Many people expect that once they reach FI, they’ll just be happy. They usually have plans of travel, volunteering, founding that start-up, or even just a long staycation.
All the things they told themselves and others that they would do if only they had enough money and time.
But then what?
I’m not FI yet, but I have glimpses into that future for myself.
As it turns out, life actually doesn’t change tremendously, because you’re still you… with pretty much all the same problems and issues (except with fewer money-related ones).
How can this be?
FI is Like Being Drunk All the Time… Sort Of
Stay with me on this one, because it’ll make sense eventually.
I’ve come to realize your true nature comes forth when there are few external constraints on you, both physically and mentally. And this happens when you’re FI.
It’s actually eerily similar to drunkenness. I’m sure many of you have been (or have friends who often are) drunk.
Some people are happy drunks – they are so extroverted and welcoming.
Some are sleepy and quiet drunks – they just like to watch others quietly and then doze off.
Others are, unfortunately, angry and belligerent. Or sexually promiscuous.
These aspects of our natures are always there, inside each one of us. But it is only during the times of few constraints that the most dominant of these natures (whether it be positive or negative) come forth uninhibited.
Being FI is actually not that much different except that it’s a longer lasting state of being . And that you can’t blame a chemical substance. (But there may or may not be a hangover.)
You don’t have the constraint of a work schedule to compel you to wake at a certain time or sleep at a certain time.
You don’t have the constraint of a supervisor determining your daily/weekly tasks and evaluating your progress.
You don’t have the constraint of worrying how you’ll pay the rent or where your next meal will come from.
So what’s stopping you from just sitting on the couch all day gorging on chips and Netflix?
Or staying up all night at the local bar and hooking up?
Or sleeping all day and sliding into deep depression?
Or, alternatively, from going to the gym regularly or starting up that social enterprise?
Your True Nature Emerges, Warts And All
The simple answer is this:
Nothing except yourself.
This is the irony. FI is based on freedom from constraints. But we cannot escape the constraints (both good and bad) that we impose on ourselves.
I’ve seen this with elderly family members who saved all their lives, still live frugally, and so now have no realistic economic worries for the remainder of their lives.
Yet, those elderly family members are still unhappy, even miserable, because the chains of their mind still constrain them.
More money will solve your money problems.
More money will not solve your mental problems. Or your relationship problems. Or your health problems.
What more money can do, though, is free up your time and energy to address these other problems in your life.
And that can be a scary thing, because now you have no excuses not to take care of your health. Or not to visit that estranged relative who lives in another city. Or not to figure out why you’re so anxious/depressed/angry all the time.
But You Have the Keys
The flip side is that you have the keys to unlock these chains.
You can decide your thoughts, feelings, intentions, and actions. You can re-create the story of you tell yourself.
And, with the power of FI, you can build a shield against the stories that others, whether they be individuals or institutions, try to impose on you.
So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m re-creating my story of my life.
How about you?
Do you think your greatest constraints are physical and monetary? Or are they mental and emotional?