Results from a 15-year experiment on finding happiness
In college, at the very young age of 17, I watched a music documentary where KRS-One said, “If your goal is to drive a car, you will always ride a bike.” I sat frozen on that humid day in Winter Park, Florida, watching with 100 other students like me. My mind raced with all the possibilities of who and what I could become.
That quote single-handedly changed the next 15 years of my life.
Aiming high and questioning the height of that bar became my obsession. Year after year, I discovered mental blind spots, self-limiting beliefs, the mystery of self-sabotage, and all the fears of failure; oh, and the fear of success (are you fucking serious with that one!).
But what was this goal I had intended to reach? What was the high bar set around?
Luckily, I grew up in a house where financial illiteracy and a scarcity mindset were always served with dinner. Watching my parents struggle financially and seeing my mom tied to a withholding and violent breadwinner was just the inspiration I needed. Gaining financial freedom and independence was my north star. Once I heard the KRS-One quote, I chose money as a compass for success and, ultimately, my happiness.
Money = Freedom and Freedom = Happiness, right?
Fast forward through my career-building montage in tech. I accomplished my goal. I became very financially stable.
The goal was set, and 15 years later, the goal was accomplished. It’s clear to me now that I unwittingly participated in my own experiment on finding happiness.
Today, I can report on the results: once money is attained, the freedom is present but happiness it does not equal.
As I reached my goal, I finally heard the “money doesn’t make you happy” doo-wop doo-wop quietly playing in the background. Turns out I had an overly simplified and naive formula for happiness.
Looking back at this experiment with my expensive hindsight goggles, the mistakes were so obvious and uninspiring: obsession with success, prioritizing work over personal relationships, abandoning physical and mental well-being.
Just your run-of-the-mill money-grubbing symptoms.
Until I discovered an uncomfortable, deep-seated belief waiting for me in a dark corner of my consciousness.
I developed a complete disregard for my creative pursuits and interests. Working on creative projects and ideas was a waste of time. Years of worrying over money made me ruthless and cold towards my personal interests. Money gave me freedom but killed my ability to pursue non-financial interests.
I pushed this belief aside, yelled at it, and logically tried to reason with it, but it was too late; I was hard-wired to dismiss the pursuit of creativity.
It was time to test a new idea. I cashed in on the newly gained freedom (hello sabbatical) to start my next experiment.
For the duration of one year, this year, I am not allowed to work on or do anything financially motivated. Does that mean I cannot earn money? No, but for the first time, I cannot pursue it (phew). Ideas, skills, or projects on my wish list cannot take precedence over each other based on a higher likelihood of financial success.
Today’s goal is to uncover and pursue my creative interests and passions in life guilt-free. To dust off all my growing curiosities and hopefully discover what makes me happy before monetization fetishization sets in.
This time, I’m more intentional, slightly wiser, and better resourced than ever in pursuing happiness and maybe greater financial stability.
I’ll continue to report my findings as I rewire my brain for creativity.
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