The other day, I came across an awesome article written by Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Give
I recently met a guy who, despite having a massively successful business, an awesome lifestyle, a happy relationship, and a great network of friends, told me with a straight face, that he was thinking of hiring a coach to help him “reach the next level.”
When I asked him what this elusive next level was, he said he wasn’t sure, that that’s why he needed a coach, to point out his blind spots and show him what he’s missing out on.
“Oh,” I said. And then stood there awkwardly for a moment, gauging how brutally honest I was willing to be with someone I just met. This guy was very enthusiastic, clearly ready to spend a lot of money on whatever problem someone decided to tell him he had.
“But what if there’s nothing to fix?” I said.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“What if there is no ‘next level?’ What if it’s just an idea you made up in your head? What if you’re already there and not only are you not recognizing
it,but by constantly pursuing something more, you’re preventing yourself from appreciating it and enjoying where you are now?”
It is human nature to want more. More income, a more pretentious job title, a bigger house, a fancier car, more free time, more clothes, higher savings rate, more side hustles, etc. You may start off your adulthood with the desire to own a Honda Civic, but once you purchase a Civic, it is no longer enough for you. Now you want a Honda Accord. Some times later, after purchasing an Accord, you find yourself wanting more. Now you want a BMW M5.
There is never “enough” and you are always looking for that next thing or that next state of accomplishment. And over time, this search for more becomes part of your happiness…
More is not always better
For people like me who are seeking financial independence retire early, we may start our FIRE journey seeking for a passive income of $50,000 a year. We earn, budget, save, and invest to grow our investment portfolio so that one day it can generate $50,000 of passive income a year.
But when we finally reach that $50,000 a year milestone, some of us are unsatisfied. We want more to create a margin of safety. We want more to have more financial freedom. So the new target becomes $60,000 a year, and so on and so on.
Without realizing, we have put ourselves on a hamster wheel and continue to chase after that next stage of more.
The thing is, more is not always better. It is fine wanting more and challenging yourself. But we need to come to the state of appreciation. Appreciate what you have, be grateful that your investment portfolio can generate $50k a year, appreciate others around you, and see how you can help them financially with your financial knowledge.
And question yourself, do you really need more? Or that’s just your lizard brain thinking?
Stop chasing that perfect 10
Many of us are chasing that perfect 10 life. Many of us have a long checklist of things we want to do and accomplish before we die. Instead of a checklist or a bucket list, ask yourself…
Do the choices you make in life make you a happier person?
What Mark wrote below really resonated with me…
Life is an economy. Where everything must be traded for something else and the value of all things rise and fall with the amount of attention and effort you put into them. And in that economy, we each must eventually choose what you’re willing to trade based on what you value. And if you’re not careful with your values, if you are willing to trade things away for the sake of another hit of dopamine, another temporary trip to your own personal psychological 10, then chances are you’re going to f*ck things up.
So… it is OK to not to be perfect. It’s OK to wake up and feeling crappy. It’s OK to have a messy house. It’s OK to admit that you don’t know something. It’s OK to admit that you have problems. It’s OK to say that you need help. It’s OK to have consumer debt. It’s OK to make financial mistakes. It’s OK to fail.
Choose what you are willing to trade based on what you value. If you value spending time with the kids over cleaning the house, do that. Do trade things away just because you want to be perfect or you want more.
Screw your perfectionism.
When we realize that we don’t need to be perfect, the desire of needing more decreases. Lower your standards, find contentment and peace of mind in your life and find balance in your life.
Financial Independence is not the finish line
Financial independence is just a singular event in life. It is not the finish line of a race. Financial independence doesn’t magically change your life. Life goes on.
If you started your financial independence retire early journey because you hate your job, or because you are not happy with your life. I hate to break it to you, but reaching FI or retire early from your job won’t make you magically happy.
Life doesn’t work that way.
Not to mention, you can be financially independent today but not tomorrow because your expenses went up, or your investment portfolio value went down.
So, stop seeing FIRE as a finish line. Start practicing FIRE as a part of your lifestyle and ask yourself this question:
What changes can I make that will bring peace, joy, and contentment to me and others around me?
PS. Here’s Mark’s original article in case you’d like to read it.
18 thoughts on “The disease of more”
I enjoyed the article. I definitely agree that we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking of “if only I had… then I’d be happy”.
I’m currently generating more in passive income in my early 30s than some people get from their government pension in their 60s and yet it’s easy, when looking at what others in the FIRE community make, to think, “well, I need to be saving more”. It’s this human nature within us to compare and take things in a relative sense in a negative way.
It’s important to step back and just enjoy where we are with what we have. To enjoy that journey of life.
Thank you. Yes, we definitely need to get ourselves away from the “if only I had…then I’d be happy” mindset.
I like your choice of quotes while employing analyzation on this topic. When I first heard about the concept of “hedonistic adaptation,” I felt a lot better about the incessant striving my head is constantly doing. Now I try not to get mad at myself for the “more, more, more” logic in my head, but instead, I view it as a human weakness to combat with compassion. Nicely done!
Best of luck on the next round of the Rockstar Rumble btw!
View is as a human weakness to combat with compassion is a great idea. Thanks!
“So, stop seeing FIRE as a finish line”
I love that line – I see FIRE as a start – a new chapter in my life where I can define what exactly is “enough” and pursue what makes me happy. And one of those things is going to start my own blog. I’m excited and nervous. It will still be a little while before anything is published but I’m having a lot of fun in the process and owe you a great deal of gratitude in inspiring me for both getting FIRE’d and for getting the courage to write!
Definitely start your own blog and write about your FIRE journey. It has been a very worthwhile experience for me writing on this blog so far.
Great post man, since leaving work nearly 2 years ago I struggle with this a lot. I no longer have that next thing or can afford to do all that I wanted to do before. I need to constantly work at finding peace in the moment. Although I fear I have traded chasing money & stuff that transitioned to chasing savings rate and investments of MMM to now chasing things to do and volunteer for. All of them a bit obsessive and the challenge to ground myself and be happy with what is, well it will most likely be something I always have to work on.
Thanks Chris. It’s definitely something we need to think about, especially in early retirement. Chasing the next big thing isn’t always the right approach. Often finding that peace of mind is more important.
I love your point about “what if there’s not more?” We can always reach for more, but that doesn’t mean we should. We get so caught up in reaching the next level that we can’t appreciate how far we’ve come or how awesome our lives are. It’s something I’m working on (and it’s a lot easier post-divorce, I have to say haha).
Exactly, more doesn’t always mean better. 🙂
Nothing wrong with being rich or being better, but it shouldn’t be our main focus… godliness, contentment and thankfulness is more balanced …. the bible often speaks to that ….
Exactly. Well said.
For 2019, I’ve finally been able to let go of more growth because I’m tired, and also, because 2019 in my 10th year anniversary of running Financial Samurai. I feel very satisfied to have made it this far and I feel I don’t have anything left to prove.
It feels wonderful to let go! And to just enjoy one’s efforts finally. I’m glad you’re doing the same!
Wow 10 years that’s like infinity in blog years. :p That’s a good feeling knowing than you don’t have anything left to prove.
I don’t quite remember the quote exactly but there was a story I heard recently.
At a dinner party someone pointed out an investment banker and said he made more today than what you made today. Then he replied, well I make something that he will never have… enough.
I don’t remember exactly who said it but it is a great story. Cheers
I love that. Will have to look up the exact quote.
That’s pretty good. It’s human nature to want more. Even if your life is perfect, you still want more. It is really difficult to think enough is good enough. We all need to practice that a lot more often. The western lifestyle doesn’t encourage that either. Everybody encourage you to want more with commercials, luxury goods, and new tech. It’s a difficult environment to find contentment.
It’s definitely a human nature to want more. Being bombarded by all the ads everywhere certainly doesn’t help.