We had well-paying, white-collar jobs. There were the occasional holidays to exotic locations. Our kids were going to the best schools. We drove individual cars. We had a big house—big enough to accommodate our dreams [or so I thought!]. Fortnightly movies, weekly visits to fine-dining restaurants, a good bank balance, a decent investment portfolio, excellent positions in our respective jobs—all these were the ingredients of our ‘ideal’ life. Life seemed to be going as per ‘the plan’. It was a good life.
Sitting in the balcony of our bungalow, as I was sipping hot cappuccino while holding my life partner’s hand, I wondered what else is left to achieve in life. We were just touching 40, already living the best that life could offer. If there is nothing else left to achieve, am I truly happy and blissful? Not that we were dissatisfied, but the answer to this question was never a whole-hearted ‘Yes’.
Searching for something more
Monday mornings still bothered us. We were occasionally involved in workplace politics and sometimes had to step over someone to get ahead. We still felt jealous of someone with a better car or a bigger home than us. Our kids did not know what we did yesterday at work, and we did not know how much our kids scored in their last tests. We hadn’t talked to our parents for months. We hadn’t played ‘stupid’ games with our children, who would soon outgrow that age where silly games were fun. We had hundreds of friends on Facebook but couldn’t recollect one ‘real’ friend whose excitement gave us joy. We were constantly connected to people on WhatsApp, but did not have any time for our ailing parents.
We definitely wanted ‘something more’ in life—but we did not know what. There was a missing piece to the puzzle—a piece we were yet to figure out.
Running the rat race
We kept assuming that money, achievements, promotions, career, a big car or a bigger house will give us lasting happiness. Because we followed this myth, we were in a money-making race. We made money so that we could buy the things we want, so that those things could give us happiness. This vicious cycle is a ‘rat race’—a race in which you work extremely hard and achieve nothing worthwhile in the end. As someone once said, “The problem with running in the rat race is that even if you win the race, you are still a rat.”
My life now
Today, seven years after ‘waking up’, the scenario of my life is very different. A morning walk, yoga and preparation for the upcoming half-marathon, kicks off the first three hours of my day. We were lucky that we ‘woke up’ before it was too late, with our health intact, unlike most people. We eat a healthy breakfast, instead of skipping it so that we can rush off to work. We listen to spiritual discourses, music or meditation to get the day going.
The next three hours go in pursuing our true calling in life. We grow trees and help our society in many different ways. I also make sure that I do not miss my guitar classes, since learning to play the guitar has been my childhood dream. I return home to have lunch with my wife. It is now that I truly realise that having a life partner is such a beautiful feeling, especially if you are able to spend time with her. Time is what builds relationships and ours has only become stronger over the years. Post lunch, we share our respective dreams of life. Then we play a game of cards with our ageing parents; spending even one hour with them is truly blissful.
In the early evening, we pick our children up from their school. We make sure that we go together, and give our children the rare privilege of both parents coming to fetch them from school. An ice-cream on the way back is a treat for all of us. The rest of the evening is involved in helping the children with their homework and getting involved in their projects.
We then drop them off at their tennis lessons, while we go on our evening walk. All of us come back home at around 8pm. We have dinner together and then watch some good movie or educational programmes on television. After that I tuck the kids in and it is story time—the best way to end a beautifully-lived day.
Living a great life
Life has drastically changed over the last seven years.
This is what we have learnt—
- Time is our most important asset. The reason is very simple—time is limited. Everyone has a constraint of 24 hours in a day. You cannot create any more time.
- If we have a job or a business, we are trading off our most valuable asset i.e. our time to earn money. So it is better that we figure out how much money is enough for us so that we can stop trading more time for money after that. Essentially, we must be able to distinguish between our need versus our greed for money.
- Invest your time on yourself, your family, your dreams and your true friends. Invest your time in giving something back to society.
- Happiness and bliss will never be experienced in achievements, goals, targets. It will always be in the process of achieving them—provided the process is stress-free, as per your values and aligns with your true passion of life. For this to happen, you need to possess ample time.
- Money is like the fuel in your vehicle. You definitely need it to run your life. But you must know how much is enough. If you think you can enjoy your drive in the race only by accumulating fuel, you must know by now that you are highly mistaken. Find out how much is enough, stop accumulating more and enjoy the ride.
- We start earning money to ultimately make ourselves and our families happier, and if the process of earning money itself snatches our happiness away, then earning more money becomes self-defeating.
We found that the missing piece of the puzzle was us not participating in the race to garner more money, and getting financially free. Today, we have gotten out of the rat race, and snatched back the greatest asset of our lives—our time.
We had a good life and now it is great.
This was first published in the September 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.