THE BLOG
04/04/2016 11:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Simplicity, Free Time and Pursuing Your Passions

I was growing complacent and missing out on my ideal life. The kickboxing training, the mixology competitions, all the books I had wanted to read... My passion projects were spoiling on the back burner; and most of it was due to a hectic work schedule that sapped my energy and motivation.

Something had to change, so I crunched the numbers and reached a liberating decision: I would "work" only 3 nights a week so I could spend the rest of my time pursing my passions.

Here's the story.

One of my mentors, a philosophy Ph.D. working in positive psychology, recommended a book: called A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. I don't want to get all grand and poetic about it, but it changed the way I think about work, money and the correct use of time (our most precious resource).

This is what I derived:

Meaningful Work + More Free Time + Less Money > Meaningless Work + Less Free Time + More Money.

If you embrace smarter spending and a simpler life, you won't need to do all of the exhausting/meaningless work that is required to buy things, which frees up time to pursue your dreams.

These ideas were a guiding light as I engineered my new lifestyle. I prioritized free time and creative work over my consumerist impulses and rat racing mindset. Cooking rather than eating out everyday. Buying clothes from vintage shops. Ridding myself of subscriptions I didn't need. Moving to a less prestigious area and cutting utility costs... It's incredible how much you can alter your cost of living when you pause to manage your desires and learn to spend more intelligently. And it's even more incredible to see the positive effects of shifting your focus from collecting stuff to being happier.

By the way, none of this means living like an ascetic. I still go out with friends and enjoy fine foods. I've seen three big name concerts this month and got myself a giant new hookah for my work space. It's just a matter of properly allocating expenditure and doing away with needless extravagance in the name of happiness and creativity.

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The fruits of this life experiment have been especially sweet. Nowadays I have all the time I need to relax, spend time with loved ones and pursue my passions. I entered my first mixology competition and won (but who's keeping track?). I've had the time and energy to become an executive producer for a new chart-topping podcast ("The Psychology Podcast with Scott Barry Kaufman Ph.D."). I wrote this article and I'm working on my first book. I joined a kickboxing gym and I intend to get in the ring in roughly 7 months.

For all the creative types out there with dreams that they just can't seem to realize, I invite you to consider how you spend your money and time. Perhaps you can give yourself permission to prioritize the things you love. Eventually you can even monetize your passions and start making money doing the things you want to do.

To sum it up in a metaphor: I only have a bed, a lava lamp, a desk I got from a yard sale and my computer in my new room. And I've never been more relaxed, happy or creatively productive.

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