For as long as human civilizations have existed, there has been the struggle of defining what drives us. What goals we aim to reach. And how priorities shift along the way.
Like many others, I left college as more of an idealist. I was beginning a career in a field I loved, and less concerned with much else. As the honeymoon wore off, I began setting my goals to align with promotions and salary changes.
But this was like attempting to fill a strainer with water.
I had been navigating my 20s with Jack Sparrow’s compass. I realized that I wasn’t revisiting my priorities. It became immediately clear that my 30s would become the wake-up call to reality.
The realization was simple. Money is nothing more than a means to an end. And that end? For me it is freedom. The freedom to live with less restriction and constraint. To spend my time doing mostly fulfilling things and not the opposite.
But there are some roadblocks to this goal. Ones overcome with a little shifting of priorities. Let’s look at the big ones and discover how to make them work for us.
We’re all aware of the trap of the consumer mindset. The feeling of a new device, a new car, or anything else shiny. It is another way to earn our highly-sought-after dopamine hit.
That’s the addiction speaking. The more things we own, the more restricted we are in terms of space and financial freedom. I’m not arguing to live like a monk, but I think we can all do with a little Marie Kondo in our lives.
I’m also a vocal proponent of valuing experiences over possessions. To which I can confidently say has had a positive influence in my life.
The Takeaway: Live within your means, but specifically applied to the things that you own. Aim for minimalism plus one. A monk who enjoys quality bourbon and a comfortable sweater from time to time.
Starve the Ego
If you want to prioritize the freedom to live your life as you wish without overvaluing money, this will be one of your biggest challenges. Few people are completely immune to society’s hanging carrots.
The problem is that however much we try, the feeling of appearing successful can be tempting. The appearance of success by way of material possessions is one of the most common to fake or prioritize. Obviously, in the eyes of others or a faceless, social-media-driven society. But more importantly to ourselves.
You have to live with yourself for your entire life. As a result, one of your biggest critics will be your own inner voice. If we let our ego become the one we’re trying to impress or live up to, it will be a never-ending battle.
The Takeaway: Have a long, hard conversation with yourself as you lay in bed at night. You are neither a success nor a failure because of empty material measurements. Redefine your measure of success based on actual goals, not some antiquated image you had as a teen.
Money vs. Freedom
It’s often repeated that “money isn’t important until you don’t have it.” While subjective depending on your lifestyle, it ultimately boils down to being true.
None of this is to say that money isn’t important. It plays an important role in this ridiculous game of life. But positioning it in your mind as a goal or a tool is what differs by person.
My goal of financial and personal freedom is only reached by using money as a device. Remove the needs of accumulating possessions and satisfying the ego. That’s where the road to financial independence begins.
The Takeaway: If your goal is to own a yacht and rub your fortune in everyone’s face, so be it. But what if your goal is to own a (less-yacht-like) boat? Be able to spend however much time you choose on it without interruption. Well then, true freedom might be your north star.
Define what real freedom means to you. How you live, where you live, and ultimately how you spend your one priceless commodity — time. Decide what will help achieve that freedom and reaccess your priorities.
Many say that they want millions of dollars, assuming it will immediately make them happy. How they get there and what they do next? Often overlooked.
But what you do with that kind of leverage is the real trick. It’s a means to an end for me. If we’re being honest here, I’m willing to bet it is for you as well.