When you're walking down the street, have you ever played that game where each foot has to take it in turns to step over a 'line'? Whether that line is a flagstone, a drain, a curb or even where the pavement has been dug up and re-laid in a different coloured tarmac.
Occasionally one foot gets stronger since it manages adjacent wins but the other soon catches up - either you alter your stride so it steps over the next two lines, or you change the rules in your head so that the next line the losing foot crosses is worth twice the points.
If you've never played that game then I wholeheartedly recommend you try it. It's kinda silly I know. I still do it to be honest and as an adult it usually happens due to the habit of doing it as a child rather than because I think it actually means anything. The best thing about it however is that it reminds me of being a kid. A big kid, yes, but a kid all the same.
Looking back on me as a child, I remember many things but one thought seems to stick out more than any other. It is that of fun, enjoyment and happiness. We would spend the whole of the weekends on our bikes, pedaling around country lanes. We'd while away summer evenings on the local school field playing football until it was so dark, we couldn't see what was happening. Climbing trees at the height of the conker season was always fun and getting into trouble with some security guards here and there was always a possibility. Arriving home late for tea was a regular occurrence and was enough to be expected.
But that was a long time ago. Since then, I have grown up, become all responsible and ... yes, you guessed it ... finally became an adult.
Sometimes I wonder where those heady days went. When time didn't mean much, pocket money was never enough (so what's changed?) and responsibility wasn't a word in our vocabularies.
Amazingly however, my recent start on the journey towards financial independence has helped me renew and revisit a number of those happy thoughts and experiences from childhood. I am currently happier and more fulfilled in life than I have been for a good while and I know this to be true because a number of people I have spoken to recently have told me that I sound happier, look fitter and healthier and I am smiling more. (I think people who already know me would probably say is actually hard to do already.)
Recent Changes Leading to a Better Lifestyle
One recent change I made was that I finally bought myself a bicycle. The last bike I had was when I was 12 so that's a good 20 years ago and therefore 20 years in the meantime without having one at all. (Interesting fact: I still consider that old bike to be the world's first mountain bike but that's a story for another time.) Back then, we'd cycle all the country lanes and the old railway by my house but this newer one of mine has two other uses. Firstly as a means to get from A to B (and will eventually help me get rid of my car). The other use is to get a thrill by doing some off-road mountain biking. Up until a couple weeks ago, I'd never tried it before and I can tell you, it was an exhilarating experience. I suspect I'll be doing it twice a week from now on.
Over the past few years I have also started to go swimming again. Playing indoor football is always fun and I even pulled my old roller blades out the other week. My body feels fitter, my diet is healthier and my mind is happier for all of it.
My diet is an interesting subject since it has vastly improved in the past two months yet during the same time, the cost of my food has substantially gone down. Add in the fact that I am going to the market on Sundays, buying fresh produce and not buying take-aways and you can see how one thing goes up (nutrition) and another goes down (cost). Isn't it amazing when you think about it?
And the final thing I'd like to touch on is the one that this blog is all about - taking my financial situation into my own hands, molding it into what I want it to be and determining my own future based on cold hard facts about my income, my expenditure, my savings and my retirement. Just the mere fact of having more control over my future leads me to worry less about money and gain infinitely more peace of mind.
Oh, and did I mention that a 4-day working week was just the best thing ever! Yes, I thought I said that before so I don't need to mention it again now. Well okay, a 4-day working week is just the best thing ever!
You Should Try it Too
Now it's over to you. I have painted a couple of pictures above. One of my former self, either in or out of school, enjoying pastimes which didn't cost the earth, not a care in the world and basically being able to do whatever I liked (within the confines of the law of course). The next picture I painted was of my current self, a picture which has moved on over time, which had lost some of those previous experiences but also now isn't too different from the one I had before. Yes, I have to work, pay taxes, pay mortgage/rent, bills and a myriad of other things but in reality, I have managed to confine those things to a part of my mind which doesn't interfere with the rest of it.
Instead, I have been filling the other parts of my brain up with good things, enjoyable experiences, miscellaneous thoughts and sometimes random games just for the sake of it. Take control of your finances, work less, worry less, live more, play more, spend less, eat better, experiment with recipes, watch less TV, learn a new skill, take up a hobby, save willingly, exercise longer, exercise more often, read things, chill out for a while but most of all, be happy.
And the next time you're walking down the street, keep a count (an inexact one is okay) of the number of lines your left foot crosses compared to your right foot. Smile to yourself when you have to change your stride when one foot is becoming too strong and look up to see if anyone is looking at you in a funny way. Hark back to your youth, gain back some of your time and go out and enjoy yourself for the sake of it and for no other reason.
You'll be amazed at how free you feel and hopefully you'll be one step closer in the search for happiness.
I'd love to hear your experiences, your ways of de-stressing, chilling out, exercising, enjoying yourself and generally becoming a big kid all over again.