[NOTE: This is an article that I recently wrote as a guest post for Life As I Know It. In case you didn’t see it there, I thought I’d post it here, too. Enjoy! ]
“You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” ~ Margaret Young
Many years ago, when I was a “kid” in college, I knew what I had to do to achieve happiness.
I was determined to be a success.
And in the go-go eighties, that meant earning big bucks.
But I was never foolish enough to think that I would get rich quick. And neither did I buy into the eighties culture of flashy bling and drugs that destroyed so many fortunes as fast as they formed.
I knew that to be a success, I had to find a plausible path to good money, live frugally, save and invest conservatively but intelligently, and work hard.
I was focused. I worked long hours. Longer than the average person did. I “knew” that successful people lived this way.
We put off pleasure. And we ignored our immediate happiness and personal growth in exchange for progress, and for the hope that these benefits would come to us in greater quantities in the future.
I was proud of the fact that I would be well off and comfortable in my later years, while most of those fun-loving lazy types around me would see little progress in their lives. I would be at ease while the partiers would still be grinding away.
Those thoughts kept me working while others had fun.
I did save some money. I built a nice house – no small thing for a single guy under 30. And I poured every last dime I could into paying off my mortgage.
And I got married. Had four kids. And built a nice business for myself.
Only one problem, though.
I had absolutely no interest in what I did for a living. None.
I did it to advance my financial position. My choices were based on anticipated financial gain.
My lifestyle was the result of a mathematical formula. And it was as cold as one, too.
You see, I never understood the Margaret Young quote at the beginning of this piece. I never recall ever reading it. And if I did, perhaps I just ignored it. Because it did not fit into my world view. Happiness and personal growth were just ideas for “retirement.”
My lifestyle is different now.
I live on the road. My family of six travels the world in search of new adventures and experiences. Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. My lifestyle today is focused directly on my own happiness and personal growth.
I learned the hard way that saving money is no guarantee that you can keep money. The recent series of stock market crashes proved that.
And the price we all pay for focusing primarily on the accumulation of wealth (which never does seem to accumulate) is to sacrifice the best years of our lives.
So, what’s the answer?
There are 3 Rules that you must know and follow if you are to get the most out of everyday. These rules are simple and direct. It is never too late to follow these rules, but the sooner you do, the better your quality of life will be.
These 3 Rules are:
- Know who you are. Know what really matters to you.
- Know how you really want to spend the rest of your days.
- Then, focus your attention on how you will accomplish that task.
That is life in a nutshell.
But so few approach it in this way.
Most follow the model that I followed. And, as a result, spend countless years on the wrong path.
Time is life.
Time is the one resource that we cannot recover. Therefore, it should be your most jealously guarded asset. Your next best asset is knowledge. The ability to leverage what is available to you to make the best use of your time. And the best use of your time is to live the lifestyle you love.
That means spending the vast majority of your life actually living, instead of preparing to live.
Young people often take time for granted. They imagine that they have a limitless supply. So it is no wonder that I thought I was following a wise road back then.
I was the hard working ant, storing away food while the lazy grasshopper just hung around. I knew that the grasshopper would be begging at my door in the cold wintertime, but that I would be safe and warm.
But our lives aren’t as simple as a child’s fairy tale. Neither are they a series of regular, predictable summers and winters.
Life is unpredictable. You may only live another week. Or you may live 200 years. You simply do not know.
And until science can tell us exactly how long we have left on this Earth, we cannot afford to take any of it for granted.
So, don’t make the same mistake I did. And if you already have, it’s not too late to change. I have.
You can change your life’s direction. You can start today.
Wherever you are today, I wish you the best possible future, doing what you love most.
And simply being you.
All the best,