Like many people, I have often wondered about the meaning of life. I have been told that I should study hard, get a good job and work hard, and that this will enable me to find meaning. I did those things – I worked hard at school, studied at top Universities, and got a well paid job. I never thought twice about it.
But now, looking back, I wonder why I did these things and if they will lead me to meaning and happiness. People have different paths to finding meaning in their life. For some it is religion, for others helping those less fortunate, and for still others it’s about continuing the family line.
I think a lot depends on what makes you happy. And thinking about how to achieve happiness is what set me on the path toward Monkeyism.
Sources of Happiness
Finding happiness is a complex quest because there are parts of life over which you have little control.
For instance, I knew that finding the right partner and starting a family would make me happy. But there was no certainty that I would be able to find the perfect match.
I was lucky enough to meet my wife but many people go through life without ever finding their “soulmate”.
Happiness is thus not just about knowing what you want and seeking it out, but it also requires a little bit of good luck. The key is to appreciate and enjoy what you have once you are lucky enough to find it! For me, the key thing is to stop wanting more.
Once you have something that makes you happy, you should learn to cherish it without trying to find something better. This is true for both love and life.
Because, if what makes you happy keeps changing, then you will never be able to be truly happy. Happiness becomes fleeting.
Of course it is equally important to avoid sources of unhappiness. “Money does not bring happiness” is a common saying. At the same time, however, we also know that “Not having money can bring unhappiness”.
In societies where self-sustainability is neither encouraged nor easy, money is the only mean of acquiring items one cannot produce.
I grew up in a low-income family where money was a real worry. The thought of running out of money for basic items such as food can be stressful and happiness is difficult to achieve in that context.
Thus, I know from personal experience that financial independence is a necessary (though not sufficient!) factor in achieving happiness. Consequently, this is one of the core tenets of Monkeyism.
Working for a Living
Most of us start life with little or no financial resources. The most reliable way to earn money is to work for a salary and many people mistakenly believe that they need to keep working forever to earn a living.
However, this is only true if you continuously spend all the money you earn. Many people do – But as this blog demonstrates, this is a result of habit rather than need.
Thus, if you can find sufficient focus to concentrate on saving money and reinvesting it, you could achieve financial independence and retire early from work.
Indeed, you can let the money do the work for you, using it to generate passive income as you pursue your hopes and dreams, and focus on those things that really matter to you.
The association between work and money has cast work in a bad light, depicting it as a key constraint in life. However, if you change the way you perceive and engage with work, aiming to be financially independent rather than financially imprisoned, then work again serves an important purpose.
Indeed, you may again see it as enjoyable, using it to move closer to your happiness. Once you have achieve financial independence, you may choose to stop working, or you may find that engaging in social or charitable work brings you fulfilment. The key is to know what you need money for and learn how to live within your means.
Your Money or Your Life
Earning money should not be an end goal. Rather it is a means to an end. Money is only useful in that it allows you to reach your life objectives.
There is a minimum amount that you need in order to live well. However, after a certain threshold, having more money becomes more of a convenience than a necessity. Indeed, this is where the law of diminishing returns applies: If you dedicate your whole life to earning a lot of money, you may not even have the time to spend it.
The key is to strike the right balance and earn enough to meet your needs. This is where planning for financial independence becomes critically important.
There is a lot of social emphasis on earning as much money as possible. In some circles, income is a status symbol. The key to remember is that you need money to live; you should not live to earn money.
In other words, having money is good only because it allows you to do the things you want to be able to do – In our case that means putting money aside in order to retire early and focus on those things that really matter like raising our children. There is no doubt that everyone needs to work. The real question is for how long. How much is your time worth to you?