What do you even want?

I was actually thinking about this exact question earlier this morning before I checked what the prompt for today was. So I have a little bit of a head start, not in terms of actual words on paper, but at least in terms of what I want to cover.

I technically have what I said I wanted? That’s strange to think about, and of course it would depend on your starting point. And perhaps that’s the best place to start, with an acknowledgment that what you want is always in flux. So if someone asks you what you want, I can come up with an answer, but is it likely to hold true if you asked me to come back to it five years down the line? I doubt it!

My current situation lines up with that reality. Maybe that’s the only reason why I see it as reality, it lines up with my experience. Here we go again, can I look at anything objectively and have any semblance of certainty?! I don’t think so, but we have to keep going. I set a goal for what I wanted my life to be. And through repetitions I became versed in rattling it off with confidence – I think I alluded to this in a prior entry, but the details of the plan aren’t as importance to most audiences as compared to your presentation of the plan. I think the same holds true for any type of opinion (wine preferences, art reviews, etc), but that’s a completely separate subject. That’s not to say my plan was complete fiction – it was based on my priorities at the time. I wanted to earn enough money to become financial independent and retire by the time I turned 40. And here I am, pre-40, “retired” for the last several years. So I did it! And now what? I wouldn’t say my target was the wrong one, but instead that it was not comprehensive. I solved a big part of the problem by getting to financial independence early to be sure, but what about everything else? Achieving my financial goal allowed me to stop working, which created a new set of anxieties which I’m now working on. It’s kind of funny actually, it reminds me of whack a mole.

So maybe I would have done better if I expanded the reach of my goals beyond personal finance. And this seems so obvious in hindsight. That would have to help, and I am very much working under this type of framework now. In fact, I can share some with you now. I want to get these on paper so I can look back at them in a few years and see what I may have inadvertently left off. For the sake of prosperity!

  1. Peace of mind – not asking to be happy all the time, or to live a life of high-highs. I just want to be able to ride the highs and lows of life without being swung around. I want the ability to control my mind from running wild. The ability to be content, and not worry about uncontrollable things.
  2. I want to maintain my physical health and do everything in my power to do so. Have the strength to make good, healthy choices.
  3. I want to be there for my family as they get older and need more of me.
  4. I want to build out solid relationships that aren’t grounded in any type of tit-for-tat foundation. I want my relationships to be grounded on values and common interests.
  5. I want to give back to the community I live in.
  6. I don’t want to be paralyzed by fear or worst-case scenarios – I want to try things and experience things.
  7. I want to have enough money where I don’t have to worry about it – so I need a little bit more, maybe $500K.

I think that’s a fairly comprehensive list, and if I’ve laid these out previously, I hope I’m consistent. And as you can see, my current goals go well beyond financial metrics. In fact you probably did notice that my professional goals are no longer included. Partially me being unsure of what I want to do professionally, but also reflective of the fact that my professional pursuits aren’t near the top of the list for me anymore in the grand scheme of things.

Against my list above, am I confident that these goals will stand the test of time? I would say that I am a lot more confident. Of course I will want to have a calm mind, healthy body, and good relationships in ten years. I can’t imagine that not being the case. So maybe the real question is what are the tactics one should employ to achieve these goals? If you asked me ten years ago if I would like to have all these things the answer would have been yes, but everything I was doing was completely contrary to getting there.

That’s interesting. Not what I was thinking about earlier, but maybe it goes back to having enough conviction to make sure you are actually living in such a way that you are moving towards what you aspire to. Avoiding falling into the trap of having what you say and what you do going in opposite directions. A very common theme for me if you’ve been reading closely! Revealed preferences is what an economist calls this, I think? You know what you need to say, or should say, but that doesn’t line up with what you actually do. If this is the fundamental issue, maybe setting the top level goals isn’t where the problem lies. Or where you should be focusing your energy checking. The real time and energy should go to checking your daily activities, what you do, to ensure that they are pointing you in the right direction. I hadn’t really thought about that before!

I want to keep pushing on this a little bit using my current situation as a test case. The biggest issue I go back to is not working, or doing anything with the productive hours I have in a day. Would taking a job in any way deter me from achieving the macro level goals I laid out above? Let’s go through them and check. Peace of mind – it might, depending on the job. In the past working was high stress and also enabled me to neglect many other aspects of my personal life. So that’s not a great answer. Could I go deeper and see if I can identify what pieces of the job prevented me from doing what I wanted to on the personal side? Could I even say that my failures on the personal side had nothing to do with the job itself, and fall squarely on me? That’s scary but might be true. If I had the same job I held in the past, 5 years later, after all the positive changes I’ve put into myself, would I revert back to the way I was, in which case the job does drag you down, or would I not be nearly as bothered, which would imply my own internal strife was the main issue? I’m not sure how I could check without trying the old job again. I don’t think I need to go through each item on my list, since the answer is pretty much the same. Or the question is pretty much the same rather. Would I be able to maintain all the positive gains I’ve made or would I get dragged back?

Another job specific question I have is how important is what you actually do, as it pertains to your general state. I can say that I don’t want to contribute to any business or project that leads to suffering. That’s a line I won’t cross now, the new me, but there is a grey area. Entertainment namely, where I have all my experience and all of my marketable skills. Ha. What could provide a huge amount of value for 90% of people could be dangerous for the other 10%. How should you classify it then? My position at the moment is that since it has a negative effect on people, and in the case of what I was working on a non-negligible amount of people, I should stay clear. Why be so strict with that rule? I am not sure if you need to be, but maybe it’s better to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to associate yourself with people who don’t see the morale hazard there. Values spill over when you spend a lot of time with a group, so maybe better to focus on being around others who you aspire to be like? Not just on the material level, but also from a values standpoint.

This is somehow morphing into another “what should I do professionally” essay. I write about this a lot, I’m sorry. It’s a little embarrassing that I’m able to write about this again and again, and never reach any type of conclusion. I’m so confused and I over-think everything. But let’s carry-on with what I’m taking from the paragraphs above. A job in a net-positive for society field would put you in a group of people with positive ideals, which should be a net positive for me non-work life. Versus being in a group that is more interested in wealth or power accumulation. This would give me access to a good social circle while also avoiding any internal conflict. The second level is keeping the job in perspective. Not letting it become all-encompassing. How can you avoid this? Keep the level where you are a contributor, but not a boss. If you’re a worker, can you job even become your entire identity? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the odds are much lower.

The reverse of this question would be can I achieve my goals without a job? That’s my current situation, what’s preventing me from having peace of mind now? Hmmm, I think it certainly would be possible. I don’t have peace of mind because I keep ruminating on what I should do. And I see what other people are doing and get thrown into a spiral of FOMO. I would like to think I could get control over that, but maybe it’s just the basic human condition. Desire into suffering. Socially there must be ways I could do better without having to go back into a 9-5, but it’s not without it’s own challenges. Namely you’re not following the prevailing model. People can’t easily relate or understand why you’re not doing the same thing they are. And social interactions in general are limited too.

I’m running out of time. What were we talking about again? I’ll close by repeating myself one more time. It’s very easy to set goals, and to convince yourself that everything is going to change when you hit that goal. I know now that it doesn’t really work like that! But that’s not a reason to have no goals, and have no areas of self-improvement laid out. There is a good reason to lay formally what’s important to you, and to make sure you are actually doing things that are pushing you in that direction. If anything you are doing is pushing you adrift, you can make a change. Don’t fall into the trap of being unwilling to amend either. You can’t predict where you’re going to be in five years, let alone five months. Be flexible, and go with it! What a lame sentence to end on. I would never say that in real life. I don’t know where these words are coming from.

Thanks for reading and I will talk to you again tomorrow. 57 Minutes. 2054 Words.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *