Strategic And Decisive Pursuit Of Your Dreams

I wasted years talking about how much I wanted to be a writer, but not actually writing anything. Even though I felt compelled to write, I had a litany of excuses for why I wasn’t: I was too busy, I didn’t have any story ideas, I had nowhere to publish, it’d be a waste of my time, no one would want to read it, and on and on and on… I created a narrative for myself about why I wasn’t acting on this supposed passion of mine. But the real reason is that I simply wasn’t motivated enough.

Mr. FW's homemade scones make a great writing partner

Mr. FW’s homemade scones make a great writing partner

Once Mr. Frugalwoods essentially forced me to start writing Frugalwoods (he registered the domain name unbeknownst to me), the floodgates of my creativity flew open. The man knows me better than I know myself and he was certain that getting me to write would be life-changing and exhilarating. He was right. Thrilled as I am with how much I’ve written in the last year and a half, I can’t believe it took me so long to get started. All those years, the only thing standing in the way of me doing something I genuinely love was me.

It was easy for me to construct a scenario in which other people were holding me back (my job, my family, grad school, my responsibilities), but the reality is that I was the only person preventing me from doing what I wanted. That’s a simultaneously terrifying and liberating thought.

The advent of my writing coincided with the start of our journey to financial independence and a homestead in the woods. We could’ve spent another couple years tossing the homestead concept around and making zero progress towards it, but for whatever reason, we were so fired up that we enacted our plan the very day we crystallized the idea (March 29, 2014). However, our immediate action involved a good deal of biding our time. And therein exists the crucial difference between foolhardy goal pursuit and strategic delayed gratification.

The Value Of The Long Play

When Mr. FW and I made the determination that we wanted to quit our traditional jobs and decamp to the woods of Vermont, we could’ve executed our move immediately. That Monday, we could’ve handed in our notices, put our Cambridge house up for rent, and schlepped ourselves up to Vermont. But we didn’t.

One of the homestead properties we considered

One of the homestead properties we considered

Had we plunged into our desire immediately and without proper foresight, we would’ve thrust ourselves into a somewhat precarious financial position. Our savings wouldn’t be as robust, our side income wouldn’t be in place, and we’d lack a refined plan. As it is, we’re plotting until the opportune moment. However, we also didn’t vaguely pronounce that we’d move “someday in the future.” In my experience, “someday” is almost always synonymous with “never.”

Instead, we set a specific deadline of fall 2017, which gave us over three years to prepare, research, and save money. We arrived at this date primarily through financial modeling of our projected savings rate (which we’ve been able to surpass), the season when the rental market for our Cambridge home is ideal, and the time we estimate we’ll need to locate a suitable homestead to purchase.

I think there’s a fine line between delayed gratification and never getting started, but I do think there’s a balance to strike. My entire philosophy is based around the idea that everyone should discover what they’re passionate about and then find a way to do that thing every single day. Because what’s the point of living a life where you don’t do what you love? However, the footnote to this philosophy is strategic, thoughtful delay. While I admire the guts of people who fling themselves into a new venture on a whim, I’m personally more comfortable with a measured approach.

Working On A Plan Is Action

Over the course of our homestead countdown, we’ve realized that working on a plan constitutes actionable progress. Even though we haven’t purchased our homestead yet, the amount of analysis we’ve done–both from afar and through visiting properties–serves as tangible advancement of our goal.

Check out my terrible artwork (this is seriously the best I can draw)! Good thing I'm a writer and not an artist...

Check out my terrible artwork (this is seriously the height of my artistic ability).

In this way, even though we’re delaying our dream, we’re still making headway towards it every single day. Every time we don’t spend money, we’re on the right track. Every time we research homesteading, we’re advancing our cause. Every time we learn more about real estate and landlording, we’re furthering our knowledge base.

I’m a huge fan of the “just start and do it now” mindset, but I temper that with “make sure you know what the heck you’re doing first.” I’m a belt-and-suspenders type of gal–I like to know I’m covered through multiple avenues and that there’s very little chance my proverbial pants will fall down (although I am sort of having a problem keeping my maternity pants up lately–there are no belts in maternity!).

This desire for security is why Mr. FW and I don’t plan to draw down on our investments in early retirement–rather, we’ll be living off the income from our rental property, our AirBnB rentals, and our freelance work. Our investments will continue to accrue and serve as our emergency back-up.

We waited years before adopting this noble beast

We waited years before adopting this noble beast

Aside from the homestead, which is clearly our ultimate long play, Mr. FW and I have employed this research-and-wait methodology to an number of other decisions in our life.

We spent years going to open houses and investigating the market before we bought our home; adopting Frugal Hound happened only after years of holding off for the right moment to own a dog; we waited to get pregnant until we felt adequately prepared for the challenges of parenthood; I didn’t go to grad school until I secured a way to attend for free; and we postpone every major purchase until we’ve had ample time to explore all of our options.

It might sound arduous, but honestly it’s awesome. We don’t suffer buyer’s remorse and we feel confident in our decisions. While we make plenty of mistakes and stupid choices, we at least always know our rationale behind them. And there’s a great deal of comfort in that. No one ever makes all the right choices all the time, but it is possible to at least back your choices with sound reasoning. It enables us to feel as though we’re doing the best we can.

If You Want Something Badly Enough…

After years of dilly-dallying and fabricating excuses for not writing, I finally recognized that if I want something badly enough, I’ll find the time and the means to make it happen. Short of desiring an irrational or super expensive objective, you can make just about anything happen in your life. I think the universal truth is that how we spend our time indicates our values and our desires and will ultimately constitute the result of our lives.

I had to include a close-up of the scones

I had to include a close-up of the scones

I used to watch TV every night while simultaneously complaining that I didn’t have the time to write. Well, turns out, once I stopped watching TV every night, I had plenty of time to write. I used to hit the snooze button every single morning (Mr. FW, my former roommates, and my parents can all corroborate how annoying that habit of mine was), while whining that there wasn’t enough time in the day to do the things I wanted. Now, I get up at 6am and it’s astounding how much I can accomplish in the mornings before work.

You can absolutely, 100% make time for the things you want to do. Ruthlessly prioritizing every single day helps me to organize my time in such a way that I’m able to achieve the things I truly want. I’m still behind on about 9,000 different projects, I have to-do lists so long they could make Guinness World Records, and unreplied-to emails that are embarrassing to even think about (apologies if one of those emails is from you!), but I do the stuff that’s most important to me.

Me cleaning our bathroom!

Me cleaning our bathroom!

I’ve also found that allocating a set amount of time for any given task works surprisingly well. Last night, I needed to clean the bathroom and I decided to do it while Mr. FW cooked dinner–for the very specific reason that I’d have to be done by the time our food was on the table. Historically, I’ve been a slow cleaner, but you know what, I managed to knock that baby out in record time. In the same way that spending is like a gas (it’ll expand to fill whatever space you give it), tasks are like a gas. I could spend 2 hours cleaning that bathroom, but since I only had 35 minutes last night, I miraculously did it. Amazing/slightly scary how easily I’m able to trick myself…

We set limitations for ourselves every day. We assume we’re not smart enough, quick enough, rich enough or beautiful enough to start saving most of our income, or paying down our debt, or pursuing a long-dormant hobby, or moving across country to a city where we’ve always wanted to live. But we’re fabricating this reality for ourselves. The world isn’t imposing it on us.

Beyond the limitations of time and ability that we perceive for ourselves, we fear being different. I know I once did. I’d torment myself with worry over whether or not people would judge me, accept me, and like me. Now, I’m just who I am and I do what I want and what I feel called to do and what I believe is best. Don’t let the fear of being different or going against the grain keep you from following your dreams. They’re your dreams and no one else’s.

Go Out And Start Today

Whatever it is that you want to work towards, go out and start on it today. I wasted years with my inaction and spent so many hours talking about what I wanted to do with my life instead of actually, you know, doing it. You can start on a project or goal today, no matter how herculean it might feel. Even if your initial steps are incremental–as they were with our homestead plan–you can empower yourself to take action in the direction of your long-term aspirations. You have the time, you have the skill, and you have the determination. So go do it!

What are you working towards today?

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56 Responses

  1. This reminds me of a proverb I just used in my post today: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. We are 1 year or less from early mortgage payoff, which is our closest financial goal. Ultimately we’d like to have option to volunteer full-time for our church or a charity, perhaps by setting up a farm co-op to employ and mentor troubled youths. In addition to saving money and reducing expenses, we’re working on it by slowly expanding our farm skills on our little suburban plot.

  2. Isn’t it amazing how much you can accomplish when you have a plan? You get more done in less time, and with much less stress. I wrote a whole book about it, called Home For Good: Homemaking Simplicity and Contentment, which is due to be released on Amazon by the end of the month. I would love to send you a copy, Mrs. Frugalwoods–need I say for free? :-).

  3. I feel like you’re talking to me about the blog redesign I’ve been wanting to undertake, but have been terrified to tackle…

  4. I love ruthless prioritization–and there is no time like the present! Cutting unnecessary and wasteful activities so that I can focus on what I truly want has changed my life this year in so many ways.

  5. Kristen says:

    I loved this post. I think because we live in a “now” world, it is hard to stop, plan and wait. I have somethings I plan and wait and other are impulsive and some are a weird combo of the two. (I have planned and researched but find something a little different that seems perfect, like our current house). I am working on slowing down and living more mindfully. I have prioritized adding yoga and meditation and learning more about them. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so baby steps. On one of the many podcasts I have consumed about slow living etc. one of the guests said to stop framing it as “not having enough time” but rather “I am not prioritizing that right now.” I think that is a good way to look at it.

  6. This is so well said. I love your point about having a plan and the fact that planning is actually doing. A solid plan is what nets results, I think. In addition to continuing to write and declutter (and both of those feel like significant undertakings!), we’re working on paying off our mortgage early. The next step in that is to define how early of a payoff we’d like it to be. Finally, your artwork is delightful – and leaps and bounds better than anything I could muster!

  7. I was like you and would complain about having no time but would still be watching TV. It’s crazy how much more I’ve been able to get accomplished now that I’ve prioritized certain activities.

  8. “I used to watch TV every night while simultaneously complaining that I didn’t have the time to write.” YASSS!

    I have to tell you, I have accomplished more in my life since we cut cable than I did the entire decade prior. There’s something very freeing about having each evening to do things that really matter vs. being shackled to some pointless TV show.

  9. joyce says:

    Hi mrs. Fw,
    Love the post. Love the broadening of your frugality theme–frugality really isn’t the end goal nor is the homestead, but instead critical determination to create a meaningful life.
    Don’t reply to me. Just keep up the great work. 🙂

  10. I couldn’t agree with this more. I had been thinking about starting my blog for months but never actually took action on it, whether it was actually registering the domain or even actively researching things I wanted to learn about/incorporate. It wasn’t until I actually took the first step of registering the domain did I finally begin to push myself towards actually achieving it. You don’t need to achieve your goals overnight, but you at least need to start working at them. Small wins are better than no wins!

  11. I really like your point about “ruthlessly prioritizing” in pursuit of your goals. It is so easy to get consumed with the everyday aspects of life, spending too much time watching TV or other mindless pursuits, and then feel too busy for the things that are supposedly “important.” I have really been struggling with this lately as I’m back at work full time and my blog, which I really love working on, just doesn’t have as much of a place in my life. I need to carve out dedicated time for it.

    I have also experimented with setting time limits for blog-related activities, as you suggest with cleaning, and I agree that it is really helpful. It is quite amazing how quickly you can get things done when you’re under the gun!

  12. I really like your point about “ruthlessly prioritizing” in pursuit of your goals. It is so easy to get consumed with the everyday aspects of life, spending too much time watching TV or other mindless pursuits, and then feel too busy for the things that are supposedly “important.” I have really been struggling with this lately as I’m back at work full time and my blog, which I really love working on, just doesn’t have as much of a place in my life. I need to carve out dedicated time for it.

    I have also experimented with setting time limits for blog-related activities, as you suggest with cleaning, and I agree that it is really helpful. It is quite amazing how quickly you can get things done when you’re under the gun!

  13. Hannah says:

    People who think on their values become people of substance. They have a reason for doing everything that they do instead of following the throngs. I think it is so important to reflect on those values whether its to save money or just to grow as a person.

  14. Mrs. RoG is famous (to me) for her saying “shut up, stop talking/whining about it and just do it”. Great advice for career moves, investments, purchases, or other major life decisions. At some point you have to step up and just get it done.

    This point really hit home after I retired early and realized “hey, this IS the rest of my life”. No more excuses. If something doesn’t happen, it’s my fault and no one else’s!

  15. Mrs PoP says:

    Mr PoP and I have figured out that unless we make a list of what we want to get done, we’ll fritter our time away with nothing to show for it. But with a list, we can be productivity machines!

  16. I love this! We absolutely can make time for what is most important for us. I felt the same way about starting my blog! I kept telling myself, I just had a baby, I am running a freelance business and feeling like I’m already drowning, no way I can start a blog also. Though I TOO was somehow managing to watch tv every night ;). I’m in my 9th month of blogging and balancing all these responsibilities now and realize more and more everyday that I really can make time for the things I want to accomplish. Great post!!

  17. Marcia says:

    This is such a great reminder! What am I working towards? Well, there is this quilt I made 3 years ago and didn’t finish. I eventually paid someone to do the actual quilting of the 3 layers together. Now I have to sew on the binding. I got it sewed down on the front and the rest is flip and sew handwork. My excuse has been it’s too hot to sit with a blanket on your lap. I am 1/3 done though.

    Otherwise I’m not sure what I’m working towards…

  18. MEL810 says:

    I am trying to prioritize things such as blogging and doing art/photography/writing but with working a FT job that often spins into OT, making dinner and cleaning up when I get home and having health problems, I just haven’t the energy at the end of the day to much other than flop in front of the TV. My weekends are a combo of shopping/cleaning and catching up on rest with the occasional day trip somewhere.
    Having only 18% kidney function tends to tire me no matter what I do. My doc said almost anyone else would have opted for FT disability by now, but I am still working.
    One reason I want to pay down debt and up my skills is so I can leave my FT job and not be tied to the 9-5 grind that is so exhausting that I have no energy left over for myself. I am 65, so I am eligible for Medicare. Unfortunately, because of the crazy, inequitable state system in VA, I am ineligible for retirement until 2017 and even then I will get only about $225.00 per month which I think ain’t worth two more years of the daily grind. It may grind me into the ground health-wise and I will be stuck with only that lousy payment and SS, so I am upping my skill set to do work from home online.
    I may yet take disability and do some side work. It depends on how effective my newest medical regimen is.

  19. I coach my clients all the time about making strategic choices and combatting the easy trap of instant gratification so that they can have long term success. For me, I am working towards making The Financial Gym a resource that’s available to anyone. I know it’s a long term dream and despite the fact that I sometimes lose patience, I am comfortable with the journey because I know that every step is leading me where I supposed to be.

  20. Kristi says:

    I have the same problem with time management for a project. If I have 3 hours, it will take three hours. If I only have half an hour, it still miraculously gets done!

  21. Steve Miller says:

    Very inspiring. I have been following your blog for a few months but had not really dug into your story, this was a great post. You are right, sometimes we just have to get off our butts and get started!

  22. Great post! I’m working on finding my next F/T position, while continuing to work on my plan B. Hoping my first trip to FinCon this year helps point me in the right direction.

  23. KP says:

    Have you heard of UfYH for cleaning direction and inspiration? The system is based on 20 minutes of activity and 10 minutes of break time, because so many people dive into marathons sessions and burn out. I definitely fell into this camp and now that I live with my boyfriend, I would be burnt out and mad that he would watch me run ragged all day but not jump in to help. (Can’t blame him, though, marathon cleaning days were not fun for me.)

    I’m actually in the middle of overlaying my goals with my boyfriend’s, so we haven’t decided on too many priorities to work towards yet. We’re juggling ideas about potential job/industry change, home ownership, land-lording, renovation, grad school, ER, family, and more. I told myself my goal should be to grow savings in preparation for any of the goals jump to the top of the list (ie. get a great job offer, find the perfect house) while we work through prioritizing everything else. As has been said here, though, saving for savings sake is not the most effective motivation.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Interesting! I haven’t heard of that system before, but it totally makes sense to me. Sounds like you and your boyfriend are going through a very valuable exercise of combining and outlining your goals. You’re really smart to sit down and holistically map all that out. And, you’re totally right that having a substantial savings really does enable so many other goals (but, I agree, it’s tough to save without a clear goal in mind). Sounds like you’re very much on the right track to figure that all out. I’m excited for you!

  24. brookst says:

    Did you write this blog because you knew what I was going through? I finally got up the nerve to ask my partner if I could take some time off work to devote to my writing. I am 3/4 through first draft of my novel. I am very independant and don’t like to financially rely on anyone, even though he is generous and makes more than me. I had been putting off asking but finally did it, his reply was “sure, do you need to go away, like to a cabin.” I assured him the kitchen table will be fine. So expect big things out of me over the next few weeks.

  25. I am definitely like you in preferring to take the more considered path, and can probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve made a decision impulsively! (Not counting impulse buys, of course — I was not blessed with innate frugality like you were!) 🙂 But it’s funny — sometimes the flipside of that is feeling like I’ve wasted time. We’re trying to adopt more of a “better late than never” approach, which is more about gratitude, and less about feeling grumpy that we wasted time by not doing something sooner.

  26. Great post as always!

    I am trying to implement the strategy of estimating how much time a task will take as a reminder from the beginning to move through it efficiently and not dawdle/get caught up in minutiae. I’m really a novice at it but I think it will help my time management a lot!

    Right now the dream I’m working toward is working for myself, even if it wasn’t a dream for very long before I jumped in! I definitely did not prepare as much as I could have, but sometimes life won’t let you wait. I am enjoying it SO MUCH though!

  27. Beck says:

    I admit I’m very much a get up and do it now kind of person. If I had the bare minimum of means to move to Vermont right now this very moment…I totally would. The idea of waiting three years and carefully planning would not have occurred to me.

    And, I think I would be ok. Maybe less ok than you all will be but definitely ok. I’m totally going to take a page out of your book though and try this idea on for size…

  28. Such a motivating post for a Monday! I agree the best way to achieve your dreams and goals is to start doing it now. We often think we have all the time in the world to fulfill our dreams, until one day we don’t. Sometimes you need to just start with a simple plan (like retiring to a homestead in the woods) and then take small steps to get you there. “Working on a plan IS action” – I agree!

  29. When I was a manager in the corporate world, I would always say: “Don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions!” I have found this to be essential in my personal life as well and this philosophy has led me to the entrepreneurial world!

  30. Danell says:

    So you’re telling me I have to be accountable for how I choose to spend or waste my time?? What?? But it’s so much easier to blame it on everything else. 🙁
    Some days I accomplish so much and other days I wonder what I did all day.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hahah, yep, I’m the same way :). I’m trying to be more accountable to myself for my time, but it’s definitely a work in progress.

  31. Gillian says:

    “Now, I’m just who I am and I do what I want and what I feel called to do and what I believe is best.” So beautiful, and so. much. freaking. yes.

    Also I love that you use words like herculean. It makes my day. 🙂

  32. The Roamer says:

    Yeah flying by the seat of your pants can have very unexpected results.

    I also like to work with some sort of plan… But word to the wise is you can over analyze stuff.. It doesn’t seem like you do Mrs frugalwoods but it is know to happen .

    I personally think that is where I’m at… I have a plan and it makes sense but you can always revisit something and figure out a better outcome if you only do this or that… Yup that’s where I’m at.

    So be careful for analysis paralysis. Nothings ever going to be 100%… Actually in lean the rule is if its at 80% make the move , change.

    So plan, plot but you can only know for sure once you put it to the test.

  33. Maggie says:

    I’m terrible at the “waiting” part. The long play. When I decided to have a kid, I wanted that kid NOW. (A terrible nine months later…). Starting a plan is certainly exciting. And the benefit of the long play is there is built in flexibility. I find that when I actually plan for something in the long term, I’m able to come up with better ways along the way (like you guys surpassing your savings!). But it’s nice to be started on the path to the future. Definitely changes our motivation.

  34. Eric B says:

    Very inspiring post! I have also recently started taking the “define, plan, then jump” approach.

    For example, I needed to replace our deck. I spent an hour or so measuring things, then a couple of hours researching materials. At that point, I felt relatively comfortable and started disassembling the old deck. After I ordered the new wood, I effectively locked myself in to the plan and there was no turning back. It’s been an adventure and taken much more time than I anticipated, but I’m so glad that I got the ball rolling and gave myself no other option than to succeed 🙂

    Now I just need to apply this approach to finding a better job…

  35. Kathy says:

    You cheerleader you! Ra ra ra sis boom bah! (Can’t wait to see the new homestead.)

  36. I just love love love that you point out “My entire philosophy is based around the idea that everyone should discover what they’re passionate about and then find a way to do that thing every single day..” I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes it can take for awhile to find out what you are passionate about, but once you know what you enjoy, you should definitely go for it!

  37. FIbrarian says:

    The part about tasks occupying the time you have available is so true. On my days off I used to start out with a long list of things I planned to accomplish then at the end of the day look in dismay as I’ve only managed to tick off one or two. I’ve now changed to making myself a little timetable the night before. It feels a bit like I’m back at school but it really works when you know that you only have an hour allocated to clean the car and then its onto the next job. Ditto for the early starts, I’ve never been so productive in my life as I have been recently between 6 and 9!

  38. kb says:

    Yes! My mom always says “you have time for what you make time for.” And while I find that saying super annoying it really changed my life. Now I never have any excuse for anything except that I made a choice about my time and now have to live with it. Thanks for a motivating post!

  39. Randall says:

    Great post. Inspiring. You create the space for what you want. I know I have. Posts like this are great reminders for all of us that your doing it so can we. Thanks!

    Btw. Love the clock in the bathroom.

  40. Karena says:

    I’m new here & Just love your website and Fw Hound , what can I say… adorable!! (I have dog business so huge dog lover). I love your mindset to life I’m very similar. Took me 4 years to leave the suburbs and I finally moved earlier this year to semi rural town in Australia, surrounded by mountains with great views.. I’m also very Frugal and a Minimalist. When I moved I sold, donated or gave away 75% of stuff, felt so liberating.. My life motto that I teach my kids is “less is more” . I live a very simple life and don’t carry any debt other than small Mortgage remaining.. Never needed to keep up with the Joneses (whoever they are)… Good luck with your pending parenthood.. I can say however, you are never financially or emotionally ready for a newborn and it will turn your life upside down for a period of time and just when life starts getting back to normal teething starts followed by tantrums.. (Not to scare you). I had easy babies yet it was still the most challenging, tiring, yet rewarding time of life.. I wish you both and FW Hound all the love & blessings with your next adventures.. Looking forward to your future posts (or lack of lol) after Babywoods arrives.. Big kisses to FW Hound from me..

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much, Karena! I appreciate you reading and sharing. Your home sounds beautiful–what an idyllic spot! And, I love the idea of teaching kids that less is more–that’s such an unsung praise in our consumer culture. Thanks for the good wishes on Babywoods :)!

  41. Andrea says:

    Great post, as always. I’ve been following your blog for over a year now, and I’ve noticed the improvement in your writing! Glad you’re working at it, and keep it up! 🙂

  42. What you said is so true. We find the time for the things that are important to us. I too used to say that I didn’t have enough time to stick to my running schedule because I worked long hours, or I didn’t have enough time to put any real effort into my hobbies…but I always had time for my favorite Netflix shows for some reason. I agree, prioritize your time and your life, and it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

  43. Amen sister! Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we stand in the way of our own happiness? I’m so grateful for your posts like this one. When I’m struggling to find motivation, inspiration of a little positive “self talk” I read on of your posts. It instantly renews my own inner voice to be more positive and have more faith in my capability to achieve my goals. Thanks for the pep talk! 😉

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