"Have you ever looked back and thought, 'If I had done this or that five years ago I'd be better off now?' But the opportunity was there; why didn't you see it? Are you sure that you are not closing your eyes at this moment to one which you will see later in retrospect?" ~ Dorothea Brande
My family and I just moved to Hilton Head Island, SC. The featured image is a private beach--our favorite place in the world, Dolphin Head--inside the gated community where we live. Why move to Hilton Head?
First, I'll tell you that we did not move for financial or career reasons. That would be contrary to the themes of this blog (and the philosophies that lead my family's collective life direction)! We moved to Hilton Head because it's where we want to live and raise our children.
From a philosophical perspective, we try to live our lives in such a way that the future and the present do not have competing interests and quality of life is much higher on our priority list than financial, material or social pursuits.
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
This move has also prompted me to share with readers some truth and myth about happiness and its pursuit. My readers know that philosophers have been teaching for centuries that happiness is a choice; it is enabled by the conscious effort to learn new perspectives, which eventually become habit, and to transform dreams into reality.
In the modern book, The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor reveals scientific studies that illustrate what philosophers have intuitively known for 2500 years: 10% of happiness derives from environment and 90% derives from conscious choice; most happy people are happy because they have chosen to be happy. This speaks indirectly to the idea of the law of attraction: You get what you think about; your thoughts determine your experience.
In fact, financial and career goals are not often the sources of happiness, as most people think; it is the opposite: Happiness leads to success. As I have said in the past, happiness cannot be manufactured by will but it can be enabled through mindful and healthy perspectives on life. Therefore, and in different words, the happy person purposely and easily finds contentment with life; they are consciously thankful every day; and if their path leads to something that causes suffering, they either change course or embrace the suffering if change is not possible or productive.
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden
As I drove over the bridge to Hilton Head Island, with a moving truck and family following closely behind, one of many thoughts that entered my mind was Henry David Thoreau's "castle in the air" metaphor: Life perspective is "top-down," where the life one desires is lived first and the items beneath it follow as an incidental result of one's contentment and authenticity; the journey is given precedence to the destination; success follows happiness.
However the conventional business and personal finance approach is "bottom-up," where the bottom line desired is planned first and the items above it are planned second; the "bottom line" is the goal; the destination dictates the journey; happiness is pursued but pushed into the future (and sometimes never reached).
I will admit that the castles-in-the-air approach can be risky in financial terms but which is more risky--decreasing one's financial health or decreasing one's mental, spiritual and physical health?
"Challenging the meaning of life is the truest expression of the state of being human." ~ Viktor Frankl
This is not a promotion of whimsical career moves or of changes in physical location. However, it is an urging to reach deeper inside and ask yourself existential questions for the purpose of living a life of meaning and self-actualization: Why do I live? What is my purpose? What if I had 5 years to live? What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?
It's time to get busy livin' or to get busy dyin'!
Kent Thune, CFP is an investment advisor located on Hilton Head Island, SC. His firm, Atlantic Capital Investments, LLC serves clients throughout the United States.