Guess what? I just signed up for a dance class. We’ll put that one in the category of “never say never”, although I must admit that had I known it was this easy to meet girls, I would have started my first dancing class years ago. In all seriousness though, a strange combination of events and a “what the hell” moment made me give up my autograph and plunk down a big wad of cash for something I never thought I’d do.
Long story short, one of my friends kept egging me on to join her and two other friends who already signed up for the class. If you get me drunk enough it’s apparently really easy to get me to say “let’s do this!”, so for the next seven weeks I’ll be following a basic course in something that’s called Lindy hop, a 1930s swing-type of dance to jazzy tunes. Being an avid saxophone player, at least the music is my cup of tea.
Apart from the booze, there are a couple of reasons why I agreed to join them. The first one being that I really like to hang out with the three friends that wanted to Lindy hop, and between crazy-busy work and writing stuff on my blog for you guys, it’s not always been easy to meet up with them. A second reason is that I felt like I had been doing the same thing day-in, day-out. There was an inherent need to broaden my horizon and do something completely new – and so it came to pass.
Why I’m writing all of this may not be immediately apparent – after all, I could have easily mentioned the dance class as an expense in my monthly savings report and be done with it – but after reading Jason from Dividend Mantra’s post on his daily non-routine yesterday, I felt like my dancing class was closely related to two things he mentioned within the framework of financial independence: staying hungry and having fun.
Staying hungry refers to an inherent force that drives you to seek, learn, and experience new things on a fairly constant basis. It’s like Jason said, if you’re not motivated to do something, you’ll just stay in bed all day, waiting until depression sets in. That motivation and activity then leads to having fun, which is ultimately what living is all about. “What’s the point of all this if we can’t have fun?”, Jason rightfully asks.
As we get older, our comfort zone automatically shrinks. We know what works for us, we know what we like, we know what makes us happy, so why would we look for new and unproven experiences? To me, it’s this kind of thinking that many people fall victim to once they start their retirement. It’s a well-known fact that retirees and the elderly prefer the comfort of their own home instead of enjoying what the city they live in has to offer.
When I look at my own grandparents, however, that’s not the case. Rarely have I seen an eighty-year-old couple enjoy life so vigorously. Not only do they still have goals at 82 and 79, it’s nearly impossible to meet up with them because they’re always out and about experiencing new things. Not too long ago they decided to try sushi for the first time, now the Japanese specialty is part of their regular diet.
Being open to new experiences and constantly pushing the boundaries of your own comfort zone keeps you mentally sharp. By constantly challenging yourself, your brain won’t turn on its dreaded autopilot mode until you kick the bucket. On top of that, it gives you the chance to maintain old friends and build new social connections, like I did by signing up for my dance class.
If you’re looking to reach financial independence or to retire early you better be hungry for more and be in it to have some fun. Why else would you want to be financially free in the first place? Sitting on your butt all day doing nothing gets boring really fast even when you’re rich, trust me. Financial independence is as much about saving and investing, as it is about growing yourself as a person, like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave showed.
Be mindful, however, that you don’t push yourself too far. Learning how to dance is one thing, but taking on twenty new challenges at a time is another. Don’t overload yourself with new experiences for the sake of broadening your horizon. Only go after things you think will add value to your life, just like when you analyse the viability of a business’ position in your investing portfolio.
At the moment I’m really happy that I decided to expand my comfort zone because I had a lot of fun with my friends during the first class. When I finally do reach financial freedom, I now know that I can direct my future free time and intellectual hunger to pursuing other dance styles, as unlikely as that sounds at this point in time. And even if my little dancing excursion on the road to financial independence had crashed and burned, it wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest. At least I would then now that dancing just isn’t for me.
Getting to financial independence is fine and dandy, but don’t forget to experience life and to have fun along the way. Otherwise you’ll fall into the black hole that is your own comfort zone once you become financially free. Ask yourself on a regular basis if you do anything to step outside of your comfort zone, and if so, how that impacts your life.
What have you recently done to expand your comfort zone and to experience new things? Be sure to let everyone know in the comments!