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, and I don’t just mean in retirement.
Have you seen that bank commercial with an advisor and his client on a couch, talking about retirement, and he asks her what she wants to do before she retires? Because surprise (!) there’s a lot of living to do between now and when you retire. No one wants to be that fabled person who croaks two weeks into the retirement they’ve always dreamed of after putting their life on hold for decades. It’s your money and your life, and as Paula Pant says, “You can afford anything but not everything.”
So what’s your anything going to be?
All the Time in the World
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.
Heck, 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 (particularly if you ever want to sleep with the lights off again).
You need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
This reason is referred to by Neil Pasricha (author of The Happiness Equation) as your ikigai (pronounced like icky guy), more commonly known as your life’s purpose. In his book, Neil details a study of centenarians on the island of Okinawa in Japan and suggests their pursuit of an ikigai actually helps them 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.
My Life’s Purpose and Getting Out of Bed
For many people the reason they get out of bed every morning is their job. Can you imagine working at your current job until you die, which could be 70 years from now?
I can’t, and no I’m not going to drop dead because my job isn’t my ikigai. It means I have to look outside my chosen career path for my life’s purpose… but somehow manage to still pay my rent.
Bring On Financial Independence
I choose to save and invest so eventually I’ll have enough invested to cover my living expenses, so I can pursue my life’s purpose without needing to be paid for the pursuit.
This is known as financial independence.
By pursuing financial independence, 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. I’ll still be working, but on my own schedule, on my own passion projects.
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
Finding ikigai, my ‘calling’… that’s easier said than done. There are infinite choices available to me.
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. There are many hours available to me outside of my job for this pursuit. If you’re thinking to yourself ‘But I’m too busy’, try tracking every 15 minute interval in a single day. It’s astonishing the amount of time that slips away unnoticed.
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 a corn field. It’s instead a conscious decision of where to focus your time and energy to enhance your life.
So Do I Really Need an Icky Guy?
In short, YES!
I feel I have I have two choices: find my ikigai or muddle through my life. Pretty easy choice there, I’ll take the ikigai please. Having a purpose without being encumbered with bills allows you to structure your day around its pursuit and a sense of fulfillment as you’re working towards an ultimate goal.
I learned the hard way that without collaboration, creativity and accomplishment, my life is dreary. If I don’t receive those things from my paid employment, then it’s up to me to determine what I love doing and also what I’m good at, because at the intersection of those areas, I’ll find my ikigai.