I had tea with a friend recently, and our conversation quickly turned to living well with little expense. We found this somewhat humorous as we’re both living comfortably, and earning pretty good incomes for our age. Especially in comparisson to our peers.
We jokingly talked about it being a sign of age that we want to live as cheaply as possible, and as minimally as possible the older we get and the more we earn.
I recently moved to Melbourne, and with nothing more than a mattress took occupation of an apartment. While planning on furnishing it, and considering all of the possibilities, I landed firmly on a bit of a minimalist approach.
Surprising even myself, it was easy. I’ve survived a number of months without much stuff at all. The walls haven’t caved in, my happiness hasn’t changed for the worse, and I’ve lived quite comfortably.
Though, before I continue to write this, I need to acknowledge that there are swathes of hypocrisy in me writing this. With hand on heart I can say that my ideas and plans for stability in my life are new, and come from a number of turbulent years of self-discovery, of self isolation, and of emotional challenges. I've written before of my depression, and depression at work and it has been no more challenging than the last 18 months for me.
These core concepts aren’t anything to do with trying to be thrift, or living cheaply, but seeking a deep and fulfilling self love that supersedes a need to own things, and earn a lot of money. A sense of thriftiness does help, though.
I had set a goal for myself to be a Head of Something at a large company, and earning a very comfortable six-figure salary by 35. This metric is ultimately pretty shallow, however, and similarly to many start-ups a sole metric of simply having financial gain isn’t sustainable. Instead, we need to focus on a number of elements to ensure sustainable, long-term stability.
So, why not approach our own lives as if it were a business, and to focus on the parts that we know have the largest impact? What other things should we consider as measures in our lives to maximise our long-term happiness?
Thankfully, it’s not as hard as it may seem, and as Huffington Post writes, subjective well-being is something that can be easily managed through the Satisfaction with life scale and Positive and Negative Effect Schedule.
This really isn't a new concept to me, and shouldn't come of a surprise. In my day-to-day work I focus heavily on how I can impact the NPS of our millions of customers, and it has recently become our single largest metric. Measuring change, adapting, iterating, and trying again are critical aspects of changing an experience for the better.
To consider how this might work for myself, I’ve decided to completely drop the goals of career and salary as the measure, and in place look at happiness. Career and salary should become an enabler of a much more satisfying, and fulfilling life.
It should be a positive enabler, and something that empowers me to seek out a life of contentedness, of happiness, and of long-term stability.
With this new measure in hand, I’m changing my life plans and I am looking at how my successes at work can drive happiness, and how my ability to live happily should be the success measure.
By 35 I want to see a drastic increase in my happiness and ability to offer self-love, to be able to be comfortable and enjoy a life of stability and personal fulfilment.
I don’t think it should stop there, however. I don’t think this measurement of happiness should be used only for life outside of our work day. For, in fact, the work day takes up a huge amount of time and our happiness is significantly affected by what we experience day-to-day at work.
It seems obvious then that similarly, in our work lives, we should consider how we might measure happiness and fulfilment with what we’re doing as the goal. It may inspire us to look at work differently and with less pressure on being ‘successful’.
Should we be striving for promotions and success at work at the sacrifice of personal time, where we can live and experience the riches of our friends and family? Should we sacrifice our own personal time and health for the short-sighted goals of career?
Ultimately, I want to be able to stop striving simply to own stuff or use career as a measure, and start focusing on living a happier life. Measured properly, and without living to work.
So yeah, I'm going to go on and just live.
A leader in design and strategy with a passion for human–centred design systems.