Originally when I set out to write today’s post I had this epic idea about using discomfort to boost your productivity and speed the road to early retirement. Except that post ended up being terrible.
So today, because I lack the energy, you’re going to get a Black Friday Shopping post filled with discount promotions….
I realized late last night, (at 3AM while trying to put the baby back to sleep) that my original post about discomfort didn’t sing true. I happen to like a little comfort at times! So I scrapped the whole post and started over. What resulted is this post.
Now you get to see what happens when I try to write a blog post on only a few hours of sleep. (I apologize in advance for any errors or oddball sentences)
Human energy is limited.
I’ll give you an example to illustrate: When you have kids (or other major responsibilities), there’s no time for anything else. They consume your life energy. Nearly every waking hour is spent focused on those kids — Feeding those kids, changing those kids….trying to get them to sleep. If they’re up late, then you’re up late (like I was last night).
Most people don’t have the energy to cook a homemade meal every day, chop wood for heat, hand wash their clothes in the stream, and ride a bike everywhere. We should, but the sad truth is….we don’t. There’s only so much energy a human can give in a day.
Some days you wake up after only a couple hours of sleep and think to yourself, “Crap, I need more sleep, but I have to get this damn blog post out today!”
In my mind, humanity’s greatest inventions have been the those that allow us to be extremely lazy and still survive.
When you think about it, the human condition has really changed. A mere five hundred years ago, a person’s main goal just was just to survive – get enough to eat, find shelter to survive the elements, and to raise our young before we perish.
Now, we’ve conquered survival. We create our own artificial environments indoors to simulate the perfect human environment. With a sturdy insulated roof over our heads and climate control, the coldest winter nights and the hottest summer days no longer threaten our existence.
When we get hungry, instead of hunting wild game, we just pop on over to the nearest grocery store or restaurant in the car. Zero effort required.
Humanity was once defined by its struggle to survive, but that’s no longer the case. Now we focus all our time on taking hot showers, eating awesome tacos, and watching Netflix.
But what toll does all this comfort cause our finances? Does having comfort in our lives mean we stay enslaved to our corporate masters? Does it mean no financial independence?
Well, there’s this gigantic rumor floating around about being a FI millionaire and deprivation.
Many people (falsely) believe you need deprive yourself of all possible comfort to achieve financial independence. I’m writing to say this is 100% false. It’s bogus. As bogus as all the offers I receive to write blog posts for $1. (Seriously, just stop emailing me about it!)
On the road to financial independence, Mrs. Tako and I enjoyed many comforts along the way — There were countless meals at good restaurants. We took international vacations nearly every year. There were hot showers every day, well flushed toilets, and we lived in reasonably well heated apartments.
We lived a pretty cushy life by some standards of spartan living.
I think the key to our success wasn’t banning all comfort from life, but indulging very lightly. We sipped lightly from the cup of luxury.
It’s very possible to indulge in every luxury available to modern life … but that’s going to eat through your cash like a pack of wild dogs in a bacon factory.
No, we maintained our high savings rate NOT because we were this super frugal couple, but because we used modern comforts sparingly.
Comfort is a bit like a bottle of vodka. There are days when life is rough and you need a drink from that ole’ Bottle of Comfort. But don’t drink deeply. Sip at life’s comforts sparingly. You’ll appreciate them more. If you consume too much, you’ll end-up getting addicted.
If I was a cynic, I might suggest that’s humanity’s only purpose right now is the search for luxury. But that’s going too far…
While the struggle to survival might no longer be an issue, humanity still has a great many difficulties to resolve. Many of the more common struggles are now financial in nature — paying off debt, earning a decent wage, healthcare, and saving for emergencies.
But eventually even those struggles can be conquered — debts can be paid down, better jobs can be found, and retirement savings can grow. Save 50% of your salary for long enough, invest that savings well, and financial independence can even be a possibility.
Eventually, your biggest worry becomes where to find a good taco on Saturday night and which fancy phone to buy this year.
That’s when the problems start — when life gets so damn comfortable the biggest worry on our mind is what to buy. That’s when you know comfort addiction has started to seep in.
Practice Going Without
When you see comfort addiction setting in, it’s time to take action. Do something before you get stuck on that endless hamster wheel of comfort.
You need to step-off for awhile. How? Try out some of these ideas:
- Take cold showers for a week instead of hot showers.
- Walk or run to work next week instead of driving.
- Skip eating on alternate days.
- Cancel your cable and Netflix for 6 months.
- Try a ‘no sitting’ week (other than when sleeping, driving, or pooping).
- Engage in a no-grocery-shopping month.
- Give up caffeine for two weeks.
- Turn the heat off for a couple days in the winter (but don’t let the pipes freeze)
- Don’t eat meat for a month.
- Don’t drink for a year.
- Enforce a week of “no internet” (other than what might be required for work)
Please note: I’m not suggesting you need to give up comfort permanently. You’ll notice that each of these ideas is time-limited. Just halt the endless fountain of comfort for a little while. Remember what life is like without.
Yes, life is going to suck a little bit when you try some of these. That’s the whole point. Are you a giant consumer wimp whose very existence is addicted to comfort? Or, are you strong enough to survive and thrive without the modern world’s “necessary comforts”? You won’t know until you try…
I suggest trying out as many of these as possible. Invent some of your own too. Life is one big science laboratory. Experiment!
Believe it or not, most of the items on that list I’ve actually tried. Some, like drinking, and cable/Netflix, I’ve given up completely. Others, I compromised on — I have home internet access but decided I don’t need a mobile data plan. Other comforts you might find you can’t go without — I’m never going to give up hot showers if I can help it. (Seriously, that cold shower shit is torture!)
You learn a lot about yourself by practicing purposeful discomfort. Stepping off the hamster wheel makes you REALLY appreciate how wonderful our modern lives are. You might even find that many of life’s comforts are worth working hard for….
Especially when you’ve been up all night with the baby, and desperately want life to be a little easier.
[Image Credit: Flickr]