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The years you’ve spent finding your way through life were necessary to get to where you’re now. It’s interesting that time is our greatest asset and the passage of time gives us the opportunity to grow. In my personal life, I’ve certainly noticed that this passage of time has encouraged me to seek a simpler life. There was once a time when I craved things. I just had to buy expensive jewelry, clothes or gadgets. The more I acquired these things, the more complicated life became. I compared myself more to other people and really didn’t know what I wanted. Been there before? Or are you there right now? If you’re, don’t kick yourself. You’re meant to learn something through these life stages.
Today I continue to learn. The greatest danger comes when you think you know it all. Life has an interesting way of surprising those who don’t admit ignorance. That said, there are a few things I have learned, which I hope to pass on to anyone who asks. As I have no idea where you might be reading this, it is my hope that some of this meets you at the right time. Alot of these are principles that I live by today. They simplify my life and give me hope and excitement for the future.
Here are 9 tips for living a simpler and more fulfilling life:
1. Prioritise Positive Relationships
If you think about it, it will become apparent that we’re meant to do life with other people. In fact, if other people don't rank highly in your daily and weekly activities, you might feel there is something missing. Positive relationships require active effort. I.e. you have to do something for the fire to keep burning. And by this, I don't mean occasionally sending friends a WhatsApp message. Positive relationships require alot of giving – Whether it's time, ideas, advice etc. I find the easiest way to think about it is to ask myself – What do I want out of this friendship? Usually, it's love, laughter, genuine care etc. The challenge I then set myself is to ask – How do I give those things? You might find that you fall short in answering that question. That's ok too. The important thing is asking the question.
2. Make Forgiveness A Lifestyle
This is a hard one. There is no doubt that you’ll in your relationships with people either get offended or offend someone else. People will disappoint you and will sometimes not live up to your expectations. You might even get cheated by a partner or disagree with someone in business. The list is endless. How should you deal with these various possibilities as and when they occur. You see, I’ve done the “I’m not going to forgive” thing. It doesn't work. In fact, it takes more effort not to forgive someone than to forgive them. When you don’t forgive, it eats away at you. It might even cause depression in your life. The only way out I’ve discovered is to face up to the issues and forgive. It’s a necessary act of love, even though the last thing you might want to do is show love when hurt. What you choose to do is a choice. So is inaction.
3. Become The Essentialist
The essentialist keeps life simple and understands that life is made up of real trade-offs. Every decision you make or goal you pursue in life requires you to give something to get something. To start a side hustle, for example, you have to be prepared to trade-off time and possibly other resources. Knowing this forces us to realise that what we prioritise as essential is important. What are you prioritising as essential? What are you doing today to ensure that your biggest contributions are to these activities?
4. Have A Passion Project
A passion project is an opportunity to explore your level of creativity and show your work. Most people do not identify themselves as creative. I was one such person but I found that the more I tried things out, the more confident I grew. You have to be willing to make mistakes and see the whole journey as a learning experiment. Running this blog, for example, is a passion project for me. For weeks, I invented many reasons why I was not the best person to do it. However, with some encouragement and the curiosity to see how my experiment would turn out, I ventured out. I jumped! I have to say, I’ve never felt more empowered and driven to further explore my creativity. Running this site gives me alot of purpose and I think of it with an eternal perspective. The more I pour my energy, life philosophy and resources into it, the more I feel fulfilled about life and what I am here for. It takes hard work and commitment and the need to focus on winning small battles every day. But, those small wins make the next day worthwhile. If you’ve been considering a passion project, I’d recommend that you think no more about it and start something (anything!) today.
5. Consider Minimalism
The poor and the rich ordinarily want more stuff. When you think about this, you’ll realise that there is no end in sight. Minimalism is a way of living with no dependency on stuff. It’s usually people who have alot who need to get rid of stuff. However, if you’re trying to find your way, learning about this will help you immensely with future decisions. Minimalism is not just about getting rid of stuff in your life. It’s also about not letting more stuff come in. If you buy a big house, the natural instinct is to fill it with stuff. Most people buy big houses because they’re comparing themselves to someone. We’ve chosen to adopt the ideas in our personal lives because it frees us up from always chasing the next thing. You not only focus on what is most important to you but you also get to see more of your money each month.
6. Enjoy Your Work
I write alot about Financial Independence and optional Early Retirement on this blog. A big part of why I do this is because these are worthy goals borne out of a need to live life by design. The culture of today despises work. Generations are getting frustrated with work and can't wait to escape. I think this is very misguided because work is a big part of doing life well. You see, the major reason most people hate work is because they only work for money and have no other options. Work itself is a good thing and the type of work you do is important. Even more important is why you do what you do. There is nothing wrong with being paid for your work. However, it helps to think deeply about why work matters to you. Notice I am not referring specifically to your day job.
Here's a better way of explaining my point –
One aspect of what I do is that I am a CFO for an investing business. Another aspect is that I write articles on this site with specific purposes. Yet another thing is that I help people grow through Coaching. And yet another is that I volunteer my time to organisations that I love their missions. That list continues and I can list 10 things for example. All with varying time and interest commitments month after month. However, note that I am at the center of all those work activities. I'm in effect choosing deliberately to outsource my abilities to these activities. In essence, I am the creator of value with choice at my disposal and impact and influence as my high-level mission. Money is a byproduct of creating value and loving what I choose to do. Other byproducts include leadership, better communication, better mindset, stronger networks, fearlessness, joy etc. Working is a gift if you start to rethink what you have to offer the world and how you'll embrace it.
7. Live Generously
If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll note that I promote generosity as often as I can. This is because living a generous life is pretty much the same as showing love. In fact, “Gifts” is one of the 5 Love Languages as are “acts of service”. The act of giving shouldn’t be self-motivated. Although the interesting outcome from giving is that you always feel good about yourself and the quality of your relationships. Giving is one area I struggled with for a long time, but I gradually noticed that some of my happiest times occurred when I gave something.Money is the natural thing most people think about when they consider giving. Time and ideas can most times be more valuable than money. This is great news because if you don’t have money, you’ll most certainly have time or ideas. Why not consider who might need your generosity today?
8. Spend Less Than You Earn
This is by far one of the reasons why alot of people are miserable today. The key way in which people spend more than they earn is through borrowing. This is usually tied to the inability to defer gratification. I liken being in debt to swimming at sea with no prospect of reaching dry ground. It is tiring and frightening. That’s an extreme comparison, I know… However, it sometimes takes a graphic analogy for key points to sink in. Spending more than people earn is the same reason why alot of the celebrities we admire are technically broke. To keep life simple, you have to assume borrowing is ordinarily not an option. It is only through spending less than you earn can you ordinarily start to prepare for tomorrow. Having savings leads to financial security as time passes, and with that comes confidence and opportunity.
9. Be Happy. Don’t Envy Others
This is easier said than done especially as human beings make decisions by comparing to other things. However, happiness is a choice. It takes effort and intention to do things that will make you happy. In my experience, one of the things not to do is to envy others. You will always have people who are more talented, good-looking, successful, intelligent etc than you are. Once you’ve accepted this, you’ll realise that all you have going for you is what you have now and what you choose to do next. One easy way of not envying others is to openly support others when they do well. This is one thing alot of us don’t bother with and as such no progress happens. This problem is even more prevalent among supposed close friends. When you start supporting people in their successes, they too will support you in time. Do it genuinely and go out of your way to show it. You’ll find that this simple act in itself will make you happier.
Every tip I have shared with you above has one purpose – To help you prioritise and Seek Joy. Here’s a question to ponder – What really gives you joy? Whether you’re currently rich, poor or in between, this is an important question to think about. This question is about engaging your mind and your heart and choosing for you. A simpler life removes complications and offers you more meaningful life opportunities than you can imagine now. To get there, you have to start where you are and take deliberate steps. For Rita (above), it took going to a third world country for the penny to drop.
What about you? What is the next best thing you can do to achieve a simpler and more fulfilling life?