Stop Planning & Start Discovering Your Self

Stop Planning & Start Discovering Your Self

You labor to fill the day with activities; you create more tasks for tomorrow than the ones you have completed today; you hyper-intentionally force productivity (yet you have not defined what it is that you are trying to produce); you make plans to make more money; you make career plans; you make retirement plans; and you make plans to make more plans….

But where are you going and what are you becoming?  Are you merely surviving the day or are you living it?

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

If you are normal (and normal is not healthy), you are struggling with the tension between who you are and the silent pressures of social conventions. As a Chinese Proverb says, “Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”  This may not be a conscious struggle but it is certainly one that is being fought; all at the expense of your self.

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss — an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. — is sure to be noticed.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Your authentic self is slowly and quietly being covered by outside influences. Social conventions tell you to study business (not the arts), find a career that pays well, buy things, make more money, buy more things, save for retirement, stop working, and die at age 74. Sounds depressing and deterministic doesn’t it?

But this is not you… Or is it? Surely this is not a description of The Change Blog reader, or the blogger who writes about personal development, or the person who lives and breathes the habits of Zen… Or is it?

Social conventions need not be those of your parents!

There are plenty of modern behaviors and distractions, including social media, for example, taking you farther away from your self every day:  You seek to be inspired — you seek to make some kind of change — or perhaps you seek to inspire others to change. Do blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn help you to find yourself or do they provide short bursts of inspiration that are consumed quickly, leaving you hungry for more?  They may help you to harness the power of now, but do they carry you forward to the next moment?

There is an ever-present deluge of information and messages telling you to “be somebody;” but is this somebody you?  Are you perpetuating this message by telling others to be somebody?

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.” ~ Ramana Maharishi

We are all told (and often believe) that happiness is manufactured and productivity is created; but happiness and productivity are not creations — they are results:  Like happiness, productivity “happens” and each is a natural byproduct of being and becoming the authentic self.  If, for example, you enjoy what you do, you are naturally willing to spend more time and energy on the particular activity… and be quite good at it! You therefore become self-fulfilled and contented; thus you spend even more time and energy on the activity.  This is true, radiating and self-feeding happiness and productivity… and it all begins with self-knowledge and self-awareness — not from the study of others’ habits.

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” ~ Ayn Rand

Another silent and distracting message coming from social conventions occurs and recurs in the world of personal finance.  For example, the ultimate financial illusion (I mean objective!) is financial freedom. The abstract meaning of financial freedom is the acquisition of a sum of money large enough to replace income earned during your working years. This idea of freedom is that your accumulated money will enable you to stop working and begin acting as your self.  But why must you stop working?  Why must you wait decades to become your self?  Why not be your self and work?  Is this not true freedom, being the self?

Conflicted, myself, between the financial and the philosopher, I began to ask myself questions: Can freedom be procured by financial means? Are there not people who consider themselves rich and free, yet they are in financial poverty? In contrast, are there not those who are financially wealthy but enslaved by physical world pursuits? Why must one sacrifice two-thirds of their life working in a career they do not love to reach a monetary goal, then discover that money is not the answer to life’s questions?  I stopped using financial planning software for clients and prospective clients last year because all it did was generate dozens of pages of reports that implicitly stated that the client must use their life as a tool for a money plan.  This is backwards!  Money is a tool for a life plan!

“A human being is a deciding being.” ~ Viktor Frankl

I discovered that all planning, whether it is financial, retirement, career or even for a vacation or holiday, is not about planning or plans — it is about being, knowing, acting as, and becoming the authentic self…

Here are a few other discoveries to help you form your own path (actually these are not really discoveries — they are truths that already existed — truths that I uncovered once I removed the covers of social conventions, media noise and language):

There is no such thing as Financial Freedom

Money is a tool, not a goal. Too many people make their life a tool for a money plan, whereas money should be made a tool for a life plan. How many of your goals are money-centered? If you want to stop surviving and begin living, you must never make any goal centered upon money. This is what makes the conventional idea of financial freedom such the paradox: People think that money buys freedom. Actually, the pursuit of money creates a form of slavery; and once this financial goal is reached, if it ever is reached, the tragic realization that freedom has not been obtained drains (and slowly kills) the authentic self.

Freedom, if properly defined, cannot be procured by financial means. Form your own definition of freedom without any reference to money.

Define Words for Yourself

What is success? What is wealth? What is happiness? If the meanings of words are not defined by you, then you are following the paved road of social conventions. If the path already exists, it is not yours. A few years ago, I followed my own advice to define words for myself: I defined retirement, for example, as “doing what I want, when I want, within reason.” At that moment, at age 37, I realized I was already retired by my definition! Of course, the key phrase is “within reason;” but the realization that I was already retired, that my freedom was not defined by monetary means, was extremely liberating. I discovered I was free, but not by monetary means!

Stop Planning and Start Discovering Yourself

If you spend your time and energy on aligning who you are with what you do, you will be on your way to true freedom. The path to self-discovery never really ends but it is the producer of meaning and purpose; therefore the persistent effort and long duration of the journey is actually welcomed, rather than disdained. There is no hurry or proper entry point, just jump in! Like career planning and financial planning, prudent self-discovery is a process of “get rich slow.” In this case, however, “rich” is not a financial term — it is the state and trait of being and becoming the authentic self.

There is no career planning; there is no retirement planning; there is only life planning.  If there is something you would do for little or no money, what would it be?  Do this thing as much as possible and be the best you can be at it.  Your honesty and self-feeding fulfillment will enable opportunities you can’t see at this moment.  There is no secret formula to life, and often the discovery of who you are is a process of discovering who you are not.

This is all the plan you need:  Make a slow and deliberate effort to find a career that is YOU.

“I hope that posterity will judge me kindly, not only as to the things which I have explained, but also to those which I have intentionally omitted so as to leave to others the pleasure of discovery.” ~ Rene Descartes

I could go on but I do not want to distract you any further from beginning (or continuing) your own path to a meaningful existence — of discovering, being and becoming your authentic self.

I also would love to hear about your path.  Who are you, where are you now and where are you going?  Are you surviving or are you living each day.

Photo by alicepopkorn

Kent Thune

Kent Thune is the blog author of The Financial Philosopher, where he urges readers to place meaning before money and purpose before planning.

Latest posts by Kent Thune (see all)

26 Comments

  1. “Money is a tool for life planning”

    That was very cool for me. I often use the money is a form of energy to be transformed metaphor but that is really cool.

    Whenever I ask someone what their goals are for the next few years and they say a dollar amount I always have to ask them “What does that give you?”

    Our life is defined by who we are and what we do, not what we have.

    Awesome thanks.

    Reply
    • Jarrod:

      I agree! The challenge is that much of what we are taught centers around money and material wealth. I have found that an individual must deconstruct much of what they have learned from social conventions in order to find themselves.

      Thanks for the comment…

      Kent

      Reply
  2. This blog rocks!

    Reply
  3. “Freedom, if properly defined, cannot be procured by financial means.”

    Wow.

    I spend so much time thinking of money as the gateway to freedom, and it’s an exhausting game to play with oneself. Your post shook me–in a needed way. Thank you. I’ll be re-reading and mulling this one over for a long time to come.

    Reply
    • Marissa:

      Pursuing money can actually be enslaving, especially because the financial pursuit has the tendency to take you further away from your authentic self.

      Part of the reason I write this subject matter is because of the hundreds of people I’ve spoken with for purposes of financial planning. The entire planning process is centered around money goals, when it should be centered around life goals.

      Thanks for the comment…

      Kent

      Reply
      • Love the comment.

        More inspiring words for me please… Ive just broken up with my boyfriend and want to look after myself and find myself in my life.

        Thanks

        G

        Reply
  4. Thanks for this blog.

    I relate to the question: ” Do blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn help you to find yourself or do they provide short bursts of inspiration that are consumed quickly, leaving you hungry for more?”

    Putting regular rhythms in my life to be silent and journal is important to me. Yet, I know and succumb to the temptation that “doing” is more important than “being.” You provide a great reminder to be very aware of those things that will pull us from our center.

    My favorite quote on this matter is by Henri Nouwen is: “As I grow older, I discover more and more that the greatest gift I have to offer is my own joy of living, my own inner peace, my own silence and solitude, my own sense of well-being.”

    Reply
    • Mark:

      I, too, feel strongly about the importance of balancing “being” and “doing.” You’ve covered the two main aspects of philosophy; the third is “knowing.” Many philosophers added a fourth — “becoming.”

      In my view, one’s becoming is misguided if being, knowing, and doing are not aligned. What ties all these philosophic aspects together is reflecting, which is what this blog post is intended to be…

      Thanks for the thoughts…

      Kent

      Reply
  5. I definitely know miserable rich people and happy poor people, so I know that money isn’t the answer. I like the idea that money is a tool, not a goal. I need to work on that!

    Reply
    • Claire:

      I’ve heard many stories, similar to my own, where there is an inverse relationship between money and happiness, especially once the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are met.

      In other words, beyond “enough” is more stress, not more happiness.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

      Kent

      Reply
  6. I always believed that “Money is a tool for life planning”
    but i was never able to put it in simple… and efficient sentence.

    Reply
  7. I think one of the keys to life (simply put) is combining what you excites you (your passion) with your career. I think that when you tap into that you can find an endless amount of motivation for yourself. That’s probably why this blog is so good. Not only that but finding real reasons you want to get things done (reasons beyond income and status). Whether that’s helping the poor realize that they have opportunities, or whatever else clicks in your life. Keep keeping on Kent! (I didn’t need to tell you that)

    Reply
  8. Tom:

    Thanks for the comment. I must attribute the ability to capture ideas into brief, profound statements by studying philosophy. I can’t take credit….

    “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.” ~ von Goethe

    Kent

    Reply
  9. so true… now that I am re-evaluating my life values and overal plans, the post was more than on time!

    Reply
  10. “The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss — an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. — is sure to be noticed.”

    Great words… if only turning around one’s life was easier..
    Excellent post tho =)

    Reply
  11. That was very cool for me. I often use the money is a form of energy to be transformed metaphor but that is really cool.

    Whenever I ask someone what their goals are for the next few years and they say a dollar amount I always have to ask them “What does that give you?”

    Our life is defined by who we are and what we do, not what we have.
    thanks.

    Reply
  12. What holds me back from having the job I want? Most of the time, it’s money! I look at what I make compared to the offer and I have to pass. If I’m strapped as it is, how could I make it, responsibly as single mom, on less than what I make? Another reason I hold back is that more often than not, I don’t have a clear picture of what it is I want to pursue. This confuses my manifesting maybe. I like to ask myself, if money were no issue, what would you do? Easy. I’d paint, write, meditate, talk about the mysteries of the universe with others, dance, travel, sleep when I want, beat my drum at the ocean’s side, and much more, all day. That sounds great, and I’ve tried to come up with a product out of that recipe but meanwhile, the reality is, single mom, decent salary, no money leftover, ever. Rent is due, gotta go catch the train for my 2 hr commute so I’ll just drop this paintbrush in this cup of water and grab my work bags, containing essentials for survival: headphones, books, notebook, useless folder papers, good for writing on back of or remembering school function. It’s like the tool is still foreign to me after all these years. It looks simple, but it frustrates me because I can’t seem to figure out how to use it! I’m tired of reading (which is saying a lot, trust me!). I just want to “get it” already. Let the lightbulb turn on!

    Reply
  13. I feel conflicted because I still feel that I have to please society instead of pleasing myself, so I’m in a kind of no-man’s-land of illness and depression, neither able to do what ‘they’ want nor what I want because I can’t face doing one and don’t have the courage to do the other. But there’s no real choice, is there? It’s either be my authentic self or suffer a living death of some kind.

    Reply
  14. This blog has opened my eyes! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Reply
  15. Kent –

    This exact topic on personal finance has been one of the last huge things I’ve been battling in my mind for some time now. Your article has truly opened my eyes in an amazing way. I am very happy that you wrote this and would just like to say a big Thank You for setting me straight.

    Chris

    Reply
  16. Thanks for being so clear about this! I feel like you have elucidated something that I just couldn’t pinpoint, you know? I was talking to a friend who’s mother is dying and we were talking about birth and death- and how beautifully simple it can seem; everything stripped away, no expectations, no imaginary mantles; just you in your body. I feel like you just helped to give me an answer of how to get there sooner- without having to wait until I’m on my deathbed to feel “free”.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  17. Hi Kent,
    Success to me is: Opening my Own business-Healing Words Counselling, that I have working on for several months now.
    Weath to me is: Having enough and a little(lot)more
    Happiness to me is:Knowing that I am doing God’s work;along with work that I enjoy.
    I have a plan. I can see how it looks. I know what I want. I see the path; altough it is clouded with dirt and mud because I do not have the funds to make this path clear. What do I do?

    Monica

    Reply
  18. Hello,

    First of all I’d like to thank you for creating a blog that would help lost people (like me) who want to find themselves. I’ve been trying to find myself and change for the better for the past few years but I couldn’t. I always bounce back to the same character living in the same neigborhood. Some of your messages here contradict the books (and audio books) that I’ve encountered from Napoleon Hill and Earl Nightingale which I recently discovered though but it’s okay. I’m free as a bird to follow and take in whatever I want to anyway. :) Anyhow, In order for me to find a “definite purpose”, I need to know first what I really like to do. And your blog told me exactly how to find the thing(s) that I really want to do and I’m happy about doing. At first I thought it was music, photography, and making movies but I unexpectedly found myself being happy the most by sharing my knowledge or the things that I have discovered to someone (and everyone else who needs it). I had never actually realized this until I asked myself the questions you suggested here. I found my true passion – to give people advices on how to make their lives better. Share my knowledge about things, share my wisdom. I am really thankful for this blog and for you creating it. I only have one problem now (or challenge as how a positive thinker puts it), How can I make myself better at doing this? Like, how can I relay my message clearly? I already have some ideas but If you have any suggestions, I would be more than happy to receive an email about this from you. Again, thank you so much.

    Reply
  19. “Make a slow and deliberate effort to find a career that is YOU.” I really like this closing quote.

    Reply
  20. Kent,

    Wow! That was a fantastic article! You’ve articulated your arguments beautifully and asked some extremely poignant questions.

    As an ex finance professional who’s been struggling with these conflicting ideologies of worldly success and authenticity this post is GOLD! Thank you so much.

    The first thing I’m going to do now is subscribe to your blog and follow you on twitter. My handle is @ProductivePal

    I can’t wait to read more of what you’ve written and hopefully connect with you to have a conversation at some point.

    Reply

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