“The best things in life are free.”
We’ve all hear it said a thousand times. It’s been sung by Janet Jackson & Luther Vandross together, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby separately, and Coco Chanel famously said it, followed by “the second-best things are very, very expensive.”
The idea communicated is usually that money can’t buy the inherently valuable things in life; that there is a realm of human experience that cannot be bought nor sold and that it is this realm which deserves our most heart-full appreciation.
The automatic response is to say, “yes, of course, that’s true; a kiss with a lover, baby snuggles, and the feeling on your skin of the warm sun in springtime – these are some of the best things in life…”
But what if too much emphasis on this idea actually limits what’s possible in life to an extremely costly degree?
What if denying the value of what can be bought – with money, time, attention, effort, or any other value that can be invested – actually makes it impossible to a) receive and b) fully appreciate those things that come without any investment?
Funny question, right? To suggest an emphasis on the joy that comes from “free” experiences to be an expensive indulgence…
There is no question that baby snuggles and lover’s kisses are some of the best things in life.
But are they really “free”?
We’ll get to that question in a minute.
Assuming for a moment that they are, here’s another question to stretch our thinking about this idea:
Isn’t there a spectrum of “best things in life” that ranges from costing zero dollars to high-dollar investments?
Consider for a moment the “free” advice that you get from a well-meaning friend or family member about a career move, versus the careful guidance that a well-paid coach, experienced in your industry and practiced in guiding career moves can provide.
Wouldn’t a successful career move that results in more money in less time doing work that is more fulfilling qualify as one of the “best things in life”?
And isn’t it more likely that an experienced and knowledgeable coach will help you get there more effectively than your mom?
What about travel? The opportunity to experience different locations, languages, food, and to learn how other cultures’ norms are different than your own?
The value that this has on the traveler’s personality is priceless – and yet traveling anywhere in the world for a substantial length of time requires a budget for transportation, accommodations, and food – even as a “couchsurfer” or truly rugged vagabond.
But where this conversation gets really interesting is in going back to the question of whether or not baby snuggles and lover’s kisses are actually “free”…
The word “free” in the context of “the best things in life are free” is generally assumed to mean “costs zero dollars” – but dollar value is only one way to measure cost.
In terms of baby snuggles and lover’s kisses, there are spiritual costs, emotional costs, and psychological costs, without which those things would not even be available, much less valuable.
Consider the work that goes into cultivating yourself as a person who is qualified and valuable as a potential lover. Grooming, manners, empathy, generosity, patience, kindness, and humility are all habitual characteristics that raise your value as an intimate partner – and they all require disciplined investment of attention.
If you’re lucky, your parents did a really good job of instilling these habits of character into your being. If not, you’ve had to do some work to become aware of your shortcomings and develop them in yourself.
In this context, a lover’s kiss actually represents a return on investment in your character. You have been seen and accepted as a qualified and desirable mate, and the kiss is a communication that you’ve earned the right and privilege to enter into intimacy.
If you question this, consider for a moment the “incel” (short for “involuntarily celibate”) social phenomenon comprised of young men who believe that society has denied them sexual gratification. These misguided fellows think that just because there are pictures of half-naked women everywhere, and that porn is free and consists of pliable women always DTF, they should be able to just get laid without putting any work into cultivating their character as men who genuinely appreciate and care for women.
Baby snuggles are an extension of the work that goes into making yourself a valuable intimate partner – and while babies are generally pretty generous with their snuggle-ability, there is a cost associated with father- or mother-hood that cannot be calculated in dollars and cents.
To be a father or mother means to accept upon yourself the mantle, to embrace being 100% responsible for the care and well-being of a completely helpless and dependent being – legally for 18 years, practically for somewhere between 15 and 30 (or more, these days).
That’s a big price to pay for a snuggle, don’t you think? But totally worth it. A priceless experience by any measure.
So when it comes down to it, the best things in life are worth paying for. And the more valuable they are, the more they are worth paying a extremely high price.
Remember this as you’re navigating your daily experience, scrolling through Facebook looking for a quick and easy path to whatever it is you desire; know that there are no quick and easy paths to anything worthwhile – and challenge yourself to find ways to pay for value beyond your comfort zone.
Because that’s where the good stuff is – outside of your budget and beyond your current means, where you have to get creative with what you’re willing to sacrifice to gain what you desire.
Some practical examples:
~ Want to be healthier? You’re going to have to pay the price of discomfort with your body and mind being accustomed to eating too much of the wrong things and being un-disciplined about physical work.
~ Want better relationships? You’re going to have to pay the price of letting your ego run the show, surrender to your incompetence, and humble yourself in the face of the subtle rhythms of love.
~ Want more money? You’re going to have to pay the price of doing that which is valuable to others, rather than just doing what you want to do when you want to do it.
~ Want fulfilling work? You’re going to have to pay the price of doing it for free for as long as it takes to get to the stage where others will want to pay for it.
~ Want to be more happy? You’re going to have to pay the price of letting go of all of the sub-par pleasures that keep you distracted from finding meaningful purpose – and then get to work on its fulfillment.
The best things in life are worth paying for. To balk at this notion is to balk at a fundamental principle that makes the difference between living a great life and living barely at all.
Want to work with me? Send me an email and let’s talk about what you want and why.