Whether you call it your priorities or how you spend your life journey or what you say is living compared to just not dying… making a living, providing… it all comes down to choices about how you want to spend your life.
Life is a Journey
I have a love hate relationship w/ that phrase – I’m not good at enjoying the journey. I’m working at it.
I’m all for simplifying, cutting back and streamlining life. But what’s really important is how you spend your time: the only currency of life.
I often dream of having a mansion or a vacation home in the mountains and so many other things. However, I’m not willing to do what it takes to get there. More than that, if I had that kind of money, I think I’d feel guilty spending it that way.
In the Summer of 2008 I took a severance package from my employer (moving development out of state) at the time and went freelance (iOS development). It was a bit of a dream type thing, but also a way to spend more time with my family, less time commuting, etc. Longer vacations, shorter commute.
It wasn’t easy (don’t think working for yourself means you’re waking up late and just cashing checks – how have some gotten that impression?). Being your own boss means you have many bosses: all of your clients. You’re blessed to have many… or enough.
Anyway, I’m more and more happy with the decision (and thankful that God has allowed it to continue so long, so far).
It’s a TRAP!
There are many times when I get into the cycle of thought of: wouldn’t it be cool to do/have X, well, I’d need to make more money to do that, what if I took a job? It’s a trap!
There’s a few facets of it: a) you think money will make you happier. It won’t. Granted money solves some problems and provides things, but beyond the provisions, it won’t make you happy.
B) You think working more will give you freedom. In a sense it could, if you worked more, made money and then stopped working so much. A temporary increase in work to reach a goal is different than working more to increase your life-style level.
C) You think money/provision/etc. is more important than time.
What is your time worth?
Most people can put a dollar value on their time – their hourly rate – take your salary (e.g., $50,000), divid it by 1000 (e.g., 50), divide that in half (e.g., 25) and that’s basically your hourly rate.
However, I believe it has to vary depending on the subject matter. If you make a great hourly rate, it’s awesome to work to the point where you’re providing well. However, after that, it’s just robbing you/others of your time.
Take exercise for example. It’s great to workout for like an hour a day. Something like that. But most people would agree that if you work out 6 hours a day, a lot of other things will suffer or be sacrificed for that.
What is Time Sensitive?
In some cases, it might be very reasonable to choose work over some other (personal) things. You might need to work to miss your son’s football practice. However, if you make that choice too much across the board you’ll miss it all.
Your child’s childhood is time sensitive – you’re not getting that chance again.
My Loose Philosophy
My intention is to work as much as I need to. How much I need to is certainly subjective and it’s loose even in my own head. Typically my gut tells me. That’s been honed over several years of consideration and practice.
I also try to disassociate work from income to a degree. I try to do the work God brings along and leave the income up to Him. Sometimes I’ve been really busy and seem to scrape by and other times have a very laxed, smooth schedule and have surplus.
Don’t get me wrong. I use the head God gave me and try to learn, change, grow, modify my practices and such to work out best. I just don’t kid myself that I’m in control of everything.
I also try to ask myself what I’m going to wish I had done…
What will I Regret?
Some people say they have no regrets. I don’t get that. Are they kidding themselves? Maybe it’s the definition of regret we disagree about. To me a regret is wishing you hadn’t done something or done differently. Something like that. There’s MANY things I wish I hadn’t done or had done differently.
But my point is that in 5 years, 10 years, 2 weeks or on my death bed – what am I going to wish I had done? No one, on their deathbed, says I wish I’d worked more.
Here’s some things I’m NOT going to say:
- I wish I had worked more
- I wish I had had a bigger house
- I wish I had traveled (for pleasure) less
- I wish I had had more toys (electronics, vehicles, etc.)
You get the point – I’m not going to wish I had more tickets, toys, money, etc. But I will say “I would trade it all for one more day or hour with my wife and kids.”
I don’t live an existence always fearing what I’ll regret. But it’s a good measuring rod.
More Time, More Journeys
Life, to me, is a honing process and I try to be patient with myself to make progressive changes and improvements over time. If you add a new, positive aspect, hobby, habit or something each year, you have 10 great new ones in 10 years. If I’d started 20 years ago… you get the picture.
I’m trying to focus on more time spent on things that are worth it. That’s going to be different for different people. Playing guitar over TV. Reading books over video games.
That doesn’t mean I don’t watch TV or play video games. I do. But to make intentional choices about how to spend my time. When I choose to watch TV it’s going to be over whatever else my choices are. At that time, I want it to be intentional.
And I want to make many of those decisions to be made for journeys. As I write this, I’m with my wife and kids in Durango. I’ve got a beautiful view of mountains and trees and snow.
Granted I’m not spending time with them at this moment, but again, it’s intentional and I’m not obsessed with always and only spending time with them.
I might take a hit by working some less. I doubt I’ll regret it. However, it’s a little hard for me giving my personality – I tend to worry a bit about what’s NOT getting done and such.
However, it was an intentional and calculated decision. And it’s a worthy struggle.
We try to take more trips and longer trips. I’ll work on these trips often as part of it – I might work less during that time. Also, it often allows us to take longer trips.
But it’s not like I can just walk away from work and the money machine keeps printing. And God has been very good to us to let me build up my company over the last several years that we can afford what we do.
And it also means saying ‘no’ to many other things – for every thing you buy, there’s something else you can’t (unless you’re wealthy enough to say yes to all your wants). For everything you spend time on, you’re saying ‘no’ to doing something else (or many things).
So we are very frugal with time and money in many areas in order to choose other options. And even the things (e.g., trips) we do, we do our best to make them affordable: drive (not fly), get places where we can cook (not eat out all the time), etc. And again, God has been very good for us to be able to live on one salary which also frees up my wife’s time to take care of us well and do it affordably while also freeing up time outside of school/work to not have to run errands and manage the home.
And He has provided applicable income in that one salary. Again, I use my head to build up my business. It takes a lot of work and time invested and effort and sacrifice. But I believe if they are intentional and calculated, the right decisions can pay off and lead to a great setup.
So while I want to give God the credit, and He deserves it, I don’t want to say it just fell in my lap in the sense that… don’t lean on your shovel and pray for a hole. Plant the seeds then pray for rain.
Also, not every profession, personality, gifting, skills, etc. can work remotely and have the contacts and opportunities they need. It might be more stress to get started than you believe is worth it. It might be more work to network with people, chase leads, have sales-type calls, etc.
But again, it’s a worthy struggle to strive for the life you believe is best for those around you and God’s glory.
So I’m all for simplification. Cut the fat. Streamline. Figure out what version of that works for you. For me, it’s picking 4-5 things that I want to really focus on (interests and such): Bible study, work, guitar, fitness, blogging – for example.
Figure out what works for you in these areas: what type of exercise works for you? The gym isn’t for me. Do you need a checklist every day? Do you need a set regime schedule each day? What are the negatives of your route (e.g., are you incapable of being flexible)? Figure out what works best to get you to your goal.
It sounds simple. It’s not so much how to do it really – it’s figuring out what you want to do. Most of us assume it’s based around work. Priorities.
The point is – decide where you want to succeed – Priorities – what will it take to get there, how can you do that within reality of who you are and what your situation is.
I didn’t mean for this to turn into advice but more a description of how I think on these things.
On paper my decisions mean: more travel, more flexibility, more time w/ wife/kids, doing less of interests (than I used to do which was too much), making less money (than I could if I had a commute or moved) and being convinced I’ll have fewer regrets.
Time to go stare at a mountain.
NOTE: The above is a loose set of thoughts on the subject of priorities. It’s not meant to be a hard system of priorities and life. More of a stream of consciousness on the subject about trade offs in life of time and choices. I don’t have a spreadsheet of criteria of for how to spend each hour of my life. Again, sometimes I choose to watch TV where I could do something more “valuable” – but hopefully it’s intentional based on the moment and such. Please try to read it in the spirit it was intended. 🙂