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…
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.