Life is What Happens While You Are Busy Making Other Plans

Let me tell you about my day. I woke up this Saturday morning and brushed my teeth with the baby. We played for a little bit and tried to feed her some brunch (smashed peas). After, we went to our neighborhood pool and put her in the water for the first time. I use the words “in the water” loosely, as we may have gotten one half of one toe into the baby wading pool while she clung to me for dear life. It lightly rained just about the whole time we were there.

After the pool, we went to the grocery store and did some price comparison shopping for our upcoming food revolution, where we’ll be cutting out all meat except fish. We bought several things and the baby fell asleep somewhere in the produce section (not by herself; we were holding her). After, we got some Chicken Fries from BK and went home. When the baby woke up, I brought her outside to pick tomatoes from our blossoming plant, washed our car in the driveway, got the Saturday mail, sat on the porch  while watching her tear apart the junk mail, and played with the garden hose (she LOVES the garden hose). Inside, my wife cooked an astoundingly good mushroom pasta and, bless her heart, she did all the cleanup.

After a standing dinner, I watched Frozen with the baby–an unbelievably good movie, although I’m probably the last person left on earth who hadn’t seen it. After the movie, it was bedtime. I put on her sleeping music playlist on my phone and walked her around. The main floor at our big house was dark, and the house was quiet as even the cats started to get tired of chasing each other. Yes, all was right with the world, except my mind couldn’t shut up…

Despite the apparent serenity of a lovely day, my mind couldn’t stop racing. I have six chapters to read, an exam to take, and six small assignments due tomorrow (Sunday) for two accounting courses I’m taking enroute to my CPA (so I can maybe do income taxes during my retirement for some side income). I’m writing a proposal for my company and a refined draft is due for a 5pm conference call tomorrow (also on Sunday). Our basement is still far from finished and I have several items on the checklist slated for this week that weigh on my mind. My checklist for 9-to-5 job items is about 5-to-9 things long. My draft articles for Retire29 stand at 18 and Retire29 maintenance items stand at 12–all of which need to be addressed sooner, rather than later. Then, I have this whole “early retirement” thing, which necessitates that I continue to try to redouble my efforts on a periodic basis to bring in more readers, write more content, make more money, buy more dividend stocks, and make every effort possible to sell our luxury cars and cut our expenses so I can retire in a few years. As I walk around putting the baby to sleep, the stress is constricting my thoughts and my thoughts are competing for priority and my brain is filtering out what can wait and I need to watch my step so I don’t step on anything because the baby was throwing around the recipe books again and the cat litter needs changing and the battery of the phone that is in my pocket playing the soft sleep music is now about to die and I don’t know where the charger is and…

Stop.

Eric, stop.

Look at the baby.

I stop my mind. I stop and I look at the baby. That baby probably just had the best day of her short little life. Mommy and Daddy were both home all day with her. We played outside, went to the pool, walked around the block, ate, watched a movie, sang, rolled around on the floor together, we were a family today. We were a family on a normal Saturday in our lives. And, in her head, she’s slowly falling asleep on daddy’s shoulder, with soft music in her ear, excited to wake up tomorrow to have another great day with her family.

I often get so caught up in what my life is going to be, that I stop appreciating my life in this moment. When I felt like screaming tonight, under the weight of so many “to-do’s,” I realized that all those “to-do’s” were plans for a future life that will (hopefully) look exactly like the moment I’m living right now.

I took the baby outside onto our deck. Our deck is one of the only ones in the neighborhood that gets any use from its owners partly because I use it as a “zeroing in” station in moments like these. We looked up at the stars. I pulled the baby off my chest and stared into her tired eyes and said to her, “you are the best part of life. I appreciate this moment I have with you right now. Thank you for being such a great baby. My heart feels full.” And, with that, we walked around the deck a bit longer before we stepped back inside. It was a perfect moment for us, and is a microcosm of my perfect life.

There’s Always a Plan

John Lennon said that Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. I almost committed this dreadful error tonight. I had a beautiful day with my family, and I nearly took it for granted as I spent most of it worrying, planning, and setting expectations for something more. What can be more than this, though? It is moments and days like these that I will look back on years from now and appreciate that they occurred. But, imagine the happiness that is possible if I can appreciate them as they occur. 

Most of the folks that are reading this are probably a pretty ambitious bunch. We all have plans for great lives tomorrow, or next year, or several years down the road. We have plans for our financial independence, early retirement, and total freedom. But, don’t get lost in plans. Your. Life. Is. Right. Now.

Embrace it.

Your thoughts can live in the future, and that’s okay for a little bit of your being. But, most of your being should be directed at making every day count. You can do this. How? Increase your sensory activities. Listen to music–you can only listen to music in the present. Dance. Touch your spouse, give them a massage, hug, kiss, make love. Wrestle with your kids. Savor your food. Do nothing today for five minutes–a classic “live in the moment” activity. Do something that has intrinsic satisfaction, that feels good because it feels good, not because it sets you up for a better future or whatever else.

Understand that there will always be a plan in your life. There will always be a pasture just around the bend with greener grasses that what is around you now. The problem, though, is that what is around you now is all that you’ll ever have. You only have now, you never have tomorrow.

My financially independent totally free self is already a guarantee. I’ve already set up all my payroll deductions and transfers to essentially guarantee I can retire at, worst case, maybe 37 years old. With aggressive behavior, a bit of luck, and consistent and dedicated action, then I’m looking at 34 years old. But, no matter which of those it is, it’s going to happen, so why not just come to that acceptance and start living today for today? There is a lifetime of living between right now and the moment I retire, so why mortgage that in exchange for some future life that will be only as good as the moments I can make today?

Make your plans. Automate them. Then, Live Your Life.

Maybe I’ll start doing that…today.

This is a a bit of a touchy feely post, but touching and feeling is good for the soul.

Thanks for reading Retire29.

Much love,

Eric.

22 Comments

  1. Living now is so valuable. I realized this yesterday at the beach when our 2 girls ran around on the beach and in the water and were screaming of pure joy and fun. I was lying in the sun, and talking to my wife.

    Just like you, my head races and thinks… what to optimize in our expenses, I need to finish this and that, I have some work to do, what. Stopping these thoughts is not easy.

    But, being on the FIRE journey, reading this message on different blogs like yours, makes that I have more and more moments where I enjoy the now.

  2. Being able to just live your life is why all of us try to improve our financial positions and maybe retire earlier. I’ve been on this same journey over the last few months since my daughter was born. Sometimes you just need to put things to the side so you can spend time with the people and things that matter. So in that spirit, please no one look at our yard this year, it looks terrible

    • Lol, Our yard isn’t looking so great either. Being in NYC, away from the house, for all of last summer really did a number on the grass. I’ve brought it back to an acceptable state, but it’s still really rough.

      Thanks for commenting, Thias,

      Eric

  3. My Wife is constantly telling me to stop and enjoy the time right now which is a wonderful reminder. I’m constantly thinking about our finances and affording things and making more money spending less and life will be great once we get to a certain point but the here and now is life. Great article.

  4. Hey Eric, this is a great article! I constantly have to remind myself to do this. I read a while back that there is a hierarchy of needs for each person: existence, relatedness, and growth. As a motivated and successful individual, you aren’t worried about existence, and you have great relationships. You are worried about growing for the future and that’s great! However, as the theory states, we can fall back when we get frustrated and unsatisfied with the results. It might be difficult to handle all three needs, but that will lead to happiness.

    Thanks for the article. It was a very refreshing summer read!

    Have a good day,
    Erik

    • Erik,
      Thank you for the expanded insight. It’s sort of always working toward a moving goalpost. A very difficult set of ambitions to control. Thanks for commenting!

      Eric

  5. Couldn’t agree more buddy, but I’m really….really…..really bad at living in the moment. At least until my daily “to do” list is complete. It’s always a reasonable list…..but it’s a daily list. It’s really good my wife helps balance me, in this way!

    Have a great week
    -Bryan

    • Man, I know exactly what you mean. Even in the last couple days (while it’s been on the top of my mind), I still catch myself missing obvious great moments because I’m thinking about what’s ahead.

      It’s not a new problem; it’s one of life’s great hurdles.

      Eric

    • That’s good stuff, Chris. The YOLO mindset that I seem to be advocating here is certainly good for most of the time, but life would quickly get pretty awful if we abandoned housework and other such things. Balance is the operative word.

      Eric

  6. What a great post. I just returned from a camping trip with my family and I came to a similar revelation. I live a very calculated life. I caught myself several times thinking about work or other tasks and failing to live in the moment. We all have goals and seek financial independence. It’s easy to be so driven by these goals that we forget to appreciate what truly makes us happy each day.

    • Camping a great way to live in the moment and live slow. When you’re camping, every action is deliberate; you’re making a home in the wilderness.

      Maybe I’ll go camping this weekend…

      Eric

  7. I really enjoyed the post and the reflection on your day and life.

    I definitely suffer from too much focus on the future and early retirement. Fortunately my wife helps me balance that habit of mine by helping me see the current moment for what it is – the “present”.

    It is a tough habit to break for me, to stop worrying/thinking about the future, constantly running ER scenarios through my thoughts. I suspect most of your like mind readers feel the same way? I will keep working toward living in the now!

    • Hey Bryan,
      Glad you enjoyed a snapshot of a day in the life. My wife is the same way–she keeps me balanced. If it wasn’t for her, I would’ve never enjoyed so many great things (like Jamaica!).

      Thanks as always for replying.

      Eric

  8. Great post…it’s something that I struggle with too as I’m always planning for the future and often fail to live in the moment. Kids often put things into perspective for you! They’re all about living in the moment =) One problem for me is that early retirement is not a guarantee (45 for me is my goal…10 years away). I live in NYC (not Manhattan though…Queens) and the cost of living is high. No plans to move because both my wife and my family are here. And I also have a pension which is a bit of a golden handcuff…if I wait until 55, I get my full pension benefits which is tempting. I’m always evaluating and re-evaluating whether I can pull off early retirement.

    • I often think that if I’d stayed in the Army, I could have retired with a pension at age 38 (although the pension would have only been maybe $2-2.5k/month). However, I just imagine that I can make my own pension through diligent savings.

      55 might be a long time. If you could afford to retire much earlier at 45, wouldn’t you do so?

      Eric

  9. Wow, Eric – where do you find time to write these awesome posts?!
    You always provide deep insights that resonate with me.
    It seems life (especially the career portion) is always about looking towards the next big hurdle rather than enjoying the moment…that type of thinking has really worn me down, especially over the last five years.
    After reading your post at work I headed home and thought about how fortunate I was at this very moment in my life.
    Thanks for posting!

    • Hi Jonny,
      I wrote this particular post at about 3:30 in the morning. With a house, baby, wife, full time job, nine accounting credit hours underway, Retire29, and developing a proposal, spare time in normal life hours is tough to come by.

      I’m in high demand, but hopefully this is as extended as I’ll get…

      Hopefully…

  10. Eric,

    Excellent post, thought-provoking and inspiring – exactly as a good article should be!

    I often fall into the pitfall of planning too much and not enjoying life as it happens around me. Always busy doing something, preparing some other thing, or making plans to do something tomorrow… I’ve solved this by cycling to work more often. Two hours on my bike every day really help me to overthink a couple of things and also clear my mind by the time I get home.

    Cheers,
    NMW

    • I biked to work for about two weeks in May, then it got ridiculously hot and I haven’t gone since. I know Mr. Money Mustache would call me a complainypants, but I’d be getting to work totally sweated out. Once fall comes I’ll be going at it again.

      Eric

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