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Consistency of Goals

I’m reading ‘Early Retirement Extreme’ by Jacob Fisker, an extremely thorough investigation of dysfunctional modern living, and frugality. I intend to leave Brexit-obsessed Britain in 2020 and live instead in Spain with my partner, living the life of the creative.

Well, that’s the dream.

Moving to Spain is the theory, but then it occurred to me that the approach I usually take to life planning is what John Cage called ‘random acts of improvement’. I realised that perhaps I should apply some methodical thinking. Hence, Fisker’s ideas.

Fisker talks about how one’s goals or activities shouldn’t conflict. For example, if your interests were (1) to achieve financial freedom and (2) to collect classic sports cars, these would obviously conflict. Likewise health vs extreme sports. Progress in one implies setbacks in the other.

Another key point is that the compartments of activity in your life should be only loosely coupled with each other, so failure of one doesn’t cause failure of the other. A suitable example might be a goal to pay off a substantial debt, and an intention to secure highly-paid employment to earn the money. The debt-servicing is dependent upon gettting the lucrative job.

This is similar to the idea that activities should be chosen to energise, not deplete, you.

So I pondered my values, and worked out my fundamental motivations, which seemed to include both my values and fundamental Wants.

  • Creativity.
  • Learning/understanding/skills.
  • Wellbeing - physical and mental - Gokhale, mindfulness.
  • Rediscovering joy/contentment.
  • Freedom.
  • Appreciating beauty.
  • Pleasure.
  • Financial freedom.

I turned my attention to my favoured choice of activities:

I already had a good idea of the activities from which I would like to build my life. So I listed these, with the above motivations listed beneath each:

  • Writing.
  • Reading.
  • Travel/hiking.
  • Having a peaceful home life.
  • Playing the piano.
  • Exercise.
  • Learning Spanish.

I needed to now decide how each of these activities works for or against each other, but I decided that since the ‘Motivations’ are the true driving force, a more meaningful analysis is to work out how each of these activities supports the motivations. I therefore added a plus, minus, or zero, to each motivation/value under each activity, to indicate whether that activity supports the motivation/value.

I placed these into a table showing impact of each activity upon each motivation/value:

There was some imprecision about this. For example, does practising the piano support ‘joy/contentment’? Well, learning an instrument can be very frustrating, and there’s often a sense of failure and, when selecting pieces to learn, you can feel you’re missing out on all those other pieces you will never learn.

Does writing support ‘appreciating beauty’? Maybe, maybe not. When I’m jaded and struggling amid a piece, I’ve generally lost all appreciation for its quality.

Doesn't travel promote creativity? Definitely, except that hiking costs time that isn't spent creating. Then again, you might be able to problem-solve or generate ideas while on the hoof.

And is a peaceful home life a plus for ‘creativity’? Well maybe. It can certainly provide the location for creating, but can being free of unwanted pressures and diversions destroy creativity? Yes it can.

But the perfect is the enemy of the good, so I finished the table then added up the plus and minus signs.

Minus signs show that a goal is pulling against another, like trying to become more frugal while developing an obsession with expensive kitchen equipment.

At this point notice the totals, which was interesting in that most aspects of my intended future life indeed seemed to work synergistically except apparently, the idea of living a settled home life. The negatives of this come about because I guessed that the home life will deplete my creativity, stifle my sense of freedom, and I probably won’t appreciate the benefits it will give me.

So, on balance all these activities support the key motivations and values. The anomalies being several. Playing the piano will tie me to the home, and, as it requires time, attention and effort, might take these away from the creative act of writing.

Having a settled home life for the first time in what seems like decades, while seeming important, appears from the table to endanger the other benefits of relocating to a tiny Spanish village, mainly around contentment and freedom. Still, I’d like to try it.

It’ll be interesting to see how accurate this analysis proves, but I found that doing the exercise has value in itself in helping to understand the importance of doing activities that move forwards goals and don’t compete with one another.

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