Breaking away from the rat race takes courage. It takes the same courage that it took to break into it in the first place.
Think back to your childhood when life was one big adventure. In our early years, most of us wanted to learn, to work, and to play in pretty equal amounts, but as we became adults we were introduced to the concept of the “American Dream”. We were sold the idea of success and of setting goals and making sure we achieved them.
Although not all have gone down that path, many of us did and, at least for a while, it seemed like the right thing to do. While basic education was pretty much mandatory, at some point, we were encouraged to choose a career and accept responsibilities.
My wife Brenda and I were no exception. Until recently, we were following the path that “society” created for us. We set our career goals, acquired the appropriate education, and have since applied pretty much all of our physical and mental energy to gain distance along that path.
The problem is that we don’t really know where that path is going.
That may sound a bit strange as most of us think we have a future in our current jobs or careers. We assume that as long as we stay dedicated and keep up with new technologies, our career will be there for us until we don’t need it any longer. We even gain some short term and long term satisfactions from meeting those goals. But in reality we can find ourselves unemployed, broke, unhealthy, or completely disengaged at any time along the way.
I believe that a new injection of courage is the answer.
When you embarked on your current career, I’m guessing you felt confident you could do the job. You may not have known everything, but you figured it out – you learned what you needed to and took a few risks. You quite possibly told a prospective employer that you could do something you hadn’t done before, just because you had faith in your own dedication and ability to learn what was needed to to get the job done.
You demonstrated fearless courage.
Fast forward to where you’re at now – do you still have that courage?
Whether you want to change careers, retire early, learn a new language, or travel the world, all it takes is the same courage you had when you began your present occupation. Wherever you are now, you had to work to get there – you had to choose to do what it takes.
The same can be said for your next adventure – you just have to choose what you want to do and believe in yourself.
That said, some proper planning and action can help. Here are some tips that we’ve found helpful as we’ve been preparing for our early retirement.
1) Stop rewarding yourself for useless accomplishments
Stop going out for expensive dinners to compensate yourself for a hard weeks work just because you think you deserve it. A home cooked meal can be cheaper, healthier, and maybe even more fun to prepare. Don’t buy that new car just because you can, especially when your current one is working fine.
Ask yourself this question each time you contemplate an extravagant expense:
“Is this purchase worth my freedom?”
If the answer is “yes” then that is OK – it means that you value the experience and you should go ahead and treat yourself.
But if the answer is “no” then save your money for the bigger reward.
2) Allow yourself to dream a little
Picture yourself in a different reality and start dreaming. If you like what you see, take some action towards making it possible. Take practical steps just as you did when you set out to do whatever it is you are doing now.
3) Downsize and minimize
We don’t own stuff – stuff owns us. Everything requires maintenance and maintenance costs money. Many of us have heard the saying that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life, is the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it! We have found this to be true of almost everything we’ve owned.
Again, if your stuff makes you happy, by all means keep it, but if you’re not happy, consider parting with it. For us, less stuff equals freedom.
4) Don’t listen to the nay sayers
The world is full of people who think of all the reasons something can’t be done and they like to impose their reasoning on you. Some of these people may even be your closest friends and family. Do them a favor and don’t get on their boat – maintain your courage and inspire them to join you.
5) Build your faith
A good friend once told me that faith is like a muscle. If you don’t work at building it, it will atrophy and disappear. To me, faith is more spiritual than religious and it can be applied to anything. We can have faith in people, faith in our environment, faith in God, or faith in ourselves.
Test your boundaries with faith – take some chances and gain the rewards.
Whatever you are thinking of doing, remember this phrase “Si se puede”.
It means in Spanish, “yes it can be done” or “yes it’s possible”
So to answer my own question “can we really break free from the rat race?”
Well, we are just starting out on the next stage of our lives. We have the courage, we are building our faith and we believe that yes, it is possible. And that’s a big “yes” in any language!
We’d love to hear how you are breaking out or have already broken away from the rat race – please comment below if you have a story to share.