Upgrade These 3 Resources To Maximize Your Life Satisfaction
Most of us go through life as though we had all the time in the world.
Maybe even worse, we live as though our health will never decline, as though we’ll always enjoy the same vitality we possess now, and as though we’ll always have time to change our future.
We hide from ourselves the fact that there’s a very real moment that’s coming in the future where it will be too late for us to make major changes and avoid experiencing crushing regret for the things we’ve never done — the memories we’ve never made.
Time, health, significance, joy, contribution, meaning, connection, life satisfaction — all these vitally special things just fade into the background while we focus instead on the things that won’t matter one tiny bit when we’re in that future moment, when we’re staring down our regret, powerless to change the choices we’ve made.
In case you’re thinking of jumping ahead of me here: No, I’m not going to tell you that “money doesn’t matter,” or that you should just forget about it and “focus on your passion” or whatever and “live for the moment.”
I’ve lived in countries where there are people my own age literally crawling around on their hands and knees, weak from hunger. Don’t you think they’d be a lot happier with some money?
Of course they would. More money would change the course of their entire lives — it would save their lives.
So yes, money can absolutely buy happiness. It’s actually one of the three resources you have to maximize in order to make the most out of your one and only life. But there are two more, and you’ll notice that money comes last on that list.
I’ve put this list more or less in order, and we’re beginning with health, then moving on to time, and then down to money. The problem, stated by Bill Perkins in his excellent book Die with Zero, is roughly this:
So you have to balance them, and how you do that depends on where you are on the road of life, so to speak. How best to do that is going to be completely individual to you, and my recommendations can only be that: recommendations.
But it’s my job as a writer and a believer in human potential to shake you by the shoulders and get you thinking about how best to balance and maximize these things.
For example, I believe that people of all ages should be spending more time and money on their health. You can almost always make more money, but you can never, ever manufacture more time.
There will also come a time when your health is too far gone for you to be able to do anything about it. Sad, regrettable, but nonetheless true for all of us. At a certain point in all of our lives, we could have a clear schedule and a credit card with no limit, but it won’t do us a bit of good.
In my opinion, you should almost always spend money to buy back your time, and you should use your time and your money in the most efficient way possible so as to maximize your health. Spending more money on higher-quality food is going to leave you poorer, but it will also make you healthier and happier. Paying someone to do errands so you don’t have to is going to leave you with less money but also with much more free time.
All that being said, I don’t think that anyone could ever call me a “settler.” Good enough is NOT “good enough.”
We should all be thinking about how to maximize ALL these areas of our lives, and I’ve done a lot of thinking on this subject on your behalf. The importance we place on these three resources can — and probably will — differ between us, but let’s at least begin the discussion.
. . .
Maximize Your Health
Arthur Schopenhauer famously said that “a healthy beggar is happier than an ailing king,” and, perhaps even more memorably, Confucius has a saying that goes something like this:
“A sick man only wants one thing; a healthy man wants 10,000 things.”
I can feel that 2,500-year-old mic drop resounding in my ears even today as I reflect on the fact that, when I’m sick, I ONLY want to get better. Nothing else matters. Once I lose my health — even temporarily — everything else fades into insignificance.
We have all these desires — stuff we want — but when we don’t have our health, we’d give up everything we own in order to get it back. So doesn’t it make sense to focus on our health — physical and mental — first?
Perkins is absolutely correct when he writes:
When you’re healthy, your very capacity for enjoyment skyrockets. That being the case, it stands to reason that we should be very willing to give up at least a portion of both our time and our money in order to improve and maintain our good heath.
It doesn’t have to be some massive undertaking either. There are tons of “bio-hackers” out there pushing products like Krill Oil, or Athletic Greens, or Hydrolyzed Grass-Fed Collagen Protein (that’s a real thing, you can Google it if you don’t believe me), but the reality is that health doesn’t have to be so complicated.
We can employ the 80/20 Rule here and focus on the 20% of actions that will give us 80% of the results. I like nootropics and MCT oil and stuff like that, but you don’t need all that stuff.
They help, sure, and I’m not against them or anything, but if confusion is stopping you from taking any action, then there’s a problem.
I remember taking steroids for the first time when I was 19 years old (which was dumb for a variety of reasons I won’t get into), yet the whole time I was sticking needles and popping Anadrol to get “swole,” I wasn’t:
1) eating enough
2) training hard enough
3) getting enough sleep, like, at all — which are the three things that, if I were actually doing them properly, would have given me all the “gains” that I received from drugs.
Stupid. Young, and stupid.
Anyway, ditch the Krill oil, and just do these five things:
*Don’t put toxic things into your body (MSG, alcohol, sugar, canola oil, etc.)
*Lift things and move around (go for a run, take up a sport, lift some weights, basically anything other than sitting and rotting in a chair all day)
*Sleep like the dead (find out how much sleep you need first, then make sure you get it; maybe use a free sleep tracker like SleepCycle too to make sure)
*Feed your body real food (fruits and vegetables mostly, lots of protein, plenty of water, etc.)
*Calm down (stress will literally kill you!)
Straight up: You do those five things, and you’ll be way ahead of the game. You don’t need to inject elephant hormones in order to live longer (I just made that up, but it’s probably a thing); you just have to get the basics right.
Of course, if you want to go further and do some supplementation that’s not a bad idea either as long as you know what you’re doing.
All I’m saying is what Bill Perkins is saying:
. . .
Maximize Your Time
Maximizing your health is how you extend the amount of time you have available on this beautiful earth to enjoy it. Taking your health more seriously is going to give you plenty of one of the most valuable resources you’ll ever have control over — your time.
But wouldn’t it be tragic if you gained all this time — all these extra years added onto your life — and then just threw them away on nonsense?
That’s a real danger, and mostly it’s because people don’t realize how exceptionally valuable time actually is.
You can never, ever, ever make more time! Ever! Time is always slipping away, never to return, and, like Marcus Aurelius says, we have to use our time in order to free ourselves, or else it will be gone forever.
I could write an entire book on how to save time, manage your time, expand your time, etc., but I think that more important than all of that is just to realize how extraordinarily valuable and precious it truly is.
“The supply of time is truly a daily miracle,” writes Arnold Bennett in How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (a book published in 1908!). We’re just given all this time, and yet we waste so much of it!
If you’re awake for 16 hours every day (in other words, if you’re taking your sleep seriously!), and you waste just 5 minutes out of every one of those hours, then at the end of the day you will have wasted 80 minutes!
Extrapolate to the rest of the year and you will have wasted 487 hours! That’s insane!
Think also on the fact that there are some hours where we waste all 60 minutes at once. Once you’ve grasped the real significance of time, you’ll be horrified at the prospect of giving up so much of your life.
Now, there are tons of great time management books out there, and you’ll find a ton of them here, but I don’t have the space in this article to explore all the ways you have available to take your life back. Although I will mention two important things to consider here.
One is that the best way to manage your time is to figure out how you’re spending it now. It’s not the worst idea to print out a time-tracking sheet (or just use your phone like I do) and figure out exactly where your time is going. You may be surprised at how costly those 5-minute time wasters are and how long it actually takes to do things, as opposed to how long you think you’re spending on them.
My second short piece of advice is to, as often as you are able, pay someone else to do the things you either hate to do, don’t have time for, or where there’s someone out there who can do a better job at it than you can.
Here’s Bill Perkins again:
Incidentally, this is one of the only places I will tolerate people putting a dollar value on their time. The “value” of your time is literally infinite (since it is a non-renewable resource), but for the sake of increasing your life satisfaction, I suggest first figuring out your hourly “rate.”
Say your time is “worth” $20 an hour. Well, if it takes you an hour to do something that you hate doing, say, the laundry; and if you can pay someone $20 or less to do it for you, you should do it. Mathematically, and in terms of life satisfaction, it makes sense to do so. They’ll probably do a better job, you gain an hour of your one and only life back, and everyone wins.
You may be surprised as well at how many things you can actually outsource to someone else: everything from making reservations, buying gifts, planning vacations, organizing emails and arranging schedules, to laundry and cooking and driving. If you don’t waste the new time you’ve “found,” then it makes total sense to do this.
Anyway, I’ll give the last word in this section to Arnold Bennett again:
. . .
Maximize Your Money
In one of the best personal finance books I’ve ever come across, The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel points out that spending, saving, and investing philosophies vary so widely among different people — and each serve that individual in a way that’s so particular to them — that what looks crazy to one person might seem completely sensible to someone else.
One person will give up drinking $3 coffees every day so that they can invest $100 in the stock market and secure their financial future, while another person will look at the first person and say, “You mean to say that you’re giving up something you love — every day — just so you can maybe have $1,000,000 fifty years from now, assuming that hopefully you live that long, hopefully you keep your job, hopefully the stock market returns 9% annually for the next fifty years, and hopefully runaway climate change doesn’t destroy us all? Hope is not a strategy!”
We can imagine this red-faced second person, apoplectic, unable to believe what he’s hearing, but I have to say: they’re both right. And wrong.
One thing they will both agree on, however, is that money is one of the three critical resources they have to manage in order to maximize their life. The disagreement only concerns how best to do that.
The truth is, again, that it’s all so personal and individual. My spending habits might seem crazy to you, but believe me, they’ve been carefully evaluated, and they serve my goals. One thing that’s been indispensable to me is learning how to live on less. And to be clear, this is NOT to be confused with saying things like “Oh, well I don’t really care about buying lots of stuff,” and then having it secretly eating away at you inside because you’re just lying to yourself and you really do want to buy a lot of stuff.
No, I’m talking about actually needing less in order to survive and be happy. It’s possible. I’ve done it, and most people would not believe the freedom and power that comes from needing less — honestly, most people can’t even fathom it because they’re too busy rushing around killing themselves trying to upgrade their lifestyle.
Part of that freedom and peace, for me, comes from investing in the stock market. Again, it’s a huge subject that I won’t be able to cover in depth in this article, but everyone over the age of, I don’t know, 12 needs to know about basic investment principles.
For example, the stock market’s not that risky. You read that right. In any 20-year period of the S&P 500’s history, no one has ever lost money if they kept their principal invested. It’s when people get “smart” and think they can time the markets and move their money in and out that they lose all their savings. So just…don’t do that! You can put your money into an ETF (exchange-traded fund) that tracks the whole index and odds are it’ll still be there 20 years later.
Now, of course just because something’s never happened before doesn’t mean it will never happen, and you should do as much independent research as you can and all that. But you’re much worse off doing nothing instead of investing.
If you’re still concerned about the risk factor (and despite what I said earlier, there are never any guarantees where the markets are concerned), you can do something called dollar cost averaging, which means putting in a smaller amount of money at regular intervals so you’re protected against a market crash at the time right after you invest your money.
It would suck to invest $50,000 into the stock market all at once and then the week after have your money lose half its value.
Instead, if you invest, say $5,000 every month over ten months, you’ll “dollar cost average” and be able to take advantage of the possibility of buying a stock at a lower price if it goes down, and wading into the stock market waters carefully as the market rises.
The key with investing is that a lot of it is psychological. Our account balance goes down by 20% in 6 days and we flip out, thinking that we’re going to lose everything, have to sell our house, be shamed in front of all of our colleagues — basically catastrophizing all the things that can go wrong, causing us to take our money out of the stock market at a loss. Then we put it back in when the markets recover and the prices of stocks are rising! This is crazy!
You’re better off just investing and forgetting. For me personally, I don’t invest anything that I’m not prepared to lose, and I remind myself that I’m strong enough to live on much less than most people can and still be completely happy and fulfilled.
Then, when the market goes down, I just say, “Oh, look, the market’s going down a bit this month. That sucks…” And then just go on my merry way!
I “know” that it’s going to eventually recover, I’m not going to have to go live under a bridge, and basically almost everything will be completely fine. This is a powerful way to live.
Maximizing these three areas of your life really deserves three separate articles — or three separate books! — but I’ll just mention a couple more things about money.
The first is that there’s a floor beyond which you can’t reduce your expenses any more. I live on basically nothing and I put all my money into my business, my stock portfolio, and my charity initiatives, but I still have to buy some things. I’ve always enjoyed being able to eat every day; I also have one of those old-fashioned cars that still runs on gasoline, and I have an unlimited budget for books, coffee, and haircuts. Seriously. I don’t care what I spend on those three things. If I want one of those, I get one.
So there’s a limit to how much you can cut your expenses. But there is no limit to how much money you can make! You just have to set up the math in your favor.
If you work a minimum wage job (there is no shame in that, by the way — don’t let anyone ever tell you any different!), you will never be able to work more hours than there are in a week.
If you make $15/hour and work 160 hours a month (40 hours a week), then the most you can ever make is $2,400/month before taxes. Even if you bump it up to 50 hours a week, it’s just $3,000/month before taxes.
That’s enough for most people if they simply reduce their desires, but if you’re paying for a family member’s medical bills, for example, or if you simply want to take a few vacations every year and not flinch at the cost, then you have to separate your time from your money!
How you do that is by starting a business — by selling a product that has zero “marginal cost of replication,” which is just a fancy name for something that it doesn’t cost anything to make more of. Selling an eBook, or a song on iTunes for example. Other people can just download a copy, and you don’t have to keep any copies in an actual store or in your basement.
Again, there are so many excellent resources out there that are beyond the scope of this article to go into, but right off the top of my head I would recommend books like The Millionaire Fastlane and The Great Rat Race Escape, both by M.J. DeMarco (I know what the titles sound like, but just go with me here), and people like Jon Brosio (and whom you might remember from here on Medium) who I work with personally and has helped me in my career immensely.
What’s more is that products like that are actually scalable, whereas your time or salary is not. You can never manufacture more time so you can work more hours, but you can grow your fan base online and have more people buy what you sell, be it an online course or intellectual property of some kind. It’s just there, for people to buy, and you can even be sleeping when they do it!
For example, DeMarco lives in Arizona, which is 3 hours behind where I live, and I bought his book early in the morning when he was probably asleep. That’s what I mean. He only had to write the book once, and now that it’s available online, people like me can buy it at any time of day whatsoever and DeMarco doesn’t have to actually be there to complete the sale.
I remember the first time someone paid me more than $100 for an online course I created or supported my work on Patreon, and I can tell you that it feels amazing. Other people are benefiting from something that you created, and they find so much value in it that they are willing to pay you for it!
What’s more, you can even be out on your back deck reading a book when the sale comes in, not slaving away for some corporation that doesn’t give two fiscal reports about you and your happiness.
. . .
Wasting our lives should scare us much more than blowing through our money. And yet, those three resources — health, time, and money — are all so incredibly important to a life well lived. It’s our responsibility to manage them and keep them in balance, and the difficulty of doing so shouldn’t be a factor.
What’s easy shouldn’t determine what you do.
The reality is that there’s absolutely no point working at something you hate just so you can save money for experiences you’ll never have. If you work to earn money that you never spend, that means that you end up working for free. And that’s no way to live.
Regret and the realization that you’ve left unlived life on the table when your days are winding down is some of the worst mental pain you can ever experience.
But we’re so focused on things that don’t matter that we don’t even see or hear the train bearing down on us, crystallizing our regret and arriving on the day when its too late to make a change.
So live NOW, live HARD, give it Every Single Thing you have WITHIN YOU, and make sure that you earn your sleep each and every night.
Invest time in your health and freedom, use your money to buy back time and improve your health, and invest not only in your financial future but also in your relationships, your experiences, your memories, and invest time and effort into building the kind of life that you can imagine for yourself.
Even at the end, your life is not over. Even when you have no health, time, or even money left, you will still have your memories. That is, if you’ve been intentional about making them along the way.
I’ll give the last word here to Bill Perkins again, where he explains the concept of “memory dividends”:
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
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The post Upgrade These 3 Resources To Maximize Your Life Satisfaction appeared first on The Good Men Project.