The second gift of financial independence (FI) is the gift of intentional living. This one doesn’t sound as exciting as the first gift of financial freedom but it is. Once you experience this gift first hand you’ll understand what I mean. This gift has been given to me gradually over time and I am in no way perfect about any of it. In the beginning I felt as if I lived in chaos from financial to home life. Today this gift is multifaceted to include exercise, diet, and minimalism. A gift that I work on shaping every day.
The first aspect of intentional living is exercise. And for me this one is especially difficult because I have never been a person who does the gym or any exercise ever. I was the person that would rather go to study hall than gym class. I didn’t grow up around athletic people. In fact most of the people in my life were unhealthy. Maybe it was seeing their health problems and weight issues that drove me to try working out. I had no training, no guidance, and no magical natural abilities. I wouldn’t even say I had a strong desire to be healthier. I just had a desire for something different. Maybe it was watching the people run on the greenway or hearing about people hike the Appalachian trail. I’d also heard that running was good for mental health and at the time I had a stressful job with an investment firm.
I decided I would try running. Try is the key word. The first couple times it was more like jogging then walking the rest of the way. I am not sure why I kept this up but at some point it became an enjoyable experience. I would even run on the greenway near downtown so that seeing other people running would keep me motivated. I wouldn’t say I was a pro but a mile to two mile run was a huge deal for me. I honestly seen friends posting about their runs at like 4-6 miles and thought oh my gosh that must be fake. I just couldn’t image. Every run felt like an awkward ball of yarn that wouldn’t untangle. It never felt refreshing or natural to run. But I kept this up all summer that year and remember the most I ran was maybe 3.5 miles.
Now if anyone knows me they know I am always cold. So I do not run if the temperature is below 60F degrees. In fact I would prefer above 70F degrees. So when the weather began to warm that next year I began to run again. I would say this is the time that I fell in love with running. I remember running one time and pushing through the final stretch when the thought came to mind that I was a runner. I was actually doing it. No one was judging me, telling me I was doing it wrong. This was something that I had worked at and was achieving on my own. I began to find power in this. Fast forward a couple years and I still continue to retrain in the spring. Last year I ran the longest ever. I ran over seven miles. The push and drive to run any amount of miles is incredible especially if you’re not being chased.
I recently heard that being in nature is good for your mental health so I started to explore local trails to hike. One of them is a dirt way trail here in town that runs along the river and last year we walked it at least a couple times a month even in the winter just not as often. I began to feel the positive affects of being in nature so we’ve continued to hike. We’ve become almost proper with hiking shoes and water bottles. Our new goal because of this new found love for hiking is to hike the Camino de Santiago next year. This maybe our first post-FI trip. Combining our love for Europe with our love for hiking. What could go wrong? 😉
This second part of intentional living is diet or food as medicine. Whatever you’d like to call it. But this is probably the toughest for me. It should be the easiest though. See heart disease runs in my family. My father had multiple heart attacks at an early age, I had an uncle that had quadruple by pass surgery at a young age and several other family members with heart issues. Maybe that was the motivation behind running. Just in case, I had tests performed on myself that showed no issues or plaque build up on my heart. But then the most eye opening event for me was when my brother had a massive heart attack on New Year Eve a couple years ago at the age of 33. Now I was already hypersensitive to this fact of heart disease in the family and that’s why I decided to explore heart healthy food options.
I began researching various diets that was supposed to be good for the heart from the Mediterranean diet to Atkins diet. Almost all of them suggested to limit red meat. I was never really a big red meat eater to begin with so that was easy enough. But then my cardiologist recommended limiting diary products as well. This one would prove to be harder. Given this new limit I discovered the whole food plant-based diet by way of researching veganism. I am in no way an expert on any of this and not here to debate the differences. But what I am here to explain is that seeking a plant-based diet makes the most sense for what I want to achieve from my food. I want to know what I am eating, from how does it look on the plant or in the ground to buying it in the market at the produce stand. I feel a clear difference when I eat something unhealthy compared to when I eat plant-based. My mind is clearer and my energy level is higher and more stable. My hope is that by maintaining clean eating and exercising I can save myself from a possible heart attack. This type of lifestyle is not something my family has tried so there’s hope for me. Because without good health I may not be around to enjoy the wealth I am building and therefore it would be worthless.
The final aspect of intentional living I will talk about is minimalism. For me, this means reducing unnecessary items from life and intentionally choosing what items I bring into my life. I don’t think I am a one chair and two pairs of pants minimalist but I have pared down a lot. I am not sure how I came about this, being a minimalist, but I have made tremendous progress at keeping only what a use and enjoy. I used to have clothes 2X too big for me only because it was on sale and thought I’d fit into to it one day and probably bought it on a credit card. How sick is that?
What I have found is that when I have less items I have a clearer mind. I swear I get buyers fatigue by all the options when shopping today. Because I am now intentional about what I buy making a purchase is a big deal. I do the research, then I ask myself do I really need it and will I use it. Last year I basically did a no spend year, sorta. I gave myself permission to buy a pair of running shoes, a pair of pants, a t-shirt if on vacation somewhere. We’ll due to COVID the only thing I bought was a pair of running shoes. What I found was I didn’t really need anything. And I still don’t think I need anything. In fact I donated several bags of clothes I was hanging on to just because they were perfectly good clothes except I never wore them. The less clutter I have the better I feel.
So even though each facet of intentional living is independent of each other I believe they each play a crucial role in defining who I am today. I am a Plant-based Running Minimalist. I am not sure I even know that person. But the life I lead today is my best life. I no longer struggle with depression or any physical heath issues. I am stronger spiritually, mentally, and physically. And I firmly believe that this life is a direct result of pursuing financial independence (FI). FI taught me to be intentional with my money and those lessons also apply to all areas of my life if applied.