Originally posted in August 2015 by Social Media Contractors

Just two generations ago, the populations of the western world knew and directly experienced famine, disease epidemics, genocide, and massive loss of life in wars.

Today’s millennial generation’s only exposure to these realities is often only in school, movies, and online. My parents were children of the depression, WWII, and polio, so I can remember the stories of parents and grandparents, but those realities have changed.

The challenges of the past are now often only an idea, not a deeply engrained part of life. Today we have a far greater problem with obesity then we do starvation. We have some of the highest standards of living the world has ever seen and today’s first-world problems rarely involve survival. In today’s western world, if you are going hungry, don’t have a job or a roof over your head, you are either in an extreme situation, mentally disabled or just lazy. The likelihood of survival being an issue is very rarely on anyone’s radar anymore.

What seems to be on everyone’s radar is their stuff; status based on stuff and accumulation of stuff compared to others. In other words, we seem to often be in a competition with people we don’t even know or care about over stuff that really doesn’t matter. If you can learn to acknowledge that you will likely never have as much stuff as a Saudi Prince or as little as a sub-Saharan refugee, and you learn to embrace what you do have, you will have taken a huge step in achieving the third pillar of financial security.

I look at this pillar as the ability to embrace what you have and live life on your terms, not those terms dictated by someone else. In other words, if you can learn to love your life and all that you have rather than focus on what you don’t have, you win.

As an example, the school teacher or mid-level manager who embraces what they have and lives within their means will often be miles ahead on the happiness scale compared to the surgeon who makes 10 times as much and appears to have everything but is buried in debt and is a slave to their stuff.

As a former mortgage broker, I got to see many people’s financial positions. Looks can be deceiving and it is often the people who are living simply that have financial success, and the showy folks can’t go one month without a paycheck.

Once you have embraced the idea of living at or below your means, a whole new world of opportunities and options can begin to open up. If you have a fancy leased car, big house, and eat out every night and at the end of the month you are still buried in debt and need the next paycheck, you have become an indentured servant to your debt. Simplifying and building a plan to get out of that servitude will enable you to have the opportunities to identify and actually chase your true dreams.

This isn’t to suggest that you can’t enjoy the occasional extravagance. You can, but it is often about choices. As always, you have to know what you want and build a plan. As an example, my wife and I live in a pretty simple house. We could have bigger and showier but that really isn’t important to us. It has everything we need and we feel it is perfect for us. What is important to us is travel and life experiences. We have had the good fortune to stand on all seven continents. By simplifying some aspects or our life and living within our means, we have the option to travel and live as we want. We are not beholden to our stuff.

Ask yourself what is the worst that would happen if you simplified? Survival really isn’t an issue. Do you really need more stuff? Who are you keeping up with? Start asking: what would I do if I could do anything? What am I passionate about? What does success really look like for me and my family?

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