Here’s something that I bet you didn’t know: it takes me 17 steps to get to work every day. For some bizarre reason, I mentally counted my gracefully effortless strides this morning as I made my short commute to my home office where I work full time in information technology.
But as I sat down to begin my workday, I simply could not get those 17 steps out of my mind. I kept thinking about them, but I failed to put my finger on why those steps were so meaningful.
Why the hell was I so fixated on the number of damn steps it takes me to cross my house? This can’t possibly be normal.
Finally (and after my first cup of coffee), I stumbled on the answer…
These 17 steps made me realize something truly remarkable – how seemingly small changes to one’s lifestyle can add up to something absolutely mind blowing.
What happened was I finally gave myself the chance to sit and think about how truly awesome it is to be working from home, and what this change in my lifestyle is doing for our plans to retire early.
I used to sit through traffic that I absolutely hated to commute to a job that I didn’t like just to cube-work in a cold, dreary office that truly made me appreciate getting the hell out of there every day. My co-workers were commonly either checked-out mentally or completely over confident, and spending time around them drained the life out of me.
I eventually became the manager of nearly all of them, and shit quickly got real – and I got lost!
Now, I drag my unimportant ass across the entire house and plop down in my comfy office chair, occasionally re-surfacing outside of the office to play with our dogs or check out the weather. In the summer, you’d commonly find me swimming in our completely-unnecessary backyard pool.
I also used to stuff myself into a work uniform – a button down shirt and khakis – because it was the office dress code. Now, I basically wear my workout clothes because I insist on taking some time in the late morning to pursue my fitness routine at the gym, which gives me an opportunity to get out of the house and grab some fresh air on the motorcycle.
Just in those two lifestyle changes, we’ve accounted for two significant improvements to my lifestyle. First, I am saving significant time and money on my “commute” (by not commuting at all), and second, I have dramatically increased my quality of life and overall happiness with my ability to pick and choose my own schedule.
As a full time professional, the power to pick your own daily schedule is right up there with winning the Super Bowl or having the best damn sex of your life…pretty much every day. It’s the best thing since
sliced bread my drop-dead-delicious homemade guacamole with loads of fresh cilantro, pineapple, tomato and maybe a splash of Tequilla if I’m feeling frisky. Who needs sliced bread, anyway?
Changing jobs might seem like a huge change, but actually, it wasn’t. I still do the same type of work, only in a much more comfortable environment and far improved working conditions.
But that’s not the end of what small changes in lifestyle can do.
These small but powerful changes don’t stop there. For example, we no longer subscribe to expensive cable TV service (we have a TV/Internet bundle that actually makes it more cost effective to keep basic cable than get rid of it.
I switched over to the Verizon Edge plan by choosing the cheapest Android phone on the market, reducing my share of the family plan down to $25 / month for unlimited everything-I-need. No more carrying around a stupid $600 liability (erm, phone). Score!
The wife and I ditched the “date night” excuse and now rarely go out to eat. To “date night” it up, we instead cook one of our favorite meals and eat it outside, poolside, with a glass of wine or Vodka tonic (or both, hehe).
I sold the Ridgeline, which leaves me with only a motorcycle during the day. Not so bad, even if I have to bundle up before knifing through the frigid 50-degree winter air here in Arizona to get anywhere.
And truthfully, each of these lifestyles changes were easy. Super easy. My quality of life sure as hell didn’t diminish. I feel happy and healthy. I am not missing out on anything.
I used to think that I couldn’t live without HDTV service. But look at me now, all living and shit.
Our minds play games with our souls
When we think about the lifestyle changes that will help to bring on financial independence and early retirement faster, we often link these changes to the “s”-word. It’s a powerful word, but carries with it an equally-powerful negative connotation. It’s a bad word. Horrible, just horrible, this word.
What’s the word? Sacrifice.
Our minds, hell-bent on maximizing pleasure at all costs, trick our souls into thinking that the changes we are making are sacrifices. Our minds are telling us that we are depriving ourselves of things – things that we used to do, or stuff that we once had. It doesn’t much matter whether or not we truly took pleasure in these things.
Our minds focus on the fact that we once did something, and now, we are no longer doing that thing.
Once you get started, pleasant reality sets in. Like almost anything in life, once you immerse yourself into your new lifestyle, it is not so bad after all. Life goes on. Whether or not we have unrestricted 24/hour access to ESPN in HD doesn’t mean a damn thing. It doesn’t.
But that money that we are saving every month by frugalizing our lifestyle? Yeah, that shit means something. We retire on that stuff. That money will be your life blood in the future, when you are kicking your feet up on a park bench on a warm spring morning, completely relaxed.
All of these little things add up to something insanely wonderful. There is also a word to describe this, but it’s a much, much better word. Awesome, just awesome, this word.
What’s the word? Freedom.
Pure, sugary sweet freedom. The freedom to do what you want, when you want. The freedom to wake up whenever, do whatever, and be whomever.
And all it takes is making small changes in your lifestyle that add up into something truly spectacular.
Steve is a 38-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.