“Spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it, reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet. He should have gone up garret at once.” (Henry David Thoreau)
The global pandemic has millions of people questioning their assumptions: about work, about money, about values, and about what really matters in life. Many of us followed a roadmap of success that felt safe: go to school, get your degree, get a good job, work hard for 30 years or so. Save, invest, and wait for retirement to really start doing the things that matter to you.
We may have debated whether to turn left, turn right, or make a short side trip, but not many of us had the courage to toss the map away.
Tim Ferriss wrote The Four Hour Workweek in 2007. His premise is that if you can find a way to quadruple your productivity (earn 40 hours’ worth of salary by investing four hours a week) you can live like a millionaire long before you’ve earned a million dollars. Here’s how he puts it:
“The New Rich are those who abandon the deferred-life plan [save and retire after 20–40 years] and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility. . . $1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. The question is then, how can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000?”
Ashley Whillans is an assistant professor at Harvard Business School and a leading voice in time and happiness research. Her book titled Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life was published October 6. She has found that when people “invest too much time and energy into making more money, it’s often because they assume the extra cash will bring greater happiness. But they are wrong. People with more free time are actually happier, healthier, and more productive than people who work all the time and make more money.”
Whillans says there’s an 80 percent chance you’re poor. Time poor. Her book focuses on techniques that will free up seconds, minutes, and hours that, over the long term, become weeks and months that you can reinvest in positive, healthy activities. Activities that make life worthwhile.
I was drawn to Whillans’ work because I recently left full time work to work from home as a contract writer. I’d saved and planned for years to have enough money to meet my needs. My goal was to change my life to a better balance of work and leisure. And I am a different – and much happier – person.
I didn’t describe myself as time poor; I used the term time starved. Time felt like the most precious and rare commodity on Earth (ironically, since it renews completely every day without fail.) I always felt rushed, my to-do list carried over every day, and I “never had the time” to do the things that really mattered to my well-being: exercise, meditate, spend hours in deep thought or deep conversation, nap, or daydream.
When I was able to leave my full-time job (which I loved, by the way), I was able to reconnect with and heal my relationship with time. This difference is astonishing. I can get up and follow my energy for the day: some days, I’ll have plenty of mental energy for writing and producing creative work. Some days, I’ll have lots of physical energy that I spend in the yard, exercising, or running errands. Some days, I’ll have less energy, and I can take the time to rest and regenerate – without guilt or a sense of not meeting my responsibilities.
This is how life is meant to be lived, but so many of us wait until we have “enough” (money, time, years in, whatever it is) to actually do the things that make us happy.
There are plenty of role models to follow, people who have redefined success, work, and the meaning of “enough.” I’ve listed some of them at the end of this post. Your first step is to examine where you are and where you really want to be. How much of your time is spent on activities that matter to you and your family? How much is spent on activities you don’t enjoy and don’t make a difference to your purpose in life?
What is your relationship to time and money? How would you define “enough” – other than “more than I have now?” If you have the courage to raise these questions and explore your true answers to them, you may be able to take the step toward the life you’ve always imagined.
Here are some writers who will help you figure out how to redefine enough and connect with your best life. Enjoy.