Restrictions: Resources and Time
“It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” –Robert Kiyosaki
In life, there are all sorts of restrictions. There’s federal laws, state laws, cultural norms, and every organization has its own set of rules. We are restricted (positively mostly) by these laws and restrictions. In art, we’re restricted by the canvas, in photography by the frame, and in chess by its rules. Useful restrictions and rules help keep systems from falling apart. Furthermore, they become the source of creativity. But what about money? Do we really see money as a restriction? Do we get creative around it? Or are we passive (and mostly unconscious) about it? Also, who restricts it? Without a doubt, restrictions of resources and time dictate much of how we go about life.
You’ve heard the questions: “What would you do if you had all the money in the world?” This question is meant to help get down to what’s more meaningful to you. And you can also ask: What would you do if you had all the time in the world? The fact is we dedicate a lifetime to obtain resources. We exchange our (biological) time for money so we can then, paradoxically, have more time for ourselves. How is it that we’re willing to spend so much of our life in this rat race? It’s like a game that is never won.
Recognizing life’s biggest limitations helps clarify what’s most significant for us too. There are restrictions we can’t do anything about, like physical limitations. For instance, I can’t hope to realistically make it to the NBA if I’m not tall enough. But there are life limitations we can certainly do a lot about, if we become conscious about them. When it comes to resources and time, we can begin by understanding the mechanisms that make them a restriction. And then we must plan to free them up as much as we can. Let’s see how:
From the very first hunter-gatherers to the dawn of civilization, every effort has been to gather enough resources to survive. Without resources, we can’t have food, water, and shelter to live. It’s no different today, except now we arguably require even more resources for transportation, safety (all sorts of insurances), education, entertainment, etc. This varies from city to city and country to country of course, but resources still have the single greatest impact on everything we do and especially on the quality of our lives.
So what’s so groundbreaking about this? The fact is that hard-earned resources are still spent as if they didn’t matter. Many receive their paycheck and can’t wait to spend what’s left after expenses. Many others have to pay all sorts of credit card debt and other obligations. This is a reminder to preserve your resources. To take care of them. To respect them. Money is hard to earn but easy to spend. Perhaps even harder than earning it is keeping it—think about that. Why do we commit it away?
Take Morgan Housel, who in his famous book The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness said: “The danger here is that I think most people, deep down, want to be wealthy. They want freedom and flexibility, which is what financial assets not yet spent can give you. But it is so ingrained in us that to have money is to spend money that we don’t get to see the restraint it takes to actually be wealthy. And since we can’t see it, it’s hard to learn about it.”
The best way to accumulate resources is to keep them. The whole world is conspiring to convince you to depart from your money: to make you look cooler, to make you appear rich, to make you want more, and to make you believe you’ll feel better after you buy all of [that]. And it’s not just stuff, its “experiences” as well. I don’t buy into the idea that experiences are necessarily better than material things. Experiences are important, but when do experiences become just ego driven? Where do you draw the line? Both the material and experiences have their place—but they’re also an excellent scheme to transfer your money from your pocket to someone else’s (the experience influencers).
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with providing solutions to our needs and problems, that’s good marketing and engineering. However, in your ability to hold resources, you’ll hopefully earn the freedom, flexibility, and potential purchasing power for when you actually need it. This means both skipping the “latte” and finding more or better sources of income. And what if I’m doing really well? What if I have plenty for my latte? Then just remind yourself that the good times don’t last forever. The good times should help prepare for unforeseen events in the future. You take full advantage of what you can control so that later you don’t have to. But how much later?
Time is very tricky. Historically, humanity has fought its lifetime in the pursuit of freedom and yet, not all time is created equal. It is bound not only by our age, but mainly by our resources, and our societal freedom. Time is about how much time you have in life and how you’re able to live it. Unlike resources, we can’t unspend time. In this regard, it seems time is a true restriction we can’t escape. But we can make the best use of it while we work to accumulate enough resources. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience said: “Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.”
The question bears asking: What does work do for you? Does work produce flow for you, or does it generally stress you out? What if you could spend less time doing the things you’d want to avoid? What if doing less of something meant more sleep, more peace of mind, and more enjoyment? Then maybe we could have improved health. With improved health comes better quality of living. And I don’t mean to imply health issues or relationship issues define our lives—we’ve tackled those in other insightful articles. This is a reminder to take time seriously and make the most out of it.
And how do we do this? By being clear about what we value. If we can use our time honoring our values, then we can unlock time. We can get a sense of timelessness because we are exactly where we should be. We are spending time (and making time) for those whom we want to spend our time with. Resources of course play a role. But there’s always something you can do to offer and receive time from those who matter most. I can’t think of any other more important thing in life. Our time is measured by what we choose to do and who we spend it with.
There’s a caveat though. What if I’m truly restricted with my time and money? What if I have to work three shifts or if I just can’t afford to save any money or free up any of my time? Ultimately, resources and time are our biggest restrictions in life. What I’m deliberating about is the possibility to be able to do something about it.
We can’t get our time back. Nor we can get back spent resources. And we can be tied up. Is there anything that can be done? Every person has a unique situation. Everything is relative to our own circumstances. You must first become aware about what position you’re in. Then you find ways in which you either reduce expenses and/or increase resources. Reducing is something that is mostly in your control. You find what you can or can’t control. And you focus there.
And here’s the thing: if we don’t stop and think of resources and time as restrictions, we’ll rarely do anything about them. They will continue to restrict your life. You’ll continue to react to them instead of making a plan to turn them around. You’ll continue to spend your money because you deserve it after all that hard work. But then it’s gone. There’s always going to be a gap of where we are and where we’d like to be. Managing that gap positively can provide you with a sense of direction and keep you focused on your road to financial freedom. Fortunately, if you’re reading this you still have the gift of the present and the potential for your future.
Juan F. Diaz
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