An hourglass is a good metaphor for this thought experiment. The sand shifts from one section to the other based on its gravitational pull. It’s a bit like our mind. We operate in two basic modes. The coping and the creative mode.Our focus shifts based on how we feel about our state of affairs around us and within us.
So to unlock the creative juices in your mind you sometimes have to start to empty the fears and the constraints that prevent us from going there. And sometimes these constraints are very practical and we can methodically fix them to create space for the mind to feel engaged enough to create and stop worrying about the daily drags of our lives.
So my theory proposes that if you can lighten the financial and social load you feel in your life, your mind will naturally tilt towards becoming more engrossed in creating and being compassionate and curious…all critical ingredients to living a tranquil, positive life for you and for those you love.
So here is the experiment I tried in the last 12 months to lighten my anxious mind. I used to feel anxious about two key aspects of my life- financial security and social connections. I felt that these two areas were weighing me down into crisis management mode and robbing my creative expression. So I tried a few fixes.
Financially speaking it boiled down to five new habits.
I had never really done a monthly budget for over two decades. I had no idea where my and my wife’s income was going. We knew the big items like mortgage and utility fees but the rest was a big cloud of costs that we never monitored. I changed that. I used my bank’s budgeting app and started to set savings rate goals. When I started we were spending 80% of our income. Now we spend 60% and save 40%. I am working towards dropping that to 50% expenses and 50% savings. There is a great blog by the Financial Samurai that says that if you save 50% of your income regularly you will have saved 10 years of income in your retirement. His calculations are shown below.
2. Saving before spending
I used to wait to finish spending through the month and put away what was left. I reversed that. I started a Systematic Investment account and started putting away a set amount of money (15%) of the income into that. This is the same as Paying yourself first principle that is often discussed in blogs. If you add the power of compound interest to this discipline, you could easily make a fortune in 15/20 years. Go and play with a compound interest calculator anywhere and you will see what this eighth wonder of the world can do for your money.
3. Removing all subscriptions
Easy to say, hard to find and stop. All those Hollyhill payments on your credit card bill have to be investigated until they confess. I did that and reduced my subscriptions by 400 bucks per month. Try doing that one day. It’s the modern-day version of my dad’s attic…you will be shocked and a bit annoyed by what you subscribe to. I watch my Youtube with the ad breaks and the same with Spotify…you get used to it.
4. Cooking everything at home
I used to spend close to 500 bucks a month on ordering in. Now that is zero. We cook all our food. We have 100 recipes from around the world thanks to Youtube and friends and family and we love the experience of cooking as a couple. We are eating better and have found some great ways to improve our eating habits by dramatically dropping our costs.
5. Debt restructure (Mortgage refinancing)
This one is a bit more complicated. Essentially it’s about lowering your interest rate with a new mortgage. If you look at your mortgage rate (ours was 4.5%) and find a cheaper mortgage (we found one that was 2%), shift to it even if you have to pay the fine to get out of the locked-in period. The saving you make on the interest in a year will cover the cost of the find in the first year and then you will keep saving the interest over the course of the mortgage. This will lower your repayments and increase your monthly cash flows. Watch this Dave Ramsey show explanation. It was an eye-opener for me.
Social cleansing: This is again a 5 habit change that I introduced into my routine.
- No Social media: Saved me 2 hours a day
- No TV: Saved me an hour a day.
was saving three hours a day. That equates to 1092 hours… which is 45 days that I have saved and invested in myself and my new hobbies and joys.
I think there is nothing going on on TV and social media is full of ego monkey personas of the people. Even my ego monkey is waiting there for me to return and feed it. But I am not going back.
3. Removing toxic and time-consuming people
This is a hard one. I used to pander to a lot of people and relations in my life who `I had to meet’/keep in touch with because they were `important.’ Then one day I just dropped that need. I stopped calling the guy who always made me feel like I was not doing enough for my mother. I stopped chatting with the friends who just wanted to show off their latest acquisition. I just gave up on them. I built a small moat around me and my time. I am happier for it. Now I invest in people who energize me and I grow with or those I can help. The rest can live a happy life and I wish them all my luck, but none of my heart and time.
4. Providing added support for family
My aging mum was struggling to live alone. But for a long time, I did nothing about it. I was too busy with my own shit. That took a lot of my mental time and the monkey mind would scare me and criticize me for being irresponsible.
So I fixed that. We got her a safe senior citizen home and now I take full financial responsibility for her care but take the help of a professional team who can bespoke solutions to her needs. She is happier and so am I. We now have great conversations about her book writing and painting plans and how she is increasing her social group while taking care of her health…which is a fundamental u-turn from a stressed, worried, scared talk we used to have when she used to live alone.
5. Getting closer to nature
I have found nature the best therapy for a worried stressed body and mind. Any time you get, spend time in nature. Walk in the woods; beach; parks; swim; garden..anything that connects you with nature. It will heal you and take away your stress and fears. We are made from nature. We come out of it as Alan Watts famously said.
This post is not my usual style. I tend to talk less about the tactics. But I think they are what underpin the reason for my flights of creative expression. I made the effort to clear the decks of worry that were in my control and then see if it would create room for my mind to create.
It did. I hope it helps.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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