How to Stay Motivated in Life

Last night, I saw my friend drop $44 dollars on a dinner take out without batting an eye. On a TAKEOUT. For herself. And no, it was not a special occasion. Just a Sunday after grocery shopping.

This came right after a trip to COSTCO, where I had stood in the seafood section holding a package of lobster tails and contemplated the purchase for no less than 15 minutes, but had put it down with great self restraint because the purchase would set me back a whopping $42. I so wanted the experience of holding a lobster tail like a Viking would hold a turkey leg and just tear into it like a barbarian, with bits of the its  flesh flying everywhere.  


Little did I know that an hour later, my friend would drop $44 dollars.

For one meal.

A takeout meal.

A take out meal for herself.

Granted, it was at a sushi place, but paying $44 for about 12 pieces of tiny balls of rice topped with raw fish is too much for me. I would never consider paying more than $15 on a takeout of any kind, raw fish or not, and if I did, that would be on a rare occasion when I feel too sick to cook myself a meal.

Even then, I would justify the purchase by splitting the meal into two, and save the other half for the next day.  

Generally, I prefer to stay at around $10. It seems like an appropriate number for a take out.




My friend handed over her credit card to the cashier without batting an eye. No sign of hesitation, no “wait, hold-up, do I really want this” kind of thought crossing her mind. It was her casual manner that made me fully comprehend that this is something she did quite regularly and without giving much thought.

Meanwhile, my mind was wild coming up with different ways I would’ve used the money if I were her. I mean, I’m on a $100 weekly budget. If I blew $44 per meal, I would probably eat well for a day but would have to resort to eating ramen for the rest of the week.


Jeez Louise….


I know I'm cheap, but I have good reasons

I admit that I’m overly frugal (ok, ok, sick ass cheap) at times, but I do have perfectly good, perfectly adult reasons for it. I’m trying to pay off as much of the $30K debt before my husband quits his current job. That means, we would only have my income to survive on for a while until either his online venture takes off or until he decides to get another job. With my income, we would have to maintain the house in LA where he lives and my life here in SF. And those who has been to SF would know how expensive everything is!


Also, I need to financially support my parents, since they have no other retirement plan than me (Plan A) and my brother (Plan B). In all honesty, I’m absolutely honored to be given the role of taking care of my parent in their senior (or should I say, “refining”) years, since they’ve sacrificed their youth and whatever fortune they had on their children. And I know that if they had anything else, they would give us that, too. So I’m more than grateful to be able to show them how much I appreciate their sacrifice, and I’ll gladly reciprocate their sacrifice.


So with a bit of a stretch of the truth (but not too much), I have to maintain three houses with my income.

Therefore, I cannot afford $44 takeout dinners since I have very heavy, very adult responsibilities.  

Not that my friend doesn’t have adult responsibilities. She runs her own business. She also helps out friends whenever she’s called to.


Spending money purely for pleasure??

What I was so impressed about last night was that she most willingly spent money purely for her own pleasure and no other. I mean, I was dumbfounded that it was justification enough for her to spend that much money on a takeout just to make her tastebuds dance in delight. I usually only spend money on those rare occasion I go out with people. Generally, I spend money on myself only when I think it’s an investment for the future, that is, only if I deem that the purchase would get me closer to becoming rich and successful.



Mmm… I like money. It makes people feel safe. But that’s a side thought that has nothing to do with what I’m talking about here.

Anyway, getting back to my story, my friend has no problem pampering herself and basing her spending decisions purely on what is going to delight her. And I absolutely admire her for that.

She seems to be unafraid to make purchasing decisions purely based on what would make her happy or not. If it does, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t, then no, it’s not worth it.


But, it doesn't stop there

What’s so great about my friend is that she fills her day with things that would delight her.

Really, that’s what she does.

She comes up with creative things to do for pure amusement. She’s the type who goes to the farmer’s market during a weekday to purchase farm-fresh organic mulberries and fertilized duck eggs. Yes, they cost practically the same amount as a small used car, but apparently, it makes her happy. If I go to farmer’s market, it’s really to look around rather than purchase. I keep thinking, “Christ, I can get those at Trader Joe’s for quarter of the price, and probably twice as much!”

Once, I bought a small dinky jar of strawberry jam for $8 at a farmer’s market. That’s about 300% more than what I’d usually pay for at a regular grocery store. I felt like I had to make it last since it was the most expensive jar of jam I’ve ever bought, so I put it in the fridge and kept saving it, only taking it out once in a while to consume a teaspoon at a time. Let me just say, it’s been eight months, and it’s still in the fridge. I probably couldn't let a child eat it because it most likely turned to strawberry wine by now.


Of course, my friend would’ve slathered on the whole jar on a piece of toast and would’ve finished it that very day. But she doesn’t eat sugar, probably unless it’s from the nectar of the Himalayan mountain wildflowers that bloom only three days per year right before the rise of the 5th full moon. “Wait, is it organic?” I imagine her asking the vendor before purchasing.


My friend's day-to-day life is delish, exciting!

If anyone could create a life where they wake up each morning excited to start the day, it’s her. She can really make her life… delish, yummy. That’s why with her, she never lacks any motivation for life. Unlike me, I never see her struggling with the feeling of “oh my life is so empty and meaningless.” She savors and lingers, even with the most mundane activities.

On the outside, she seems extremely disciplined. She gets stuff done, even the chores that ordinarily everyone procrastinates on, like washing the sofa covers (seriously, when was the last time you ever washed yours? Like, never?) and folding and putting away the patio furniture because the season changed. She sets up a schedule for herself and the girl gets shit done. No one forcing her to do anything, no one giving her the evil eye or a disapproving “tsk tsk.” If she wanted, she could be lazy all she wants, since there would be no one there to judge her. No one depending on her to clean up and tidy up the apartment. No one telling her to wake up early and go to sleep at a decent hour. No, she does all that by herself.

But she doesn’t simply rush through things to get it done quick. No, she takes her time and puts in care and thought. She pays attention to detail. She idles and takes time to do a thorough job. And when she’s finished, it’s pristine. She takes a moment to admire the job she's done before she goes onto the next thing on her list.

Watching her work, I get to wonder… what in the world is motivating her to do all that? I’ve never seen her play “hooky” and just be plain lazy. She never canceled on her schedule just because she wasn’t feeling up for it. I, on the other hand, have already called in sick three times since I started working because I needed a mental health day. The HR lady at the office told me that I’m in the negative in my sick days, which means I’ve used more sick days than I accumulated.

My friend is so motivated because every darn thing she does, she enjoys. Even the chores.

She knows how to relish life, and therefore is motivated to get up each morning to start her day. And why wouldn’t anyone be, if they knew that their day is filled with everything delightful? If they knew that they would be making choices that would make them happy, why wouldn’t they be motivated?


Relishing life vs. "Have to's" ...

Wait a minute... I just had an epiphany.

If everyone wakes up each morning KNOWING that they'll be spending all day long making choices that would delight them, wouldn't we all be more motivated to wake up each morning?



For me, I move through life rushing through all the “have to”s.  I have to go to work even though it’s totally and utterly unfulfilling. I have to keep my job because I have bills I need to pay. I have to eat crap because I have to save money.  I have to stop calling in sick when I’m actually just feeling unmotivated.

I have to do laundry. I have to do the dishes. I have to work on my portfolio. And I have to sleep, I have to sleep, I have to sleep.... why can't I sleep?!?

Because these are things I “have to” do, I don’t care enough to do a good job. So I end up doing a half-assed job. I just go through the motion as quickly as I can so I can get to the next one and be done with that too. My mindset is, I gotta get through all these “have to”s before I can do the “want to”s. But what ends up happening is that there’s an interminable number of “have to”s that take up most of my time, and at the end of the day, I sit in the midst of all the half-assed, shoddy “have to” jobs I’ve done that I’d sooner forget. What lingers is the feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness to my life.

Now, if a person fills their day with things they just rush through because they have to get it done…

If a person fills their day with work that they are not proud of…

If a person fills their day with meals they eat to fill their stomach rather than to relish…

Of course that person would not be motivated to get up and start their day in the morning. Of course that person would feel empty. Of course life would seem meaningless, like it’s a routine, day in and day out, because there’s nothing to look forward to.


So, all in all...

So my friend dropping $44 for a takeout meal instigated a series of revealing questions in me that all led to the same conclusion: I’m not motivated in life because I don’t know how to relish it.

And with that admittance, I will choose to change it.