When I look at my savings, I see freedom. Call it F-U money, call it an emergency fund or call it the nest egg for my next life. Whatever you call it doesn’t really matter, it’s the money that will allow me to live the life I want. I don’t dream of an extravagant life, but the possibilities are limitless. As Paula Pant says, “You can afford anything but not everything.”
So what’s your anything going to be?
From the Beginning
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I want my life to look. What could I add or subtract to make it more joyful or exciting or fulfilling.
What would I do all day if I didn’t have to work for money?
You can only lounge by a pool with an umbrella drink for so long before the desire to actually accomplish something with your day takes over. Something more fulfilling than the satisfaction of completing all the seasons of Criminal Minds in less than a week.
Even if you decide to travel 365 days a year or move to the mountains for a life of skiing and backcountry exploration – you still need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Neil Pasricha (author of The Happiness Equation) refers to this reason for being as your ikigai (pronounced like icky guy). In his book Neil details a study of Okinawans (a subsect of the Japanese population renowned for the number of centenarians it produces) and it turns out if you have a life’s purpose, you actually live longer.
It might sound crazy, but these particularly long-living Okinawans don’t retire – ever. They continue to pursue their ikigai up until their death.
Do I Really Need an Icky Guy?
The short answer, YES!
For a lot of people their reason to get up in the morning is their job. (Whether they like it or not.) Their job is also strongly correlated to their sense of self-worth.
If I can’t be an engineer/teacher/pharmacist anymore, what am I?
When you’re at work you’re creating and interacting with your co-workers. These positive interactions and the sense of accomplishment you receive from a job well done fill you up.
Co-working spaces are so attractive because they give self-employed people the opportunity to interact with others. Side hustles are so common because it allows you to pursue your passion without leaving the security of a job.
A dreary emptiness settles over us when we, as humans, don’t receive social interaction and find little fulfilment from our work.
I Learned the Hard Way
After a career change a few years ago I found myself completing floundering. There were limited interactions at my isolating office and I no longer found the work fulfilling..
I agonized over this lack of fulfillment for years. YEARS!
It wasn’t until my BF, finally fed up with my bad attitude towards work, told me I needed to appreciate what I had, not mope about what I didn’t. I had to take a serious look internally and redefine my self-worth.
I had to look outside my job to find my reason to roll out of bed, then go out and build the pieces I was missing. People and collaboration, creativity, accomplishment.
If I no longer had my job, I’d have to do this on a larger scale with no fall back option. I’d need to create a whole, fulfilling life – pursuing my ikigai.
So why am I beating on about finding your ikigai? Because when you have enough money saved and invested to cover your living expenses, you can pursue your ikigai without needing to be paid for the pursuit.
This is known as financial independence.
Ultimately, the goal is to build enough wealth so that I can leave my job, no longer needing to work for money, to pursue something I’m considerably more passionate about.
I’m making the choice to NOT live the next 40 years of my life dragging myself out of bed every morning, joining the throng of dreary commuters and sitting transfixed by my computer monitor all day.
How would you run your own life, with a continuing desire to create but no immediate need to make the next mortgage payment?” – Mr. Money Mustache
I’m just beginning to think about what this life might look like for me.
So Many Choices
I have two choices: find my ikigai or muddle around my life with no reason for being. Pretty easy choice there, I’ll take the ikigai please.
But finding my ‘calling’… well there are infinite choices with that one.
In all honesty, I’m not sure what my reason to get up in the morning is. Each day I set out to try new things and put myself into new (re: uncomfortable) situations, and when something clicks, I continue with it.
When something feels out of balance, I let it go. Except for work (for now), because I need to pay the bills.
I very well might spend my whole life in pursuit of my ikigai. It’s not as simple as “If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams). Very few people are lucky enough to either stumble onto their life’s purpose or have past baseball legends whisper it from the sky.
I don’t know where I’ll end up, but here’s where I started.