Posted by: Brad Stanford | October 14, 2013


I think it would be nice to take a vacation with my wife. This idea requires some decisions right off the bat.

The first thing I need to decide is what “vacation means”. To me it means three things:
1. No responsibilities (no schedule, no work, no parenting)
2. No financial worries (all costs accounted for and then some)
3. Fun enough (and long enough) to totally forget what day it is.

All of these requirements have built-in timing. Right now, we have a toddler, which automatically puts the possibility of being absent for extended periods on a setting of “no”. (And even if we could, I wouldn’t want to be away from my kids for an extended period, because they’re awesome.)

We’re in the middle of some remodeling, which puts the travel budget also on a status of “no”.

And I have some client projects that would need to be completed first. “No responsibilities” fails the vacation test.

But that’s just today.

If I can be content with today’s restraints, I can joyfully plan for something like this in the future. Realistically, I’m looking three to five years out.

But I can also choose to be depressed that I can’t go tomorrow. If I choose that path, I will obsess about how fast I can get the vacation thing to happen. I will overwork, overstress, and in general miss out on the day-to-day joy for the next three years because I’m focused on the vacation as a solution to my discontent, when being discontented was actually a choice.

And it will be three years no matter how badly I try to make it not be, so if I’m impatient, I get to harvest failure instead of happiness. This is not good foreplay for a vacation, because a vacation rarely is incredible enough to counter multiple years of deciding to be discontented.

Some people create addictions like this. They don’t know that they’ve chosen discontent, and when they get what they want, they chose to be happy about it, creating the idea that the thing or event created happiness. So, they spend all their time trying to have another club experience, one night stand, party, or whatever to bring that same feeling back.

Instead of chasing the wind, though, a much better way is to decide in advance. I’m going to choose to notice cool things about today. I will chose to laugh and believe and love and see past the facades. Declare how you will act beforehand, and then surround yourself with things and sayings and people that will help you do that.

Deciding is also the way to get to your goal, like my vacation. If I decide and commit to it, now my brain is alert to things that will help me get there. I can start collecting people. places, and things that will make it happen. If I wait for right circumstances to give me permission to take a vacation, it will never happen.

I’m also more alert to time that’s spent not getting me there. Facebook will not help me get things in line to go. Neither will looking at the best vines of 2013 (so far). So deciding brings focus.

So I look ahead and think, “In five years, my wife and I are going to a location that has the beauty and distractions that will make us forget what day it is.”

The excitement begins to build.

The reality checks are appreciated.

And the time flies by, because since I know it will happen, I don’t have to obsess about making it happen, and I’m not watching the clock.

Decide first to live, then decide what you want to do. You will not die disappointed, even if you don’t get to do it all.



  1. I really appreciate this post, Brad, especially the bits about the addiction to “the next big thing” and the exhortation to avoid “chasing after the wind”. I find myself falling into that mentality from time to time and need to re-center my thoughts around the incredible, blessed life I have *right here*.

    However, how do you balance pushing out that big vacation with the knowledge that there are things that simply WILL NOT happen unless you make them happen (and soon)? Three to five years is a reasonable time period… but what if life conspires to keep that always “three to five years” out? And then at some point you’re old and can’t enjoy what you’ve spent so much time thinking about, or even planning out?

    I’m not speaking hypothetically.

    I spent the first 2/3 of my life thinking about “someday”. Even making plans for the future. And “someday” never came. The future exploded. There was always the next crisis to divert attention, time, and funds away from “someday”. It’s not dissimilar from what a lot of people experience as they look forward to retirement, e.g., the husband falls ill and the couple never gets to go on that round-the-world cruise.

    Tim Ferriss talks about mini-retirements throughout one’s life, and I think the principle can apply here. But it all comes down to priorities and choosing among good options (rather than choosing a good one over a bad one). You’ve chosen right now to renovate your home; that’s no better or worse than taking a vacation to the Yucatan Peninsula to hike Mayan ruins. You’ve chosen to own a home at all; that’s no better or worse than the family that chooses to rent in order to be able to leave the country for months at a time with fewer things to tie them down. And so on.

    Great post!

    • Contentment first. If I can’t die right now happy that I was given a chance to live, then nothing else will bring happiness.

      Plan second. Planning includes, “If the Lord allows, we will do this or that.” and you must be OK with Him not allowing. The backside of that is you will be happier where He takes you instead. And if He does allow, then decide that if you don’t make it to the goal, you will die trying, always with hope, never giving up.

      I notice that Abraham never saw his promise come true, only the start of it. That was good enough. So let it be said of us.

      I got to pilot an airplane a few short weeks ago for the first time in almost eleven years. I gave up on flying to do a better thing – raise a family and try to help others along the way. And I really did put that dream down completely. But it looks like it will be coming back around.

      A couple of years ago, I was given a flight-sim-quality joystick. It took another year before I could get around to using it. I had no thoughts of getting back in the air, but I went ahead and did some Cessna practice anyway, just because I was alert to the fact that God put something in my life that related to something he made me for. That practice turned out to be a big help when returning to the cockpit.

      God will show you what needs to be pushed and when. Sometimes that vacation isn’t going to come because you worked hard for it. It might come because you worked hard to get someone else to go and they ended up saying, “You come along with me!”. Or it might be because your friend wins a McDonald’s sweepstakes and takes you along to Disney World. (True story.)

      Which brings me to my last point: Pay attention. Life is much like cooking. Put the wrong ingredient in at the wrong time, and it will come out awful. Look at the circumstances, understand timing, look at the natural flow, know what you’ve been given for this moment, and mix it all together.

      If you saved money for a trip and then life called upon that money, then A) thankfully it was there! and B) it wasn’t the right time to go. But chasing the dream saved your bacon financially when it was important. Fair enough.

      Contentment first, plan second, then pay attention. There is a time and a place for everything, either you will accomplish the thing, or your perspective will be changed to understand the more mature version of what to plan for.

      I wanted to build airplanes for a living when I was in my teen years. Then I wanted to fly for a living. Both were bad ideas, because they were not true to what I really wanted, but was too immature to see. I didn’t want to build somebody else’s stuff, just my designs. And I didn’t want to fly when somebody told me to, I just wanted to fly. But I couldn’t see that until I arrived at this end of my life.

      All that to say: faith, hope, and love. Faith that God is just, hope in Him to make things right, and enough love for you to give it away. Any accomplishment beyond that is icing.

      So I’ve added another blog post to my blog post. But hopefully something in there means something to you.

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