Last week we had a chat about the myth of the “rat race”, and a lot of the feedback we got was “Great article, now what are we supposed to do with that information?!” So I wanted to take a look at precisely why we feel the way we do, and what we can do about it. The solution is, you guessed it, financial freedom.
If you’re on this site then I’m guessing you’ve already familiar with the term financial freedom. I chose the word freedom (rather than “independence” or “early retirement”) because how restricted I used to feel trying to “further my career”, or to stay trendy.
I used to feel trapped in my job and it wasn’t until I’d made the left that I saw all the choices I had the whole time! Feeling trapped in a job that leaves you unsatisfied tortures both the mind and the body, there are three main causes for this:
- A lack of mobility
- A lack of purpose
- A lack of control
Today we’re going to look at the steps you need to take in order to escape this feeling of being trapped and earn financial freedom. In this article, I’ll detail actionable steps you need to take in order to give you purpose, control, and mobility.
How to become more mobile
Naturally, feeling trapped is the same as feeling that you are unable to move. The first thing you need to address is freeing yourself from the things that leave you feeling trapped.
This is the most common reason people feel trapped, they need a secure job in order to pay their debts. The average amount of consumer credit debt in the UK is around £3,500 because we’re buying things we can’t afford.
My friend’s Dad has a saying “If you’re paying by credit card, then you can’t afford it”. The first step you need to make is paying off your credit card debt, and to stop using it to make purchases for things you don’t currently have the cash for.
To do this, I have a method that’s worked spectacularly, slowly working up from saving £10 a week to saving £50 a week (top tip: stop buying coffee and eating out). Put all the money you save into paying off your debt.
Once you’re free of debt, you can start saving the money until you have saved six months’ worth of living expenses.
BADABING! You now have the ability to change jobs, move somewhere else, and take more risks.
Confidence in your skills
The second reason a lot of us feel trapped is because we feel we don’t have the skills to transition into a different line of work, or lifestyle.
Solving this problem is also simple; start practicing more.
If there’s something else you want to do, start doing it more. No matter the profession you can practice the skills required to do it. Become a hobbyist and dedicate 30 minutes to an hour a day to bettering yourself in that area.
You can learn anything online, from how to snowboard, to maintaining cloud-based servers. Just make sure you’re consistently practicing whatever it is that you’d like to become more skillful in.
The average Briton spends four hours a day watching TV, take one of those hours (or more) and develop yourself:
- Do an online course
- Read a book
- Make something
It takes around 21 days to form a life habit. So, if you can keep up giving an hour a day for three weeks, you can do it for life.
As you see and feel your abilities improve, take a leap of faith and ask someone to pay you to do it. Once you’re in the field you’ll be surprised how many “professionals” haven’t put it as much time and effort as you into their craft.
How to find purpose
This is a common issue; most of us don’t know what their life’s purpose is. Unfortunately, I can’t help you there but I can help you give your life purpose.
Something we all worry about too much is this idea of our “life’s purpose,” our raison d’etre, the reason we were born.
I used to have this idea I’d go to sleep and have a dream in which a being would tell me exactly why I was put on this Earth.
Now I think that we choose our purpose for right now, and sometimes we’ll fail, and sometimes we won’t.
Make a choice
I’m sure you already have a bucket list of things you want to do before you die. If it’s a mental list write down all the things floating around in your brain.
Then choose one.
Write down all the things that you need to do to achieve it, and then all the things you can do to achieve those smaller goals.
When I was 21 I really wanted to be a cowboy, here’s what my list looked like:
- Become a Cowboy
- Need to learn farming skills
- Find courses teaching farming skills
- Find people to teach me farming skills
- Need to learn how to ride a horse/motorbike
- Set aside some money for lessons
- Get a motorbike license
- Learn how to ride a horse
- Need to go somewhere that they have cowboys
- Get enough money for a ticket to America/Australia
- Book flight
- Need a job
- Look for jobs
- Get a recruiter
- Need to learn farming skills
I was working as a marketer for a small IT company at the time, and it was fine, but I could feel my soul being sucked away each day I went to work. Saving up for farming lessons, flights, and looking for farming jobs, gave the money I was making a purpose.
Instead of living a drab existence I could chart how many miles my paycheck would take me, or how many hours I could spend learning how to ride a bike, or how many days I could spend on a farming course.
And I totally was a cowboy… for three months… until I realised I was allergic to horses… and was much better at writing than I was herding cattle. But I still did it!
Once you make a choice and give your life a purpose, the things that you do make a lot more sense. Instead of working to eat yourself and have shelter, you’re working towards making a dream a reality.
Being static will result in far more regrets
I’ve spoken a bit about this in our article on success paralysis, but when faced with a choice of doing X, Y, or Z the choice doesn’t matter. You just need to choose to do one of them.
I chose to be a cowboy, gave it my all, and it just wasn’t right for me. You may want to be a scientist, or a hairdresser, or a clown, but until you try and be one it’ll gnaw at you. You’ll walk through life wondering what would’ve happened if you’d taken up Bozo’s offer and gone to clown college.
The worst thing you can do is not try, wondering what could’ve happened is always more painful that remembering what did happen (I mean it actually is, science backs this up). The worst thing you can do is waste time wondering what something could be like.
How to gain control
The final piece of the puzzle is control. When you feel stressed it’s because you feel out of control. When you aren’t in control your brain releases cortisol and adrenaline into your body, these are the hormones that control your “fight or flight” mechanism.
More so than ever we feel our lives are out of control. A lot of us work for these ginormous conglomerates made up hundreds of different companies, each with multiple divisions, that have regional branches, that have their own divisions, that have different teams (one of which you work for). Making us feel insignificant and thinking “what impact does what I’m doing have on this mega corporation?”
Reading the news doesn’t help us feel any more in control either. One “expert” says something, another “expert” disagrees. Banks made a mistake and now the housing/IT/Chinese bubble is going to burst. Politicians made a decision that you disagree with.
Gaining control sometimes seems impossible.
Perspective and scale
The first thing you should know is that “control” is an illusion; no one really has absolute control of their lives. However (although this is philosophically debatable) you do have control of your actions, and emotions.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” – Dalai Lama XIV
Forget the things you can’t control, focus on the rest. You can, for example, control:
- What you read/watch/listen to
- Your diet
- How much exercise you do
- How much time you spend on various activities
- Your emotions
- Who you spend most of your time with
- What you spend most of your time thinking about
Once take control of these things, and learn not to worry about the rest, a whole new world opens up to you.
When you realise that you have control over these things your perspective will shift. You’ll start asking yourself “Why?”:
- “Why do I eat so much junk food?”
- “Why do I hang out with people that annoy me?”
- “Why do I get so angry at my Mum/Dad/Sibling?”
- ”Why do I think the things I do?”
Once you start finding answers to those questions and fixing any problems you find. You’ll also realise that the things you did worry about before were a choice.
When it boils down to it the majority of the answers will come from a financial perspective. We spend eight hours a day, doing something we feel doesn’t matter, so we make ourselves feel better by getting our brain to give us dopamine (the pleasure hormone).
The quickest way of getting our brains to give us dopamine is by:
- Eating salty, fatty, sugary foods
- Taking drugs (I’m including alcohol and caffeine in this)
- Emotional Catharsis (X-Factor/Pornography/Action films)
A little bit of what’s bad for you is OK, but we spend a lot of time consuming these things. We also spend a lot of money in an effort to consume these things in a more efficient way.
“Financial freedom” is as much about not wanting to spend money on things as it is having income streams to give yourself the time to do things you want to do (If you’d like to know more about building income streams start here, and work your way around the site).
One of the things nearly everyone says about travelling is that they learned how little they actually needed to be happy. We’re not talking about reducing your lifestyle to its bare minimum, we’re talking about focusing on using your money to maximise long-term happiness:
- Using our money on experiences is proven to make us happier
- Owning things can actually be quite expensive
- Wanting things actually makes you happier than owning things
You don’t need a massive telly, or designer clothes, or a flashy car, these are all things that you can have once you’ve got enough to buy them in cash. If you really want something, save up for it. But the majority of the time there are much better things to spend your money on.
It’s not even a race
The crazy thing about the “rat race” is that it suggests there’s a winner at the end. What? At the end of what exactly? Life? Sometimes the only way to win is to not play the game, stop competing with everyone and just do you.
This was a really long post so I’ll try and summarise it the best I can:
- Give your life mobility
- Attain more skills that allow you to work in a variety of roles and fields
- Minimise your financial commitments, and don’t make any more
- Give your life purpose
- Choose to do something, it can be anything
- Find a reason for doing the things you do
- Find some control
- Control the things you can control, ignore the rest
- Caring about material wealth is often the route of a lot of problems
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Here are some more articles to help you get out of the rat race:
- 7 attitudes that cause complete success paralysis
- 7 unmistakable signs you know it’s time to begin investing
- What it really means to be a “Positive Thinker”
Image Credit: Phil Roeder