I know, this sounds super condescending. Maybe even over-simplified. Things are never really THAT simple, are they? Fair enough.
So here, let’s put it another way.
If you want to be above average, then you can’t keep acting like you’re average. Living an above-average life means you’re making decisions consistent with being above average, not just average.
Like my whole early retirement thing. That was a huge goal.
For example, if you want to get rich, then you can’t keep spending most of what you earn on discretionary items (cell phone upgrades, televisions, cars, etc). If you dream of losing weight, then you can’t keep eating the same stuff you’ve always eaten or refuse to exercise regularly.
You probably get the idea.
Okay, great – now, anticipating your next question, how do we live an above-average life? What can we do to ensure that we’re making choices in our lives that are elevating us up rather than keeping us stagnant or stalled out in a relentlessly mundane, typical life?
Living like the 1% comes down to three basic principles.
1. Know how to set GOOD goals
For the longest time, I sucked at achieving goals.
I’d get an idea into my head, set a “goal” to achieve it, then promptly forget or lose interest before moving on to something else. Repeat that process enough and you’ll find that you aren’t really going anywhere.
You’re just treading water.
The problem is the goals that I set sucked. They just sucked. It’s because they weren’t specific and measurable.
For example, “lose weight” isn’t a good goal. Why? Because there’s no way to determine when we’ve achieved that goal. There are too many questions.
- How much weight do I need to lose?
- How much time do I have to lose it?
- How long after losing the weight do I need to keep it off?
Way too many questions. And, high-quality goals set by above-average 1%-type people don’t have follow-up questions. They have answers.
In this case, “losing weight” is much too general and, therefore, I dropped it because I lost motivation.
Your goals should:
- Scare you a little bit
- Push you beyond your comfort zone
- Be specific enough so you know when you’ve achieved them
Above average people set high-quality goals that are real and performance-based. Goals that will change their life in quantifiable ways, and goals that are worth the effort it takes to achieve them.
2. Know when enough is enough
The instant I set foot in an office after graduating from college, I recognized how the world worked. It was way different than I had expected.
Corporate America operates on the notion that nothing is “enough”.
We’re always taught to strive for more. More money. More fame. More status. More responsibilities. Faster software. Better machines. More productivity. Better. Faster. More.
More, well, everything.
If we’re standing still, we’re not progressing.
Here’s the problem: When we never stand still, we never get to rest. Relax.
Recuperate. When we’re always on the go, we don’t give ourselves a chance to reflect. To think about whether or not our lives are actually working for us.
Or, whether or not we’re actually moving in the right direction.
For example, questions that can be answered during rest periods:
- Are the decisions that we’re making consistent with our goals?
- Do we live each day with purpose and meaning?
- Or, are we robotically going through life always searching for more?
Above-average 1%-type people know when they’ve hit the point of enough. Then, they stop. They reflect on their accomplishments and then, once recouped, start again renewed with the energy and perspective necessary to continue making the right decisions.
Unless we stop to smell the roses, we’ll never set ourselves up for a life where we feel genuinely happy. When we always focus on more, then whatever is it that we’re doing won’t be enough.
It’ll never be enough.
3. Never let your finances run “on the edge”
Quick, answer this question: If you lost your job today, how long could you live your normal lifestyle before having to worry about money?
If your answer was three months, then you’re doing well. If six months, you’re doing even better. And, anything longer than nine to 12 months and you’re super prepared to weather a LOT of storms out there.
My wife and I possess several years of living expenses in case something seriously bad happens, like:
- We develop a health problem that needs funding to solve
- The stock market tanks and we lose a whole ton of money
- Anything happens that requires some quick cash
Above-average 1%-type people have enough saved up – often in a savings or money market account, to withstand temporary blips to their livelihood.
Let’s face it: It’s nice not to have to worry or flip our $hit if we suddenly lose our jobs, isn’t it?
If you don’t have much in the way of emergency savings, fix that problem. Now. Start small, but continue to build your pot of cash until you can live safely for at least three to six months without a dime of income. Open a savings account. Get ‘er done.
Remember, this isn’t “us” vs “them
This is a conversation about improving your life and not necessarily being “better” than anybody else. It’s meant to serve as a kick in the pants. If you want to improve your life, then you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done.
If you want to get rich, then make choices consistent with that goal. If you want to lose weight, travel the world or anything else – again, your decisions impact your success, each and every day.
Are you up for it?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.