We often get too bogged down in the details of our lives. It's hard not to because, well, it's life and we have to live it.
But generally, we should know that life is what we make of it and the details are of our own doing.
The Physician Philosopher addresses this and more by suggesting we live the good life… not tomorrow, but today.
As my grandfather walked the sunny streets of a war-torn France during World War II with his best friend, a gun shot suddenly rang out.
A few then men yelled what many had already realized, “Sniper!”
After reaching cover, my grandfather looked around to locate his friend. Only then would he realize that his best friend lay dead on the ground after being struck by the sniper’s bullet.
A coin flip’s chance and I wouldn’t be here. The sniper picked the other guy, instead of my grandfather. From a young age, I was taught the lesson that life is too short.
Working in medicine, you don’t have to have my family’s experiences to know the limits of your own mortality. Knowing that any day could be our last, we should live the life we want to live. And I am here to tell you that you don’t have to wait to live the good life. You can do it today.
The Way Most Design Their Life
Most people live life going through the motions with very little intentional thought about what they are doing and why. Most have even less intentionality when they spend their money.
They wake up each morning, grab their cup of coffee, eat a quick bite, and rush out the door. They then arrive at a job (that they may not like) for the rest of their life.
With a mile long checklist, the job is completed as demanded by those in charge. Their current life often provides little satisfaction. But they take solace in the thought that “One day, it’ll all be better, and I’ll be able to live the life I want to live.”
After work each day, they grab the kids with barely enough time to decide whether to eat out or cook at home. With the kids in bed, they are already falling asleep, too, as they close the door. But then there’s the laundry, dishes, and the work that they took home.
They take care of all of the things that need to be done, and then finally get in bed.
Tomorrow they get to repeat it all over again – having not done a single thing that they actually wanted to do that day. They remind themselves, “One day, it’ll all be better, and I’ll be able to live the life I want to live.”
That is how most people live their lives. Constantly looking towards retirement when they’ll finally get to live the good life.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. We can live the good life now.
Intentional Living Starts with a New Perspective
The story above doesn’t have to be “the way it is.” However, in order to change, a new perspective is required.
We’ve written before about how most physicians and other high-income earners have a spending problem. While doctors earn a high paycheck, many feel that once they finally got there they deserve to spend that money.
In medicine we have worked hard to earn that paycheck through years of sacrifice and delayed gratification. However, the spending problem we have is what prevents most people from living the good life.
The big houses, nice cars, private school education, designer clothes/gadgets, and failure to pay down our debt with the same money all leads to a bad financial situation.
The question is this. Does spending money on these things make us happy? Are we spending our money intentionally, or just following the example provided by others?
In the personal finance community, there is a quote that has made its rounds, and for good reason:
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”~Dave Ramsey
This is what happens when we aren’t intentional with our spending. It is pointless and often leads to worsening the burnout we have at work.
Living an Intentional Life
The financial independence community has taught me one thing repeatedly: living the life you want to live doesn’t happen by accident. You have to intentionally design your life that way.
Instead of going through the motions blindly and hoping to one day get to the good life, the people in the financial independence community do just the opposite.
First, they sit down and decide very intentionally what they want their life to look like. They design it in their minds. The tool I most commonly recommend to accomplish this are the Three Kinder Questions. Using this tool, you can determine what actually makes you happy (hint: it’s not the cars, house, and private school education).
Next, they look at their spending to see if their financial choices reflect their values. And then, once they have a clear image in their mind, they start to make financial decisions that will allow that life to happen.
It usually means making changes to their current spending so that they can pay off their debt faster, obtain financial independence sooner, and start living that life today. They also follow their progress – I use personal capital to do this – to help provide encouragement and to stay on track.
While many of us won’t have to face bullets flying around us as we flee for cover, I hope it doesn’t require an experience like that to bring things into proper perspective on what truly matters to us.
Figure it out, and then chase after it with everything you have. Today.
If things that giant checklist begins to get in your way, then institute a Hell Yes Policy, which will allow you to focus on the things that truly provide value in my life. Then, design your backwards budget to reflect those values. If something is getting in your way – and it doesn't make you say “Hell Yes!” – just say no.
Have you spent some time intentionally thinking about how you spend your money and your life? What changes did you make? Leave a comment below.