Life has slowed way down.
And I couldn’t be happier about it.
I remember waking up at 6:30 a.m., rushing through the bathroom to get ready for the day, eating a quick breakfast, and then scurrying off to the bus stop or my scooter, depending on the weather.
It was then 10 hours of grinding work at the day job, managing clients and technicians, filing paperwork, making difficult phone calls, checking survey scores, controlling work flow, and checking over the repairs we were performing.
Every day seemed to blend into each other. Mondays were the worst. I had a full weekend to myself, with just enough of a taste of freedom to know that I liked it much better than the daily grind. Going from freedom and time to focus on passion projects to working for others quickly soured my mood. But I dealt with my “case of the Mondays” every single week, and before I knew it Friday would roll around and it was back to freedom for a couple of days (unless I worked Saturday, which was often enough).
The weekends would come and go so fast. I would finally catch up on everything that had been neglected during the week, but before I knew it Sunday night had come and it was time to ready myself for the week.
And the weekends rolled into the weeks rolled into the weekends rolled into the weeks.
Life was moving way too fast.
But no longer.
I’ve noticed since quitting the daily grind and focusing on things I truly enjoy that not only is life so much better, but the days move by much slower. The hours no longer melt together into a glob of crappy days.
Whereas before it was running around all day putting out fires, it’s now getting up mid-morning, checking and responding to emails. Then it’s moving on to getting in a solid two or so hours of writing about investing, saving, or the pursuit of freedom.
Next might be an afternoon workout followed by a shower. Then some reading, which might include an annual report, a transcript of a conference call, a new book, or a blog. I’ll generally do more writing in the late afternoon after giving my brain a break.
Now, I’m not financially independent yet. My portfolio is spitting out less than $6,000 in passive dividend income right now, which is nowhere near enough to sustain even my frugal lifestyle. But I think I’m about as close to financial independence as it gets without actually crossing the finish line. And I say that only because even if I were earning $30,000 in annual dividend income tomorrow I’d wake up and live my life much in the same way I’m living it right now. I’d probably find more time to volunteer and help the community, but other than that the writing, reading, managing investments, and spending time with family would be much the same.
And now that I’ve gotten an extended look at what financial independence looks like, I can tell you with 100% confidence that life isn’t just better: It’s slower. Not only do you have more time once you no longer deal with a daily grind, but the time you now enjoy passes by slower.
Walking Versus Running
Think about that. You have on one hand slaving away at the 9-5 till 65, collecting your paycheck as you go which you use to spend on too many goods and/or services that you don’t need and don’t make you happy, which then tap you out and require you to go back to work to earn more money. Your life is a blur because you’re running faster and faster and faster, never catching up. Never having enough. Never escaping the rat race. Time flies by, and one day your time is up. The clock stops ticking, and all you can do is look back on your life and ponder what you would have, could have, done differently.
On the other hand financial independence gives you the opportunity to not only enjoy your life and pursue whatever it is you want to with no regard for money, but you’re no longer grinding away on the rat wheel. You can leisurely walk about life at your own pace. You can slow things down around you. No longer will you be racing down the freeway on your way home at 80 mph trying to swerve around people you hate, even though you never met them. You can walk, bicycle, scooter, or bus around if you live in an area that allows that – and actually watch the world, be a part of the world, no longer running through it like you’re trying to win a race.
Life is not a race. It’s a journey. And it can be a most wonderful one once slowed down enough to actually enjoy it.
I remember Monday mornings and looking at the time as I would clock in: 7:30 a.m. The race to Friday was on! How fast could I make the week go by? What could I possibly do to placate myself? How could I possibly make it five more days?!
But I did. I made it five more days. And then five more weeks. And then five more months. And then five more years. But if I’m just “making it”, what’s really left? Who am I? What am I good for? What do I want out of life? And where do those days, months, and years go when they’re gone? How can I get them back? You mean to tell me my youth and time is gone forever once spent? No!!
There’s Another Way
But there’s another way. Living only for today seems awfully fun on the surface, but living for today over and over again means you’re mortgaging away your future, spending time you don’t even have yet. And while a little delayed gratification can change that around, it’s important to realize that delaying gratification isn’t really delaying anything at all. Because what could be more gratifying than owning your own time, doing what you want to do in life, and slowing down time?
And slowing down time is exactly what I’ve done recently. I spend time with my little newborn niece who was just born less than two weeks ago. I no longer run around like a crazy man to and fro, from task to task and job to home and back. I move slower now. I’m less stressed. The sun is brighter, the wind crisper, and the colors brighter.
For instance, I spent the early part of yesterday making the 1+ hour drive down to Ann Arbor to take some pictures for an upcoming article, walk around, take in the sites, and catch lunch with my best friend. I wasn’t on a schedule. I got in as many pictures as I could, sucked up the energy of the city, and left when I felt ready. I then drove home to have dinner with the family, where we ate, made fun of each other, and laughed. Tonight I’ll be going to a Detroit Lions game because my aunt scored free tickets to the first preseason game from work. I have tons of energy for this because I’m not completely worn out from 50+ hours of grinding work. And no schedule means I’m not looking at the clock, trying to soak up all the fun before I have to crawl back to wage slavery.
I work out when I have the most energy. I eat when I’m hungry. I sleep when I’m tired.
And when you create your own schedule you naturally prioritize the things you enjoy the most, and spend the most energy on these projects. For me, that’s writing, managing investments, and spending time with family. But the amazing thing is that when you commit all your energy to projects you enjoy, you get them done way faster than you ever thought you could.
I used to write posts on this blog when getting home at 6:30 p.m. after working for 10 or so hours. I was tired and worn out. So sometimes I would sit there with the laptop in front of me, a blank page staring at me. But I had no idea what I wanted to write about. I was still stressed out and my brain was fried. How could I write? No, how could I not write? I love writing, not everything else I’m doing. How can my job rob me of the energy to do something I enjoy?
Then I would stress out, lose focus, calm down, regain focus, and lay my ideas and emotions out for you readers. But that took a lot out of me.
Now I write with 100% concentration and energy and get articles out that are twice as long in half the time. And before I know it I’ve said all I can say and the clock is telling me it’s only 2 p.m. Hmm. Time for a jog.
This article is not meant to brag of my new found freedom. This article is meant to inspire you to get your butt in gear. I’m not free yet, so don’t mistake my words. But even if my portfolio were spitting out $100,000 in annual dividends I’d live life largely the same as I do now. I’d write to inspire, educate, and learn. I’d read. Manage investments. Spend time with loved ones. Walk around a downtown or a beach, watching people. Eat when I’m hungry. Sleep when I’m tired. And the clock would tick away slowly.
While the weekends would fly by for me when I worked 50+ hours per week, it’s not like that any longer. I take my time with projects. I write when I’m most inspired and rested. I read with gusto. I work out with more energy and enthusiasm. And I get everything done faster, which leaves even more time than ever before for unstructured free time. Time to be present. Enjoy being alive. Go for a walk. Do nothing. Think. Be.
Remember that running around the rat wheel isn’t all there is. Life can be different. Life can be the journey of exploration that it’s meant to be rather than the race from task to task and home to work.
Stop watching the clock and start watching your money. Then you won’t have to worry about the clock.
What do you think? Does life slow down for you when you’re working on things you enjoy?
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credit: holohololand/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Edit: Corrected staring.