I was talking with a classmate yesterday and she was describing a friend of hers with whom she’s very impressed. She explained that he encountered financial success early in life. He decided to stop working and to devote his time and money to a philanthropic cause (which she didn’t specify).

I surprised her by empathizing with his situation. I didn’t share my own story, but I could relate to the feeling. It’s like looking ahead, seeing that I have 50 years of my life in front of me, and the ability to do whatever I want with it. I encountered that spark a year or two before I stopped working. It’s not an idea that was original to me, but it’s the type of idea that is meaningless when it feels hypothetical (as when I read it in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and only took on the power to influence my life choices when it felt like I was at a crossroads.

So I asked my friend how it is possible to give other people that experience. I was specifically thinking of secondary school students (jr. and sr. high), who are definitely at a crossroads in their life. They are just figuring out who they are and what matters to them. They are gaining some level of independence and opportunities to participate in the decisions that affect them. But if they don’t have a clear picture of where they want to go, their choices will be largely inconsistent. That’s not true only of teens, but adults too.

My friend had no clear answer. It’s not exactly a spiritual experience, but it’s certainly not tangible. The method for developing an answer is not scientific, repeatable, leading to a single “right” response. It’s more like design. Lifestyle design is a phrase that has started to gain some popularity with bloggers. I think it’s an idea that has merit, as I’ll likely elaborate in future posts, but it appears to be seen as a luxury by those who are content to unquestioningly follow the path that’s laid before them, with all the consequent pressures and expectations.

Are you living your life on purpose? Or are you happy to go with the flow?

Life as a Blank Canvas

One thought on “Life as a Blank Canvas

  • January 31, 2013 at 7:41 am

    My goal for a long time (even before I started working towards FI) was to make sure I do things on purpose, rather than by default. Even something like watching TV, before I sit down, I ask myself what I want to be doing with my time right now. Sometimes I really want to see a show or a movie, other times I’ll read or do something else constructive or recreational.

    The times I find it hard to live on purpose instead of by default is when I’m really stressed. It almost seems at that point I move mindlessly from one task to another, hoping to find an escape.


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