This article is first in a 5-part series about spending your time the way you want.

Li River, Guilin, China. Spend more time learning about beautiful places like this.Without exception, everybody wants to lead a happy and fruitful life.  That can mean different things for different people.  But there is a common theme: spending time in the ways we want makes us happy.  So it can be said that spending time as we want (either in business, in leisure, and specifically with regards to the tasks we undertake on a daily basis) is a large component of our happiness.

But many people see spending their time as they wish as an ideal but unachievable goal.  We’re used to the “usual ways” of doing things which emphasizes getting a steady, high-paying job, working up the ranks, putting in the hours, and finally getting our chance to do as we wish upon retirement with a loaded pension and a generous 401(k) plan.  We do things that we really don’t want to do, that other people make us do in exchange for money for forty or fifty years, and then set out to have our own fun when we are old, feeble and near the end of our lives.

That sounds like a broken system to me.

But the good news is that living like that is a choice entirely up to you.  It took me a long time to figure this out, so I can personally attest to how hard it is to challenge your old mindsets and adopt a new way to look at the world.

I hope what I write here–and the other articles in this series–can help you see that, and empower you with the confidence and knowledge to lead a successful life by spending your time the way you want.

Let me elaborate with 6 simple points:

  • Working away at things we don’t want to do is an antiquated mindset that survives into modern times.

I recently read an article about the history of the Indigenous Australians.  The article mentioned that, even up to the arrival of European settlers on the continent in 1788, some Indigenous Australians continued to spend up to 2/3 of the day gathering food.  Spending an exorbitant amount of time collecting resources for survival is not a phenomenon particular to these people: recall stories of children working in thread mills, coal mines and sweatshops for over 12 hours per day.  People were not educated.  The only way for many to survive was to spend all of their time scraping together enough resources to get by.

But that’s hardly the case today.  In my opinion, we live in a time–for perhaps the first time in history–that people on a large scale can do what they want and live a happy and successful life.  How?  People are better educated on the whole.  The cost of living, in terms of value received per dollar, has fallen substantially.  We work fewer hours than before, are more productive than before, and live healthier lives.  There’s so many resources available at our fingertips (eg the internet) that information, communication and development are basically free.

Scarcity’s hardly the word.  Abundance reigns loud and clear.

People’s attitudes haven’t changed as quickly, though.  People still view their lives in terms of scarcity, and the antiquated model of working as hard as possible to gather resources to ensure survival.  And that antiquated view holds us back, and keeps us from even trying to unlock our potential, and spend our time as desired.

  • Realize that “noble suffering”, “getting a secure job”, and “working hard to work up the ranks” are socially-generated views and are not absolute.  Value your happiness first.

Consider it a gift from our Puritan ancestors, who disdained any sort of merrymaking and believed that a life of simplicity and arduous work was the only way to ensure salvation and eternal happiness.

Most people simply underestimate their own abilities, and feebly (and without thought) follow societal cues that “tell” them to just “go with the flow”.  But if you look at all successful entrepreneurs, how many people actually became successful because they did something they didn’t like, lucked out, and saw massive success?

We look at these people as if they are “amazing”, but there’s lots of amazing people who amount to nothing.  I think the thing that actually made them successful was their ability to question societally-imposed restrictions and warnings, and yearn for success nonetheless.  And they showed that by doing this, those restrictions were nothing more than paper tigers.

The same is true for you.  If you disavow societally-imposed mindsets that hold you back, you are free to consider other, more useful perspectives that will allow you to do what you want, and make it work for yourself in the long term.

  • Don’t you usually feel happiest when you accomplish something you wanted to do? 

I ran for student council all throughout high school, with my eyes set on being student body president one day.  I ran for office four times before, and was only elected once.  But finally, I was elected to the school’s most prestigious office after years of hard work and extensive campaigning.  I had to fight tooth and nail against the “popular kids” and the “jocks” to win that election. Even to this day, six years later, I rank that as one of my most important victories.

I think most people are the same way.  They enjoy accomplishing something that they wanted to do in the first place.  If our real “purpose” was to “suffer nobly” or “work up the ranks” doing something we didn’t want to do, why would it be that our true moments of happiness come from accomplishing something that started of our own volition and succeeded because of our own motivation?

  • Understand the barriers.  They’re not what you think they are.

Too many people think they can’t be successful spending time as they wish because there’s too many barriers and things holding them back, and that they could never be successful.  I agree that there are barriers.  But they are all barriers that start from within.

Mental barriers create actual barriers.

Mental barriers:

  • Lack of confidence

You emotionally don’t believe you can do it.

  • Lack of knowledge

You don’t know enough–such as how to be productive, how to run a business, how to make money on your own, etc., to make it happen.

  • Bad habits

You do things and spend your time in ways that hurt your mission, such as wasting time, frivolously spending money, and so forth.

Actual barriers

  • Inaction caused by lack of confidence

You don’t try to make the change.

  •  Mistakes caused by lack of knowledge

You start a business but make crucial management mistakes that cause huge problems.

  •  Failure and inefficiencies caused by bad habits.

You didn’t stick to your budget, and so you spent too much money.

But barriers are crushed by knowledge and understanding.  That’s where my articles come into play.

First, understand the right way 

  1. The Productivity Mindset
  2. Monetize Your Passion
  3. Find Worthwhile Hobbies

Then act in the right way.

Success is achieved through action.

  • It is easier to be good at things you want to do, as compared to things you don’t feel passionately about.

I won that student council election because I felt passionately about it.  But how about when I ran cross country, which I disliked strongly and my parents required me to do in high school?  I was consistently the slowest kid on the team.  Each year, the team’s new runners would start slower than me, and be faster by the end of the season.

The same goes for work, school…anything.  In general, you will naturally be good at and be successful with something you like and are willing to work for.  This leads to the next point:

  • It’s easier to make money off of things you are good at, which means that you can be successful and make money doing what you want to do.

Imagine trying to make money off of a blog if you were a bad writer, or starting a public speaking career if you fainted every time you stepped up to the podium.  How’s that going to work?

It’s like an equation: You will be good at what you like, and you can more easily make money off of what you are good at.  That leads me to believe: it is more emotionally satisfying and quite likely more profitable to spend your time doing what you want.  Talk about the best of both worlds.  Doesn’t that throw out the old paradigm that says financial success is achieved exclusively through undertaking unfulfilling and uninteresting white-collar careers?  Why not focus on making money with your passion (and spending your time the way you want), rather than making money without your passion?

I hope you’re convinced.  You should be.  If you’re ready to make the transition, keep reading on.