The first day of the New Year has come and passed, and the typical Type-A FIRE enthusiast was busy perfecting spreadsheets, writing down goals and dreaming about the prolific success achieved come the last day of 2018. I know I was!
Speaking of goals, I can’t tell you how many times I have been hell-bent on finally seeing my abs show through my almost-flat but still soft and squishy midsection (dad bod for the win!). I know exactly what steps I need to take to get there: calorie restriction and copious amounts of exercise combined with unbending self-determination. And obviously, once I get my six-pack I will finally feel content and love my body!
But, the truth is more nuanced. If I did obtain the holy grail of fitness, would I truly be content? Or, would I just bemoan another aspect of my body as needing reform? What about the crazy amount of work it would take to sustain a perfectly shredded midsection? By all accounts, even the movie star hunks let themselves go after spending months perfecting their bodies in preparation for a summer blockbuster. If I’m being honest with myself—and if past experience can be relied upon—it is unlikely having a six-pack will make me happier. In fact, having a six pack probably wouldn’t make me any healthier either. You can only reduce body fat levels so far before health benefits are negligible, so why not just focus on keeping a healthy body fat percentage rather than a Chris Hemsworth-like physique?
This line of thinking begs another question. I am trying to get a financial six-pack? Am I embracing unreasonable goals that wouldn’t contribute to an increased level of happiness related to finance? I don’t think our financial goals are unreasonable when it comes to reaching financial independence in seven years. Yes, we could relax our savings rate and instead reach FI in ten years. Or fifteen. Then, we would surely have way more money to spend on other pursuits rather than wealth-building. We could live the good life now, and not have to worry about dying before we are able to reap the rewards of our constant saving.
Granted, we will not be doing this because I honestly don’t know what we would spend more money on. This whole process of paying down debt and accumulating wealth has caused us to take a step back and figure out what really matters to us. It’s not money or things; it’s time and experiences. We feel that our financial goals are in line with our overall life goals, not just some aspiration to obtain merely to impress random folks on the internet. Continuing to improve our financial wellness also makes a lot of sense seeing as how we are not even ready for “swimsuit season” in a financial sense!
Knowing that I tend to gravitate towards perfectionism, I have found it to be prudent to look at goals in a new light. I’m definitely not advocating for settling or giving up. I’m simply looking at goals in a manner to assess how likely achieving that goal will truly bring me an increased level of happiness and what I’m willing to sacrifice to obtain said goals. Am I willing to sacrifice the big house in the nice neighborhood? Yes. Am I willing to work a second job and give up weekends with my family? Not anymore. The purpose of that second job (to pay off massive amounts of debt) has come and gone. True, I could reach my financial goals more quickly if I continued moonlighting at the pizza shop, but being there for my kids makes me (and Mrs. CTF) happier. After all, isn’t being happier the overall end result we should care about?