The Fallacy of Security

A dream of early retirement, financial security and independence turned into a plan. We are committed and making incredible progress, crushing milestones. This, while traveling and hitting bucket list items left and right. Life is great. It is a long road ahead (8-12 years) but we are unstoppable IF we can just keep doing what we are doing!

And then, the phone rings. Unexpected news stating that one of us may lose our job contract soon, instead of receiving a full time job offer that we were anticipating. This job accounts for most of our current savings rate, without it, the plan gets fully derailed.

My heart starts racing. I start thinking of 80 million things we could do to try to avoid this outcome or to find an immediate job replacement. I also think of the impact it will have on our life plan. And I go to the worse case scenario obviously, as if for some reason we would never again get another job, ever.

Crap! I catch myself and stop. I laugh a little at the ridiculousness of my imaginary scenarios and how hard it is to break this habit, have a visceral reaction of fear of loss and need to control even the uncontrollable. I would really excel at a risk management job I am sure!

Breath. I tell myself. Go back and read the recently created life plan where I wrote down what I decided were the important and successful priorities for ME.

Item 1: Inner peace.

I pause.

This is it. Life is throwing me a new opportunity to put into practice what I have been working on during the past few months towards my very first  goal. If I am too busy and worried about what we may lose and may happen in the future,  or trying to control all outcomes, I will never be able to enjoy the only thing I do have: a possibility of a good today. And I will be miserable. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

My husband and I get into a philosophical conversation about security and certainty.  This is all a fallacy after all, we decide (while laughing at our collective control freak nature).  Sure, we can (and should) prepare as much as we can but at any moment, the stock can fall, our jobs may go, the earth may fry and we could die! Among other less drastic things but whatever, you know where I am coming from…

We cannot control most of of that but what we can control is the way in which we react to situations like that (except earth destruction and death, then you are happily gone, so why worry anyways? ;)).

And so, I pledge to use this opportunity as practice to better deal with uncertainty emotionally as I am sure this is something that will come along many times, including as we transition to retirement while no longer earning an income (whenever that happens). And I must admit, every time I had a door close in the past, life has treated me to a better opportunity even though we did have difficult moments of transition, so why doubt now that things work out?

Make a plan and then, let go of control, flow, be flexible and trust life to take care of us.  This is all I can do.

Will we succeed? As the great Dr Seuss pointed out in Oh, the Places You’ll Go! “Yes, you will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)!”

How do you deal with uncertainty both emotionally and with actions?

 

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8 thoughts on “The Fallacy of Security”

  1. I think you must be into mindfulness or read about Buddhism, no? Forgive me because I have not read the rest of your blog posts, so maybe this would be obvious if I had taken the time to do that. These phrases struck a cord with me: “practice to better deal with uncertainly emotionally” and “need to control even the uncontrollable.” I practice every day to handle my emotions and to avoid the notion that I have control over anything but my reactions. I think these day dreams, where we challenge ourselves about potential events that could lead our lives astray, are useful up to a point. However, I abandon them when they become worry or shade into obsession. I think you are likely the same. Good luck in all your plans and efforts.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! Yes I have been doing a lot of thinking and practicing around these themes and trying to be in the moment and take pleasure in the little things though they may not be completely obvious yet from the rest of my blog.

      May I ask what kinds of things you do to practice this daily? I could use any new tips! For me the things that have tried that have helped me most are literally writing down MY goals (spiritual, mental, financial) and simplify my life by decluttering everything and everyone that does not support those. Then I started focusing on exercising and especially taking time every day to write down the three things (+) I am grateful for for this day only. That has been HUGE – so simple but so impactful. I am too working on meditation but I admit this one is super hard, my mind wanders off about the randomest things haha. That said, letting my emotions and thoughts ‘flow’ or just observing them like clouds vs trying to grab them and analyze them to death, that has been SUPER helpful too.

      I am slowly trying to add back ‘helping others’ or random acts of kindness and taking to myself as if I was my best friend instead of being harsher to myself vs others. Will see how that goes.

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      1. My main practice is one hour of walking meditation each day. I also may sprinkle in some sitting meditation throughout the week. That keeps me feeling pretty centered and grateful about life in general. It also seems to clear my mind so that I pretty much know what I want to accomplish each day and where I want to go in life without having to write things down or really cogitate on it too much. I think this is one of the natural benefits of meditation. What was a jungle of confusing thoughts yesterday often becomes a clear path forward today.

        I encourage you to keep trying meditation. What you describe is essentially (in one form or another) what everyone experiences, at least everyone I have ever talked to. In fact, I sometimes just think of meditation as nothing more than a process of watching all my thoughts go by, with no other purpose than that. I sometimes have sessions where I feel like I accomplished nothing but observing random weird thoughts drifting through my mind. But more often than not, even these sessions make me feel more centered.

        My main area of expansion right now is trying to achieve more mindfulness in every day activities (being more present in the “now” at all times), as you mentioned. That is indeed very hard, and I have quite a ways to go on that. Just being fully present creates a sense of gratitude and appreciation of what is happening right now. But that full presence can be very elusive when, for example, I am battling traffic or doing something potentially frustrating like that.

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      2. Thank you for providing more insight into what is working for you. I do either walk or run each day for at least 3.5 miles (sometimes double) and that helps me clear my mind a lot, but the sitting meditation is way harder for me.

        And you are so right on it being hard to be ‘present’ – for me the biggest gap here is spending that quality time with my kids more than anyone else, especially when we are playing something that I don’t particularly enjoy. But practice makes perfect (well constantly better is good enough for me) so here is to the continuous process of being more effective in this realm!

        Thank you again for your generous commentary!

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  2. We put in place mitigating actions ahead of time : multiple incomes, higher net worth, action items for the spouse in case of incapacity, insurance, ect. Then when something happens you just have to trust those contingencies. You can only do so much.

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    1. Thanks for your perspective! I think we are very good at doing plan a, b, c and d and rationally thinking ‘hey that is good enough’ – emotionally however, sometimes I start to become my worse enemy! THIS will be my constant challenge more than anything.

      Are you able to truly just let it flow at an emotional level? if so, show me your ways! anxious minds want to know ;).

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  3. I don’t deal with uncertainty very well either. Generally with panic. Somehow I believe that if I lose my job my only choice becomes being a Walmart greeter. Totally not in line with reality. Truth is we would be pretty okay right now if I lost my job, but I would likely be in a constant state of uncertainty and panic. I would rather wait so I can relax a little bit. You are right about the journey though. Envision and work toward real goals. You will get where you are going.

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    1. That made me laugh, I totally get it! I so picture myself doing those kinds of jobs too but I am learning to laugh at my own absurdity. Then again, I was raised a Latin Catholic woman, where guilt and worry are synonymous with existing so I am slowly learning to differentiate between actions and plans I can control and emotions that just drain me and don’t help my situation at all.

      I just finished writing down the worse case scenario (a realistic one) and we would be ok even with just one income – instead of saving $140k a year we would be down to $40-50k in savings, which is still absurdly amazing and assuming the other job would never be replaced (doubtful – highly qualified individual with desirable skills!). AND we have 3 months of savings in cash precisely to water a storm like that (which we would not need to touch unless the other job was lost too).

      Perspective is what I need! And perhaps I need to start drinking wine here and there, or at least double up on m chocolate consumption :).

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