Before discovering the concept of financial independence two years ago I had a mild obsession with collecting shoes, buying new clothes, and blowing unnecessary amounts of money on eating out. By all standards I was a “normal consumer”. I made money. I spent money.
Looking back on it, I can clearly see that my spending habits were caused by an unhealthy obsession with always wanting more. I would receive my $80 check from Kroger and go out that same day to buy a new pair of shoes. But before the next paycheck arrived I already had my sights set on a new pair.
I was constantly wanting more. No matter what I had bought, my craving for more couldn’t be satisfied. There was always something else I needed. So I constantly spent money in an attempt to get all the stuff I thought I needed. Money was flying out of my pockets at an alarming rate and I thought nothing of it.
But since discovering F.I. I have spent far less money on “stuff”. Even more importantly, I simply want less stuff. I think this is the real victory – wanting less stuff means I don’t have to go out on spending sprees every weekend to buy things that will make my life worthwhile. The less I want, the more content I am with the simple things in life.
Conquering my habit of always wanting more has been life changing. See, when you’re stuck in the constant cycle of wanting more it inherently means the stuff you already have is not good enough. It means you’re constantly dissatisfied because there is always something out there you don’t have. This makes it hard to enjoy the present moment because you’re constantly thinking about acquiring more stuff, more trinkets, more gizmo-gadgets.
This constant state of wanting more steals our joy from the present moment because the present is never good enough.
Once I had this realization my life improved dramatically. I stopped searching for more stuff to fill the void. But since discovering F.I. I have noticed that a new subtle habit of wanting has crept into my life:
I want to be financially independent so much that thinking about it often steals my joy from the present moment.
There. I said it.
It sucks to say, and it’s painful to even type those words out but it’s true. Whether I’m at work, home, or at the gym, I feel my mind drifting towards the future, longing for the day I’ll be financially independent. It’s a massive goal of mine so it’s natural that I think about it quite a lot, but this is a problem. Anything that steals my attention away from the present moment and forces me to think about the future is not good. Even if it is a healthy goal like financial independence. Even if it is a goal that I write about so often.
There is a fine line between passion and obsessing over the future. I’m passionate about personal finance, living a better life, and reading and writing about these concepts. It gives me energy to write about these topics and I love being a contributor to the personal finance community. But passion can be dangerous if it draws your attention away from the present moment.
There are times when I’m at a family event, having a great time, enjoying the social atmosphere, and F.I. will creep into my mind and I’ll remind myself how far away I am from being financially independent. This isn’t healthy. By reminding myself how far I am from my goal, it takes away the joy of the present moment. It steals the present moment from me and carries my mind into the future.
I have big aspirations. I want to travel, spend tons of time with family and friends, experience nature, and read and write as much as possible. These are all the activities that make my life so enjoyable and I don’t want anything to steal my love of the present.
I think part of the problem is that our society places so much importance on productivity, achieving goals, and implementing systems and habits that will help us be more productive. And that’s all good and well but if we’re constantly looking to optimize, be more productive, hustle harder, reach F.I. sooner, where do we find the time to be present and enjoy what’s right in front of us? Where is the button we can press to put the ambition on hold and enjoy the present moment and all that we already do have?
F.I. is a beautiful, wonderful goal that I plan on pursuing in the long run, but I don’t want to take any day for granted. I don’t want to treat today as a stepping stone to a future destination. I want to stare at the stone that is today and enjoy all its edges and flaws and vibrant colors.
I want each day to be a precious diamond because I will never get to experience it again. Each day is a blessing. I want to honor it and I want to be completely present and mindful of it.
Yearning for the future is unhealthy. It’s great to have future goals and it’s great to have systems in place to achieve those goals, but what’s even more important than productivity and progress is presence.
Am I capable of enjoying the present moment, the gift of today? Or am I constantly thinking ahead, wanting more freedom, more money, more time? These are the tough questions I am forcing myself to answer. And while it makes me uncomfortable, I have to admit that I frequently neglect the present moment because I allow my mind to wander into the future and fantasize about what financial independence will be like.
I will get there when I get there. But for now, I need to enjoy today because it’s a day I will never get to live again.
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