On Your Path to Financial Independence, Stop and Smell the Roses
Today’s guest post comes from the young man J.D. Roth likes to refer to as the “wonderkid” Cody from Fly to FI. At 21 (he’s now 22), I believe he was the youngest attendee at Camp FI Southeast the weekend we were all there.
You may wonder how he earned that nickname. Simply, he knew all the financial independence lingo, had graduated college early, started a disc golf company, and could speak about it all more articulately than I could ever muster.
When he was called upon during an on-site recording that became Choose FI Episode 057R, he nailed it, and I figured he must have known he would be put on the spot, but I found out it was all impromptu. He’s more put together at 22 than I am at 42.
Although Cody lives in Massachusetts and is two decades my junior, I later learned we’re connected by more than just our common interests in personal finance and financial independence. One of his close friends from college is my wife’s first cousin whom I’ve known since she was about nine years old (Hi Liv!). It’s a small world, after all.
On Your Path to Financial Independence, Stop and Smell the Roses
For the past four months, I have been slow-traveling around Australia with minimal responsibilities. This prolonged hiatus has allowed me to engage in deep self-reflection and understand my values, motives, and passions.
Consequently, I was able to retrain my mind, form steady routines, and break bad habits. I’m certainly not saying that you need a lengthy vacation to understand yourself and improve your quality of life (although I highly encourage it).
However, I do truly believe that taking a step back and understanding yourself can help you to slow down, realign your values and stop rushing through life.
Never forget to stop and smell the roses.
Caged by Society
For thousands of years, as populations grew exponentially, the need for societal structure became increasingly crucial to maintain order. This need for structure has compounded throughout the digital age with the help of technology and globalization. Now, in today’s society, nearly everything must adhere to some predetermined time structure or deadline.
- Pay your bills on the first of the month.
- Finish that work assignment by the end of the day.
- Don’t take more than 30 minutes for your lunch break.
- Respond to that email within the hour.
- Go to the gym five times per week.
- Attend your weekly 10:00 AM work meeting and don’t be late.
This list could go on forever. Like many of you, I have personally fallen victim to the constricting structure of modern society. I remember feeling like I “didn’t have time” to do anything! There are just so many things that I had to do! How was it even possible to stop and smell the roses?
Don’t Waste Your Time
I first started to make real progress when I closely analyzed what my goals and values were. If I didn’t finish (insert random task here), what would the consequences be? Often times I found that these “essential” tasks weren’t that imperative at all! Practice thinking “what’s the worst that could possibly happen?” and you will soon realize how many must-do-now tasks can wait. Please note that some tasks such as “paying your bills” should probably not wait.
Put Your Cell Phone Down
Before I started this journey of self-reflection, I would check my phone incessantly whenever a new notification came up. Anyone with a blog or online business can understand this urge. However, this was extremely unhealthy for my time management, focus, and relationships. My phone would constantly distract me from the task at hand and certainly make me less present while hanging out with my girlfriend, family, and friends. The “buzz” in my pocket had become a vice.
In order to combat this destructive habit, I designated set times to answer emails and check social media: 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 7:00 PM. I realized that taking a few hours instead of a few minutes to answer someone didn’t really matter much at all. The need-to-answer-now mentality was just a construct of my own false beliefs. Better yet, answering all of my emails and messages in one sitting (with my phone on airplane mode) only took a fraction of the time.
Figure out what works for you and develop a system to organize and limit your cell phone usage. You will be happier, more present, and more productive! I like to use the cell phone as an example because modern society is plagued by its accessibility, but this system can be applied to any task.
Shift Your Mindset
By nature, I am an optimizer. I constantly feel the need to utilize my time in the most optimal way. This includes coupling nearly every daily activity (e.g. working out, cooking, yard work, etc.) with an audiobook or podcast. As readers of a personal finance and life optimization blog, I’m sure many of you operate in a similar fashion!
Anyway, I used to absolutely dread laundry and cooking. I would rush through both as quickly as possible because I had convinced myself that I had better things to do with my time. It wasn’t until a few weeks into my Australian travels that I asked myself “Why do I hate doing these things so much?” The interesting thing was that it was not the activities themselves that I loathed, but instead, it was the idea of doing them.
This mindset is harmful because going into something with an I-hate-this mentality makes enjoyment extremely difficult. Let me tell you, causing this shift in mindset is no easy task. For me, cooking was the easier of the two. I constantly tried my hand at new dishes and made a game out of it. After a few weeks, I started to really enjoy cooking my own meals.
Laundry was a bit more difficult, but forming a routine helped me to overcome my fabricated hatred. During the folding process, I would carefully organize the clothing items into categories to make them easier to put away. Meanwhile, I would indulge in a podcast or book. Forming this sort of routine and structure allowed me to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and to overcome my biases.
Routines and Wins
As I previously highlighted, routines are a great tool to overcome a limiting thought or belief. I’m not talking about a military-esque routine where daily tasks are designated into hyper-specific time slots. Rather, forming positive habits and routines to guide your life can lead to increased happiness and a sense of accomplishment.
Every morning, I wake up, make my bed, and complete my morning workout. This might not seem like a big deal, but before I even leave my room I have already accomplished two little “wins”. I use this same strategy throughout my entire day and accumulate small “wins” whenever I can. This intentional shift to daily goal setting has been instrumental in raising my level of happiness and sense of accomplishment.
No matter how small the goal is, if you consciously aim to hit that goal, it feels great when you reach it! Mowed the lawn? Win. Finished a work assignment? Win. Brushed your teeth? Win. Learned something from a blog post? Win. By the end of the day, it’s tough to not feel like a winner from all the little wins you’ve accumulated. Build some wins into your daily routine and make it difficult to have a bad day!
What Actually Makes You Happy?
During high school and college, I used to party and drink more frequently than I’d like to admit. Was I a chronic alcoholic and party animal who shuddered at the thought of staying in on a Saturday night? Of course not. Then why did I indulge in these activities so frequently?
After careful self-analysis, I realized that my happiness stemmed from the community and social aspects of drinking and partying. I would have been equally as happy playing board games with a big group of friends (although this wasn’t quite as socially acceptable during those years).
Using this same methodology, I discovered that my happiness typically stems from something deeper than the activity’s face value. I’m not the only one. This search for happiness has been a documented trend among many early retirees. A prime example is Mr. Money Mustache, who traveled extensively in order to experience new cultures and meet new people. In the end, he realized that he had interesting people and cultures right in his hometown. He didn’t have to travel anywhere to find what he was looking for.
Discovering the source of your happiness can be eye-opening to designing your ideal lifestyle. Maybe the weekly restaurant dinners with your spouse are so enjoyable because of his/her company, not because of the restaurant itself. Once you figure this out, you can focus on spending more time with your spouse and capitalizing on your true source of happiness.
If your goal is to reduce your annual expenditure, this discovery can help tremendously. Often times, the underlying source of happiness is a lot less expensive than the face value item or activity. The effects are amazing. You can increase your level of happiness, save your money, and live more intentionally.
To review everything I’ve just discussed, let’s take a look at the key takeaways from this article.
- Modern society has been shaped by a domineering structure in order to maintain order. However, don’t let these structural constraints confine you.
- Organize things such as cell phone usage to optimize your time and increase productivity.
- Identify something that you don’t enjoy doing and figure out why? Often times, the thought of doing something can be worse than the act itself. Form a structure and routine around that activity to give yourself a sense of accomplishment when you complete it.
- Form habits and routines that accumulate small wins throughout your day. Develop a goal-setting mindset and praise yourself whenever a goal is reached.
- Discover your true sources of happiness. Live intentionally, enjoy your life, and never forget to stop and smell the roses.
Thank you for reading. I hope that this post inspired you to take action and live a more intentional and organized life.
[PoF: This young man is wise well beyond his years. Be sure to check out more from his Fly to FI blog, The FI Show podcast, follow him on Twitter, and follow along as he races to financial independence.]
Do you stop to smell the roses? What tips do you have to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures in life? How jealous are you that he spent nearly half-a-year in Australia? Let us know below!
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