Thoughts About Money, Happiness And A Stress-Free Life

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I now have 7 days left at my current job. I’ve worked as an engineer at my current company for the last 4,5 years.

In the middle of August, I’m starting at a new company as a project manager.

The new job is what I’ve always wanted, so why am I not happier?

The problem is that when you get what you want, you enjoy it for a while, then you set the bar higher.

It’s like the “VICTORY” below.

When you get from “V” to “I” you’re happy for a week. But then you realize that “Wow, I should really move on to “C”, because that’s a level higher. So you work hard and eventually get all the way up to “C”. Then you start thinking that “the C is great and all, but I can do better, let’s move up to T”.

And so on.

I think you see where we’re going from here, but the reason I write this is that I want to dive a little bit more into this topic.

What is it that makes us content and why do we always strive for more? Is there a way to be happy with what you have and with where you are in life at all times?

Happiness Is A Fleeting Emotion

Happiness is a fleeting emotion. Let’s talk about the two dimensions of happiness.

Hedonism

The first dimension of happiness is hedonistic. This is where a certain event triggers a fabulous feeling – like the one I got when I got a call from the new job that they wanted me as their new co-worker.

It felt great, and I was glowing inside. I felt both joy and pleasure. This aspect of happiness is easy to understand as it is based upon a very simple rule: a maximum of positive emotions and a minimum of negative emotions.

In other words, to experience hedonistic happiness you need to feel as much joy as possible but sadness or frustration cannot be part of the equation.

Eudaimonia

The second dimension of happiness is eudaimonic happiness. Eudaimonia is a condition that is best translated to “living well”.

Aristotle argues that eudaimonia is the highest human good and that the goal of ethics and political philosophy is to examine how humans can achieve this state. Contrary to what many people associate with the word “happiness”, eudaimonia is not a condition that can come and go from one moment to another but is a characteristic of a complete life.

This is the kind of happiness that is based upon the question of meaning in life. People who wake up in the morning with a clear knowledge of their meaning in life, experience a deep feeling of happiness and satisfaction. Their lives are filled with passion and vitality which are at the heart of eudaimonic happiness.

The journey of eudaimonic happiness is not easy. It is filled with challenges and obstacles.

In January 2019 is was deeply unsatisfied with my job. I remember I looked for new jobs every single day. I thought about quitting my job immediately without having anything lined up at all. I’ve thought about this period a lot later on. I went through an agonizing period of time where I felt that “who I am” and “what I do” were mismatched.

Then I started a personal journey where I realized what was meaningful to me and how I could achieve it. For me, this meant taking further studies and switch jobs. This process in the short-term was challenging and gave me feelings of frustration, sadness, and even pain, as part of this self-actualizing experience.

And yet it is a natural part of eudaimonic happiness. Going through this development might be challenging but it would probably fill you with a highly satisfying and deep feeling of meaning as you proceed with it. You are investing in your long-term happiness.

To summarize; hedonic happiness, in its essence, is a brief experience of joy and pleasure that quickly fades away. A good example is your monthly salary from the 9-5. The happiness you experience is short-lived, but yet we strive for it again and again. Hedonic happiness is the quest for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

Eudaimonic happiness, on the other hand, is filled with challenges. This is the happiness that we get from personal development and creating meaning in our lives. Increased happiness in your life might be found by combining the two.

Why Do We Always Strive For More?

From the hedonic perspective, happiness is the sum of a person’s momentary pleasures. The focus is on the here and now, and the presence of positive and absence of negative affect: being relaxed and free of problems, and feeling good.

Eudaimonia is rooted in the development of more deeply held universal values and virtues that contribute to articulating true potential and meaning in life. Consequently, this perspective embraces the engagement in meaningful activities and the pursuit of meaningful goals.

Saving in index funds is an activity that not only has a momentary and distinguishable hedonic pleasure (when I see my funds increase every month), but also has a longer and more meaningful effect on my life appreciation (eudaimonia) since the savings will let me be free from work, free to pursue my deepest interests 24/7.

But then, why do we always strive for more? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’ve saved so far? One answer is gratitude. You can have all the money and achievements in the world. But, if you are grateful for nothing, it’s like no matter what you make or do, life simply will not get any better.

This is one of the reasons why we end up striving for more in our lives. More things, more money, more status. Because how can you ever have enough if you don’t appreciate what you have?

There are infinite ways to show our gratitude to others, to ourselves, and to a higher power or even “the universe” itself.

Start simply now by writing down 3 things you are grateful for today. Writing down a few things you are grateful for is one of the easiest exercises available. Imagine your life without the things or people that matter to you, before you begin writing.

Would My Life Be Any Different Without My Savings In Index Funds?

This is an interesting question.

As I wrote about in another post, I’m not planning on using much of the money I save in index funds. They’re just there as security.

So would my life be any different without the money? At the moment, it wouldn’t.

I live my life as if I hadn’t had any money in stocks at all. But my plan is to quit the 9-5, and my index funds will serve as a safety net so that I have the courage to pursue new opportunities.

Eg. starting a business without any fear of the business failing. If I would fail, I can always withdraw some of the money from my portfolio and try over again.

But again, why can’t I do this right now? Do I really need more security in one of the world’s safest countries?

This is a question I ponder a lot. On one hand, I feel that I don’t need money as a safety net to try what I want to do in life. On the other hand: how much is peace of mind worth in money? It’s a question that really can’t be answered.

How much does stress from having very little savings impact your day-to-day life? Do you lose any sleep over it, or do your stray thoughts go in that direction? How much does a sense of security in having cash in savings help lower your stress and improve your confidence? And how much value do those things have?

For me, low stress and security have a lot of value. I cherish having a relatively low-stress life.

The dream is to focus my days on becoming a better writer. To read more, and to teach what I learn to others. To pay it forward.

That doesn’t necessarily require much money, but without the money as a safety, I couldn’t allow myself to focus on the writing.

Conclusion

When you get what you want, you enjoy it for a while, then you set the bar higher.

Hedonic happiness is a brief experience of joy and pleasure that quickly fades away. A good example is your monthly salary from the 9-5. Eudaimonic happiness, on the other hand, is filled with challenges. This is the happiness that we get from personal development and creating meaning in our lives.

Increased happiness in your life might be found by combining the two.

Saving in index funds is an activity that not only has a momentary and distinguishable hedonic pleasure, for example when I see my funds increase every month, but it also has a longer and more meaningful effect on my life appreciation (eudaimonia) since the savings will let me be free from the 9-5, free to pursue my deepest interests 24/7.

But then, why do we always strive for more? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’ve saved so far? One answer is gratitude. You can have all the money and achievements in the world. But, if you are grateful for nothing, it’s like no matter what you make or do, life simply will not get any better. This is one of the reasons why we end up striving for more in our lives. More things, more money, more status. Because how can you ever have enough if you don’t appreciate what you have?

On one hand, I feel that I don’t need money as a safety net to try what I want to do in life. On the other hand: how much is peace of mind worth in money? For me, low stress and security have a lot of value. 

I cherish having a relatively low-stress life. And, remember that it’s not the goal in itself that is important, but to thrive on the way to the goal and have fun along the way.

I want to spend more time writing and to do that I’d like to become financially free. I believe that the peace of mind the money would bring would be worth some years saving 75% of my salary. You could argue that I don’t live how I want right now, but I honestly do. I spend my time exactly how I want every day, except for working on my day job.

But I’m soon ready for the perfect escape. If you haven’t already read my escape plan, feel free to check it out here.

See you on the other side, and don’t forget that the best is yet to come.


Read all my posts in chronological order here: Archives


Have questions, comments, or suggestions? I would love to help you with your FI-journey.

Feel free to reach out directly at @Route2FI on Twitter or email me at post@route2FI.com


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One Reply to “Thoughts About Money, Happiness And A Stress-Free Life”

  1. […] Thoughts About Money, Happiness And A Stress-Free Life from Route 2 FI really struck a chord with me today. My wife always jokes that I am never happy because as soon as I get what I want I quickly move on to the next goal. I am always setting the bar higher and higher. The problem is where does this bar end! […]

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