assignment.

Books about financial planning for example, are books one “should” read. “It’s important to know about that stuff” we tell ourselves.

But we aren’t getting any wiser with it sitting unopened on the shelf. And the distant nagging every time we pass by certainly doesn’t help either.

If I haven’t read it, I probably don’t want to

If I don’t truly want to read something right now, what are the chances I’ll want to read it later? I had been keeping these books betting that future-me would feel differently than present-me.

It’s like the tip I’ve heard about clothing: if it’s not something you’d buy in the store today, don’t keep it. We tend to give an inflated sense of value to items we already have, even if we wouldn’t even buy them today if we had the chance!

Trust what you feel today, and don’t let yourself be unrealistic about the future.

I read more books when they’re from the library

Although I rarely do it, I think going to the library is fun. It’s exciting to search for a book I have in mind and see if my library has it in.

Those are books that I want today and that I know I have a limited time to read. I can’t put it off for too long. Of course I could keep renewing books week after week after month after month — but who does that, really?

Knowing I have a time limit for a book makes me be realistic about what books I’m actually checking out. If I know I’m not interested in reading it in the next week or two, what’s the point?

And, once I start the book, I have an incentive to finish it because I have what feels like a deadline. I’ll choose reading over scrolling on my phone when I know I only have a few days left to finish the last 100 pages. But we all have books we’ve purchased that we started and never finished, because “later” is always an option!

When it comes down to it, I get more books read when they are from the library. That fact alone is worth borrowing over buying, and when I factor in the space I save, the money I save, and the stress I lose, I wouldn’t do it any other way!

There are of course a few books which have special meaning to me, and those I am glad I own and I plan to always keep. But by and large I’m sticking with the library!

P.S. Another thing I love are those “Little Free Library“s I see around town. Does your town have those? They are such a cute idea. I’ve borrowed books from those and also dropped off some books I just wanted to get rid of!

Leave a comment below with what book you’re currently reading, and where you got it from :).


empty handed

It’s okay to leave empty-handed

Spring time means one of my favorite Saturday morning activities is back in full swing — the farmer’s market! I love the energy there: all the people, all the different stands to look at; I love the idea of shopping local and buying fresh-picked produce and homemade treats. Plus I think donning a pair of yoga pants and a tank top and carrying my reusable produce bag just fits this image of a fit, healthy woman who has her life together, and that’s a facade I like to try and maintain. 😉

I often meet two good friends there at 9am to browse together. We typically each have things in mind we are hoping to find: greens for a salad tonight, rhubarb for a pie, local raw honey, or my personal favorite: sauerkraut! Last time I also got a gluten-free brownie, and other times I am tempted by the croissants. Boy oh boy.

Now that everyone is hungry, let me tell you what happened two weeks ago. I went there looking for sauerkraut, but the guy wasn’t there that week. I looked for local raw honey, but it was too expensive. I had already done my other shopping at the grocery store a few days earlier, so I didn’t need anything else.

So I did something that used to be difficult for me: I left empty-handed.

And that is okay.

I still had fun saying hi to people I know, and it was still fun to browse. It was still fun to get up semi-early on a Saturday and get dressed and leave the house. I still felt productive and put-together.

The only thing that was different about that week was that the farmer’s market didn’t have anything I needed. But I still gained so much from being there!

We often think we have to come away from a store or market having bought something — anything — or else it somehow wasn’t productive or wasn’t worth our time. But the trip itself isn’t a waste if you get to say hi to a friend, or if you’re like me and just enjoy being there to browse and feel the warm-weather vibes. When we frame shopping like this, we see that the only goal isn’t just to buy something.

If you find yourself someplace where you’re tempted to buy something just so you’re not walking away empty-handed, remember these mantras:

  • It will only become unproductive if I buy something I don’t need. (tweet that)
  • It will only become a waste of my time if I buy something just because I’m in a store. (tweet that)
  • I choose to save my money for something I actually want. (tweet that)

Try and see shopping as separate from buying. Shopping is the experience, the outing. Buying is a choice you can make once you’re there, based on a couple factors (Do I need this? Do I have enough money for this right now?)

Once we reframe how we look at shopping, we can begin to break the habit of compulsive buying. It might feel uncomfortable at first to leave some place empty-handed. But I feel so much power and self-control when I do now! And I love the feeling of still having that cash in my pocket that I can now put towards something I actually need.




buying things i need

I love buying things I need

This evening I opened a small package that came to me from Australia. It’s from a small business called Spiralocks, and it contained a hair tie made especially for people with dreadlocks. I purchased it on Etsy.

I removed my stretched-out hair elastic from my dreads and put in the Spiralock. It held my hair incredibly well and I was so glad I made the purchase!

Beyond the fact that it works, I love that my purchase supported a small business. I love that I am wearing something handmade with love. I love that it is different, unique. I have only one, so it is special to me. And it will 100% last longer than those cheap hair elastics!

It feels wonderful to make a successful purchase. To buy something you need, something that works, and something that you like. (tweet that)

I’ll admit, however, that in the past I would buy things I didn’t need, that didn’t work that great, and that I wasn’t even all that crazy about.

Why on earth did I spend my money then?!

Because I was looking for fulfillment through material things. It’s the same reason I will go buy ice cream when I’m still stuffed from dinner. It’s not healthy and it wont make me happy in the long run, but I’m remembering a time when I bought ice cream and it did make me happy, and I’m searching for that feeling again.

It’s the same with clothes or electronics (the two areas I see this happen most often.) We remember that time we bought something we needed and loved, and we chase after that feeling again.

Remember how wonderful it felt when you got your first smart phone and could finally text photos to your family? Well that was a completely different experience than five upgrades later, when there really isn’t that much new benefit you’re getting.

Sometimes we associate positive feelings with buying something, when the positive feelings really came from the benefit of the thing. But a marginal benefit hardly justifies a purchase, and can often just perpetuate our need to buy more and more, ever searching for fulfillment. (tweet that)

This is a really difficult thing to overcome. And it’s something that many (dare I say most) people struggle with. To stop buying things for fulfillment means to find actual fulfillment, which requires taking a good, hard look at oneself and one’s values. I’m not trying to give anyone a mid-life crisis, so I’ll just let you know that this is something that I am still working on, and that I support you in working on it, too.

It’s okay if it’s a life-long project. Our culture has raised us to be massive consumers, so it’s no fault of our own that this is how we are. But the future is in your hands, as are your decisions. You can chose to take back control of your priorities and your values. You can choose to end a pattern of debt and guilt. You can bring joy into your life through select, meaningful purchases. And you can open yourself up to finding fulfillment from so many other areas. I’m excited to see what we all discover!


Congratulations, by the way

I recently read a short book (it’s actually the transcript of a convocation address from Syracuse University, made into a short book) and it’s called Congratulations, by the way and it’s by George Saunders.

It was funny and uplifting, and free from my local library. Here’s a bit of it:

Accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

I know this has been true for most of my late childhood and adult life. It’s ingrained into the system: finish this school year, on to the next. Finish high school, on to college. Graduate, get a job. Get a better job. And a better job. Upgrade your apartment. Now upgrade your furniture to match (something called the Diderot effect).

And while we are on this never-ending road to success, we usually have forgotten that we have already achieved success. Many times over.

At what point will you personally feel “done”? When have you finally done enough? And who’s “enough” is it? Yours? Your partner’s? Your parents’?

When I reached age 27 or so, my priorities changed. And I realized that the things I had spent my whole life wanting, I didn’t actually want. See this great article by Mark Manson on this exact topic.

The idea of success has blown up into an absolute must in order to have a good life. But once I redefined my idea of success, I was able to stop chasing other people’s dreams, and start working toward my own. Not only working towards them, but in some ways, living them now.

Let me tell you, as someone who spent most of her 20s feeling depressed and defeated: it feels so much better to live your real dreams than to fail at other people’s dreams. (tweet that)