Your permanent paradise is that life you dream about. It’s achievable as much as it is a fantasy, and it’s that carrot dangling right in front of you. Whatever you imagine is your so-called “perfect life”, that’s your permanent paradise.
Recently, I got inspired by a guest post from Money Mozart who wrote his steps for figuring out both what his permanent paradise is and how to actually achieve it.
Here’s what he wrote (my comments in italics):
How to Reach Your Permanent Paradise
Your permanent paradise won’t be quite the same as mine, and that’s okay. There are few key takeaways from my story that I want you to remember, though.
1. Determine what your permanent paradise looks like.
This is crucial. If you don’t know what your goal is or what you hope to achieve in the future, you’ll end up wandering aimlessly around. You’ll work at jobs you hate with no light at the end of the tunnel.
This is much easier said than done. It is not easy to pinpoint what constitutes your “paradise”. And, it will change over time. But, that’s okay. Change is good. The larger point is to set up a target somewhere out there in the distance. Something to aim for. Without a target, there’s no way to determine whether you’ve hit your mark. And, it’ll be damn near impossible to know what changes you’ll need to make to take aim.
2. Figure out where you are now.
This is kind of a “state of the union”. What’s your debt situation? How’s your cash flow? How far into your career are you?
This is a brutal step, but a necessary one. Be honest with yourself. This isn’t the time to judge. Instead, use a combination of honesty and straightforwardness to determine your current state of living. Things like:
- Are you in debt?
- How much are you saving?
- Are you satisfied with your current life? Why or why not?
- Is your career a positive or negative emotion in your life?
3. Decide on a timeline.
How soon do you want to reach your permanent paradise? Make sure your timeline is realistic with steps 1 and 2 – what your paradise is and where you are now. Let’s say your permanent paradise is early retirement. You’re 34 years old with no savings and your timeline is 1 year. You may have to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Set small time-based goals and use those achievements to keep your attitude positive throughout the process of achieving your permanent paradise. Resist the temptation to set your initial goals too large; it can seem daunting to achieve monumental goals when first starting. Start with a small and achievable timeline, then build as your determination grows.
4. Make a plan.
At this point, you know what you want, where you want to go, and how long it should take. These are the 3 key building blocks to reaching your permanent paradise.
Now, fill in the gaps.
Figure out what needs to be done to achieve your permanent paradise. Again, start small and keep your goals achievable and incremental.
If saving money is a part of your goal, consider:
- Start an emergency fund with as little as $100 bucks
- Saving just 1% of your paycheck, then
- Match your company-sponsored 401k (if available), usually around 4%
- Build your emergency fund to at least three months of living expenses
- Max out retirement contributions between your 401k and Roth IRA
- Open a brokerage account and invest as much as you can
Those items might take you a year or more to complete, and that’s okay. The key is to start.
5. Check yourself.
Not everything goes to plan. In fact, I guarantee something will veer you off course. Maybe you have a baby, lose your job, or inherit a home. Things will change, and so will your plan.
To stay on course with where you need to go, you must constantly check in. Check in on your plan monthly, quarterly, yearly, or whatever works for you. But don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do. If nothing in your life changes, this check-in will serve as motivation.
Our Permanent Paradise
The problem began to surface after working for years in the information technology sector for big nameless corporations. For the first few years after college, this phase in my life was new and interesting enough to encourage my subliminal mind to ignore what was building up inside me.
I never truly liked “work”, though. From the moment I set foot in my first office and plopped down into my first cubicle, I did so only because I thought this was normal. After all, I spent the last four years of my life in school for a piece of paper they call a “degree”, then got a job working in a sterile neutral gray office alongside nicely dressed inhabitants of the same breed.
We were all in this thing together, and that made it a little more bearable.
The jobs were okay. Like everyone else, I commuted to work. I parked my car in the parking lot next to exotic German “autos” and the occasional Porsche. Even a Bentley. Oh, and a Maserati, too.
The work was fine. I did what everyone else was doing, so I naturally assumed things were going okay. Made friends. Went to happy hour. Did work.
I painstakingly packaged myself as a “good worker”, volunteering my precious time for extra [uncompensated] work, always smiling and agreeing with the boss (okay, THAT part slowly changed over the years, but I certainly started out that way!), kissing ass whenever possible…basic madness most of us do to try and “get ahead”.
But I came to realize that I quite despise the taste of ass.
I quickly realized that this wasn’t my permanent paradise. Not even close.
Not long ago, I realized the startling truth. My life wasn’t right and it needs to be fixed – something that simply “switching careers” wouldn’t be able to remedy. I thought the fix was early retirement because that meant quitting my job in an effort to shake the feeling of persistent hollowness.
The equation that my mind built added up to a very simple answer: “stop doing the things that make me feel hollow”.
But that wasn’t enough. I don’t want to just be “less hollow”. I want to experience happiness. Is that too much to ask?
Happiness. No, how about everlasting happiness? It’s an emotion. It is something that we feel naturally. It means our entire lives are generally “in order”. We feel comfortable with the decisions that we’ve made. We are content with our finances. We don’t worry about what tomorrow will bring. We indulge in the simpler things in life, the basic and most primitive components of being human.
I now realize that my purpose is not simply to “not work”. My goal is much more fundamental than that. It always has been even though “early retirement” was the well-packaged and easily-digestible phrase that seemed to provide the fix.
What I truly crave is that child-like bliss of having options, waking up every morning with a fresh mind and an open calendar.
I am not dealing with an equation, here – if I do this I will get that. I’m dealing with my own biological happiness, my sense of purpose, my reason for living. This is biology, not math.
In other words, my permanent paradise is freedom. Pure, unabashed freedom. The freedom to rise every morning and decide what to do that day. If that means work, so be it. If that’s play, then cool. I don’t want to retire. I want to be free.
Steve is a 37-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.