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How To Slow Down Time and Live Longer

“They sure grow up fast, don’t they?”

“The older you get, the faster time flies.”

“You can’t slow down time, so treasure your days because they’ll be gone before you know it.”

We’ve all heard these thoughts, often from the parents of grown children. If you’re part of the older and wiser population, you may have even spoken similar words yourself. And if you’re younger, you may have felt fear well up in your heart as your elders dropped this bit of Bummer Wisdom upon you. The Inevitability of Life Racing By.

But your fear is unfounded.

Related imageBecause somehow, I seem to have stumbled upon a workaround to the problem of life being too short, and instead I find myself existing in a different universe of Vampire-like perpetual renewal and the feeling of youth. While other parents of almost-thirteen-year-olds claim the time has gone by in a flash, I feel I’ve had my own son for at least 30 years.

And those same thirteen years since I retired from real work have also been packed with an almost inconceivable variety of experience. Adventures in business, travel, relationships, weddings, funerals, adventures, injuries, growth, definitely at least the recommended minimum dose of pain, but a much bigger amount of joy.

Reflecting back on it all always leaves me shaking my head in a smiling disbelief and muttering at least one involuntary “Holy Shit.” I feel like I have lived an entire human lifetime, or maybe even more than one, in just the years since I hung up the keyboard and walked out of that cubicle.

I look at this strange development with great gratitude. After all, if we are going to assign any purpose to our lives, it’s probably something like “Make the most of the time you are here, and try to do some good while you’re at it.”

So if I feel like I’ve already had a spectacular amount of time and Made the Most of It, you can imagine how lucky I feel to still have so many more decades worth of it potentially still in the tank!

What do you think could be going on here?

As it turns out, I am not the first one to wonder this. And there is some real science that connects a Mustachian Early Retirement to a life that feels much longer and more full, even before we get into the reasons you will probably literally live quite a bit longer as well. The key to this is in the way we perceive the passage of time.

Figure 1: Some of Eagleman’s Intriguing Books I’ve read (click for more.)

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the work of the modern-day Indiana Jones neuroscientist/author/adventurer David Eagleman, immediately developed a Man Crush and started working my way through his books and interviews. It was exactly what I was looking for at the time: a bigger picture on why our brains behave the way they do in many different realms of being alive: emotions, decision making, happiness, and of course our perception of time.

Like many people who were born with an engineering side to their brains, I sometimes feel like I’m standing with half my body outside of the human species, observing with Vulcan-like amusement how crazy we all are, and the other half firmly inside it, being whipped around by all the same joyful and tumultuous and passionate and irrational emotions as everyone else. So it can be very satisfying to try to put it all together, by embracing all that humanity but also understanding it from a bigger perspective.  Books like Eagleman’s are a lot of fun and useful in that regard.

So by reading books like Incognito and The Brain (along with this interesting profile on him in the New Yorker), I was able to learn a lot more about the nuts and bolts of my own existence as a creature, which I find is a very useful antidote to prevent me from taking myself and my moods too seriously as a person. And it also helps me get the most of the gigantic arc of a human lifespan with all of its details, without getting too hung up on whether I’m “doing it right” or fussing about our inevitable mortality.

Image result for brain

This is your brain on MMM

That compact but powerful brain of yours is more than just your thinking appliance. It’s your entire world, because it controls every bit of your interaction with the world, plus the way you feel about it. And one of its trickiest roles is in sucking up and storing every experience you ever have, and filing those experiences away so that you can recall the most important ones, all while leaving you able to focus on immediate tasks without becoming completely batty from this ever-growing pool of past experiences.

So the brain uses a few tricks in order to keep you sane. And the best way to sum up its approach to things is this:

To focus on the novel and important-seeming things, and mostly ignore everything else.

We’ve already covered the remarkable subject of human habits, where we learned that our brains tend to click us into little autopilot routines whenever possible to avoid the strain of puzzling consciously through every single moment, of every single day.

So an average person might go through routines like …

  • “get out of bed” 
  • “make some coffee and breakfast” 
  • “get dressed up and drive to work”

… in an almost unconscious fashion.

Habits like these are convenient, but they can also compromise your full enjoyment of life. Because when you are running on autopilot, you are not forming nearly as many meaningful memories. And if you do it long enough, your brain will also start clumping entire phases of your life into individual thoughts:

  • “my childhood”
  • “high school”
  • “the college years”
  • “those years I worked in Des Moines as a fertilizer salesman”
  • “the baby-raising years”
  • “my 25 year career as a Middle Manager in Megacorp”
  • “my golf-and-TV retirement to a Florida condo”

If you look back at your own phases so far, which ones do you remember being the longest and most vibrant?

For most of us, it ends up being the ages from about 6 through 21, because these were the times of greatest change, learning, and new firsts in life. Then as we get older, we lock ourselves into family and work routines, including the most time-compressing of all: a multi-decade period of having the same house and the same career. The years go by, but significant new experiences become more and more rare.

Mustachianism (even if you are a long way from early retirement) is thus the perfect antidote to this, because I am always encouraging you to try new things and maintain an eye towards constant optimization.

With practice, you will let go of your natural fear of failure, and start thinking of everything as an opportunity for an experiment. Or as the great Bob Ross would put it, “There are no mistakes in life, just happy accidents.”

Although you will be fighting the very core of your Human nature with this activity, it’s a fight worth picking, because you are immediately rewarded with a life that is wealthier, more satisfying, more interesting, and one that feels much longer.

To put this philosophy into practice immediately, all you need to do is start throwing some changes into your daily routine. A few ideas ranging from beginner to expert:

  • Take a different route to work than you usually do, and a different route home. Pay attention to the new experiences you have on this journey.
  • Shop at a different grocery store and get ingredients that you don’t usually get, in order to eat different meals than usual.
  • Try breaking your usual morning routine by going out for a short walk before you have your breakfast and sit down for work. (I happened to do this today, and it led to me feeling great, and my walk turned into a run, and the added energy from that led me to sit down with inspiration to write this very article for you.)
  • Find a way to meet a new person every week, or at least every month. People are the most powerful gateway to new memories and a longer, richer life.
  • Switch roles in your company, or switch to a new job.
  • Remove TV, news and social media from your daily routine or limit them each to five minutes per day. Then when you feel the inevitable pull to check in, use this as a “keystone habit” to grab your paper to-do list and start working on something from the list – even if it’s just ten push-ups, or picking up an old-fashioned paper book you are working through.
  • Move to a new apartment or house that is closer to work and to worthwhile amenities like public parks and waterfronts.
  • Start your own small business and begin building it up, embracing change and setbacks until you find something that is truly rewarding.

All of these things will shake up your life for the better, and they will restart the flow of new memories, waking your brain back up and extending your time of really being alive.

For my part, life keeps getting more varied with each passing year, and time keeps getting slower and slower. Here’s to you and I clinking our glasses together in the distant future, after several more centuries of the joyful Vampire-style youth that is early retirement.

 

In the Comments: what have your experiences been, with periods of your life where time has flown by, and others where your memories are particularly rich and detailed? And if you’re an early retiree, what has your experience been with the flow of time since you pulled the plug?

 


Selected quotes from the NY article that I liked: 

“Clocks offer at best a convenient fiction, he says. They imply that time ticks steadily, predictably forward, when our experience shows that it often does the opposite: it stretches and compresses, skips a beat and doubles back.”

“When something is new or more emotional, the amygdala seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”

  • Beth January 29, 2019, 3:19 pm

    “Over the ramparts you tossed
    The scent of your skin and some foreign flowers
    Tied to a brick, sweet as a song
    The years have been short but the days were long…”

    I have been living a pretty frugal life aboard a boat for two and a half years with my kids – I remain astonished at how incrementally they grow, almost secretly! Birthdays seem like wily spooks. I generally love the challenges of being frugal – secondhand shops and windfall apples. The longer I live like this, the less it seems possible that I could take on the school-run, after-school activities and general admin involved in a more mainstreaming life.

    Reply
    • Kerrie McLoughlin February 4, 2019, 8:23 am

      Agree with you 100% … how fun to live on a boat. We get to travel with my husband for work whenever the opp comes up because we homeschool and my 5 kids are pretty great on a city train, in Houston traffic, on Florida beaches. It’s a good life!

      Reply
  • Anonymous Post Thanks January 29, 2019, 3:21 pm

    This was a good post that resonated with me. I’ve spent most of my adult life moving around (first studying abroad, then working abroad, now settling in another country permanently in my early 30s) and looking back the last 10-15 years feel like a tremendous ‘amount’ of time, in a good way. I am just starting to settle in to a rhythm here and while I was looking at it as an unalloyed advantage, this post gives me some food for thought.

    If I can add a small one to your list: every time you go to the supermarket, buy one new thing you haven’t tried before (can’t claim credit for this one, picked it up from my old boss in college on a work trip we took together).

    Reply
  • Joseph January 29, 2019, 3:53 pm

    I totally agree with this article and will be looking forward to reading the recommended books. This kind of strikes me hard, as over 25 years ago this relates to an old story I grew up on (and ultimately fear). I’m not too sure if it was folklore, but it was told to me with good intentions. As the story goes, a boy came across an old woman in the woods one day who seemed to struggle carrying several items. The boy was kind enough to help the old woman, and upon completing their journey did the woman reveal herself to be a witch. She asked the boy what he wanted most, and the boy said “I want to be older. I want to be an adult so that the other’s won’t treat me like a child anymore.” The witch gave the boy a special crystal ball with a string. “Pull this string every time you want to grow older, and in moments, you will be aged more.” The boy was happy and took it home. Every time in his life he felt he wanted to be older or to skip a bad event or hard thing, he would pull the string and he would accelerate into a period of his life he was older. However, by the time he was an adult and and pulled the string too much, he was already an old man, married, sending his kid off to college waving him goodbye. Only then did he realize the pain of wanting to speed through life so fast. The morale of this story obviously to enjoy each and every day as if it were your last.

    I relate a lot to this story and article for this matter. My biggest fear is wanting to jump through time to get past a bad moment or arduous work day. So finding the clarity in exemplifying this lesson is important.

    Reply
  • Dharma Bum January 29, 2019, 4:07 pm

    Since retiring over a year ago, I have become increasingly sensitive to the perception of time, and how it changes significantly depending on the particular activities and pursuits I am engaged in, or circumstances that I am affected by.
    Time has truly seemed to have flown by on some days. After waking up at a sane hour (like, say, 8 am, as retirement allows me to do), making coffee and breakfast, fiddling around on the laptop a bit, brushing my teeth and showering, and then delving into a DIY project requiring skills that I am newly learning “on the job”, the next thing I know is that it’s 6pm. I only realize this because it has gotten dark, and I’m starving.
    The beauty of being immersed in a task that is challenging, gratifying, a skills improver, and interesting (not to mention actually kind of fun), practically erases the notion of the passage of time. I am virtually unaware of time until an external trigger (like hunger) snaps me out of my almost meditative state.
    So in that regard, I guess it seems as if 8 hours or so has passed in a flash.
    The rest of the evening is always fun, relaxed, and enjoyable. Knowing that I don’t have to get back into the miserable rat race the following morning is an instant stress eliminator.
    Cooking a creative, tasty, healthy dinner is a great change of pace from the day’s earlier activity, as the excitement and anticipation builds toward devouring it.
    Taking up new activities, like Yoga, has been another great pastime. On days when I combine different activities, hobbies, chores, errands, work, and leisure, the time seems to zip by.
    But here is the paradox: the faster the time seems to disappear, the more it seems to stand still!
    It is as if time no longer exists.
    I believe that this is because I no longer have any time restrictions.
    I am not under any artificially imposed time pressures.
    If it takes me a month to renovate a bathroom, so be it. 2 months? No problem.
    If I want to take s break and go skiing to Colorado for a month, I just do it.
    Everything I set out to do gets done.
    So, I guess that by no longer being restricted by time, the concept of time becomes decreasingly relevant, almost to the point of not existing any more.
    It makes for a more optimistic outlook on life, giving one the feeling that anything can be accomplished, given that there are no time restrictions or arbitrary deadlines.

    Reply
  • Adrian Doyle January 29, 2019, 5:00 pm

    I was actually just thinking about that recently. It reminds me of the movie Inception w/Leonardo DiCaprio. When he and his wife were in the drugged sleep, only a night passed by but in their minds, it was decades. And they experienced life as masters of their dream world. When they woke up, they had to reconcile their perceptions of reality.

    For me, the decade or so from college to my early 30’s felt like I lived many lifetimes because of all my new experiences. I felt the same during my 7 years in Shanghai as an expat. Now, for the past 2 years I’ve had a pretty quiet suburban lifestyle in the more residential neighborhoods of NYC (bc of personal family reasons), and I feel like life just blends together.

    Thanks for bringing up Eagleman’s books – will try to look into them.

    Or, maybe I’ll just plan my next international travel adventure and have another lifetime of experiences!

    Reply
  • Melissa Yuan-Innes January 29, 2019, 6:05 pm

    As long as I was a student, every year was distinct, including medical school and residency.

    Probably my slowest time was maternity leave, nursing, reading, writing, and making new friends. “The days are long, the years fly by.”

    Really, overwork makes you lose time more than anything. After this past summer, when I saw other FIRE bloggers take actual vacations with their families, while I barely eked out five days to go whale-watching, I said, No more. Camp MM*TO helped seal the deal. To 2019!

    Reply
  • Bill G January 29, 2019, 7:29 pm

    In 2017 we were mortgage free and a couple of years into saving our 20 year stash. But every exciting adventure we heard about finished with “just wish we’d done it ten years ago.”.
    So we decided to gamble on our ability to find work in the future and took off for Japan.
    It’s been fantastic and the last 18 months feel like a lifetime.
    We found work teaching English. It will not make you rich but it will more than cover your expenses.

    Reply
    • Mike March 31, 2019, 6:07 pm

      I had no idea that there’s a demand for this in Japan!

      Reply
  • Connor Bryant January 29, 2019, 8:05 pm

    Des Moines… that’s where I live! Great city, a lot more than meets the eye.

    Reply
  • Hanna January 29, 2019, 8:57 pm

    As soon as I turn on my computer, 2,3,6 hrs are gone in a blink. As soon as I turn off my computer: “wow! So much time this evening to read, cook, walk, or whatever I want.”

    Reply
  • theMayor January 29, 2019, 9:15 pm

    During my “working” career, I could not handle the same job or location for more than two to three years. When routine set in… I moved on. You made me realize change did slow down time for me! We are on the other side of FI with a 7 year old son. It has been wonderfully slow!

    Reply
  • Thomas R. Arneberg January 29, 2019, 9:39 pm

    I have found that time slows way down when I’m on a big adventure. I can still describe every night of a 12-day 2016 backpacking trip to Philmont with our Scout troop, or our 2017 bicycle ride where we all rode about 500 miles in 8 days. We are pretty much FI now, but have not yet RE, since I like my job. But I am hoping to take summers off from now on to get more time for adventures.

    Reply
  • Laura January 29, 2019, 9:48 pm

    A fair bit older than you, but also have a 13 year old son at home. I started 2 busineses, and am constantly on a quest to learn and *satisfy* my nearly insatiable curiosity about life, science, business, etc. Sorry, life still goes by too fast. Way too fast. Can’t agree on this one.

    Reply
  • Eugenia January 30, 2019, 12:43 am

    I really agree with this and I’ve already noticed it several years ago.
    Though I’m nowhere near financial independence, I have had so many experiences after graduating high school that the past 10 years feel like a lifetime. I lived in 4 countries, took 2 university degrees, added 2 languages to the 2 I already knew, had 10+ jobs and x volunteering experiences. And sometimes I catch myself thinking “What? I’m still 28?”
    Other times I think “Shit, I’m already 28, am I not supposed to be settled down by now?” I guess that for me, these are 2 sides of the same coin.

    Reply
  • Mr. J January 30, 2019, 5:18 am

    If I read a good book, time seems to just FLY right by. When watching a really good movie? Poof, two hours gone – just like that. Exercising? An hour goes by quickly, unless its leg day. Coding or programming for my online business? I shit you not, six hours soared right by. They say time flies when you’re having fun… dammit, I have got to stop having so much fun.

    Reply
  • Dana January 30, 2019, 7:41 am

    Nearly 23 years of marriage and 8 children later we have learned that what we choose to do with our time, talents, and money leads to making memories. As we near the next milestone of MrTB4M becoming FIRE and transitioning home with the kids, we can’t wait to see what the opportunity brings.

    Reply
  • Al Kalain January 30, 2019, 7:45 am

    Personnally, I have found that the best way to slow down time is too observe and them let go of the incessant chatter of the brain to the best of your capabilities, with the help of mindfullness meditation and other techniques for staying in the now, as mentionned in Eckart Tolle’s books for example. By paying attention to the present, anchored in the sensations ofbthe physical body, one can enjoy a slowing down and a deepening of the events of one’s life.

    Reply
  • Chris January 30, 2019, 9:13 am

    Thanks for another insightful post! Especially timely as I’m ~1/2 way through reading Dean Buonomano’s “Your Brain is a Time Machine”…
    “The human brain, he argues, is a complex system that not only tells time, but creates it; it constructs our sense of chronological movement and enables “mental time travel”—simulations of future and past events. ”
    https://goo.gl/FwGD5x

    Keep up the great posts – Cheers!

    Reply
  • Albert January 30, 2019, 10:29 am

    I’ve had this exact same experience since my early 20s… each year seemed to grow exponentially longer, in a good way. I never quite understood why other people thought time was speeding up; it was a foreign concept to me. Mustachianism probably contributed significantly in the past 2 years. Learning new things, meeting new people, gaining new experiences… then adding them to your own unique self and working to create something new with them.

    Reply
  • Jamie January 30, 2019, 10:30 am

    Definitely can relate and need to check those books out ASAP. Our son is 17 and a sophomore in college (an engineering student ironically) and because my husband and I took care of the financial parts of our lives first and didn’t have him until our mid 30’s, I was able to home school him and enjoy a “lifetime” of experiences with him so far. Sometimes I feel like the weird person in the room because our teenager actually likes to spend time with us (I think) and do things with us whether it is traveling, going to concerts or hanging out in the pool. If there is no other reason than to become debt-free, etc, it is this. Thanks again for the post. Can’t wait to read the books.

    Reply
  • David Heinrich January 30, 2019, 11:03 am

    My wife and I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006 only 5 months after getting married. You want to slow down time? Try carrying everything you need for 5 months on your back and walking over 2,000 miles together. Not only was it a springboard into the FIRE mentality (you can’t take 5-6 months off from work without having your finances in order), it gave us a whole lot of time to discuss our future lives together. Long distance backpacking puts you through so many difficult conditions, allows you to meet tons of new and interesting people, and honestly restores your faith in humanity. It was on that hike that I realized that our minds and bodies were meant to experience the world at about 3 mph (walking pace). Even 13 years after that hike, I still have random memories of our times together out on the trail flit through my mind almost every day.

    Fast forward 13 years and we have reached FIRE, our kids are getting older, and we can expose them to the wonders of long distance backpacking. If interested, you can read about our adventures here: http://www.trailjournals.com/maliadave06

    Reply
  • Lost mercian January 30, 2019, 12:12 pm

    Read somewhere that biological and chronological time are independent, one being reliant on the cumulative degeneration/misreplication of our bodies the other on our collective perception of accurate clocks. Time stands still when you leave your comfort zone, like the mad hot chilli I tried last week

    Reply
  • Taylor January 30, 2019, 2:05 pm

    For me, time slowed down after meeting my now-fiance (shout-out to Mr. B. Cronan!). He lives life at a slower pace, whereas I was a bit of a whirlwind, always so busy busy busy. When we met, he was very Mustachian (still is!), had just quit his job for the second time to go travel, and I wanted to know how I could do the same! In the past four years he’s taught me that you can do less (and spend less) and still live an amazingly happy and fulfilled life. Ultimately, I learned about this whole FIRE lifestyle, started saving and reducing, and now, in just a few short months, I’ll be quitting my job, marrying my Mustachian hero, and heading off for an extended honeymoon trip around the world – 6+ months is the plan! Looking forward to all the slow years and memories to come :)

    Thanks for the excellent post, MMM.

    Reply
  • Juli January 30, 2019, 2:06 pm

    Young kids grow so fast. I feel like seeing how fast they grow makes time feel like it is flying. Wasn’t it just yesterday that my 10 year old was a baby??? That saying “the days are long, but the years are short” really fits. You think the terrible two’s will never end, and then all of a sudden they are starting kindergarten.
    And, FIRE or not, having kids is going to make life busier than not having kids. Being busy makes the days fly by. So this point in my life, have 3 kids ages 10, 8, and 2 definitely feels like it is moving faster than my days before kids.

    Reply
  • Mobile_mainahs January 30, 2019, 2:36 pm

    My wife and I and our two little girls moved into our RV and started living full-time on the road January of 2017. I feel like we’ve been doing this for over a decade! We’ve traveled from East to West and even down to Baja Mexico with our house on wheels. We just welcomed our third and a boy into our family this December so there is some more variety to prolong the feeling of time. Every 3 months we have to learn a new area, new grocery store, new church, new library, etc. Everyday we go to sleep exhausted but fulfilled and every morning we wake up ready to truly enjoy what the day has in store. Thanks for sharing MMM! I can totally relate.

    Reply
    • Dharma Bum January 30, 2019, 3:25 pm

      New church? Just use your RV as your church.
      Whatever deity you worship, she won’t mind!

      Reply
      • Mike March 31, 2019, 6:11 pm

        I’m not sure they were looking for advice on this matter.

        Reply
  • Jeff January 30, 2019, 3:45 pm

    I heard a quote once, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end the faster it seems to go.”

    While funny it is very true figuratively and literally. I have done a few things that you have mentioned like changing my route to work, and my morning routine. It does help break the autopilot routine. I feel like sometimes I have hit the fast forward button on my life remote control like in the movie CLICK. I get these moments of clarity and wonder where huge chunks of my life went.

    Since I have been taking your advice and trying to become more conscious, live intentionally, and just be present, my life enjoyment has increased 10 fold. While it wont truly be the life I want to live and a true command of time until I can reach Financial Independence doing the little things mentioned above really help me out day to day.

    I try to take one day at a time. I don’t go for a morning walk, but I do go out and walk while I podcast in the evening. Its a great time to get inspiration and overall clarity. It gives me time to put work down and concentrate on my family. This was a great article. I know reaching FI and getting my intentional life back is going to be amazing.

    Reply
  • Anonymous January 30, 2019, 10:20 pm

    Thank you for the Bob Ross quote and for the general life optimism in general! I’m about to quit my 9-5 so I can honeymoon with my husband (we got married a few years ago) and although This would normally be a very scary situation, I believe devouring your blog over the last few months has not only given me the courage to do so, but now I’m doing it confidently! Wtf, who knew face punches and down to earth suggestions could make such a difference?

    Reply
  • HumbleGal January 31, 2019, 12:07 pm

    I definitely agree that building new memories will make the passing time feel slower, but I have personally found that changing things in life many times leads to more spending.

    For example – In the list of new things to try you mentioned going to a new grocery store. Now based on past experience I have found the cheapest and most convenient store in my area. If I go to a new one I might spend more because the new store is expensive or I don’t know the best products to buy.

    So in that respect I feel that having a fixed predictable schedule will help in planning expenditure and reaching FI faster.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 1, 2019, 11:00 am

      Perhaps.. but remember that financial independence isn’t a very useful goal in itself – it only makes your life better if it frees you up to eliminate the drudgery and stress of working “just for the money”, and replace that with something better.

      This may be irrelevant to your grocery store strategy, but I still encourage people to draw a line between “frugal and efficent” versus “cheap”. Don’t compromise on happiness and fun!

      Reply
      • HumbleGal February 1, 2019, 1:08 pm

        That does make sense. Happiness is surely the ultimate goal, Financial Independence is just a means to it.

        Reply
  • Anonymous January 31, 2019, 3:34 pm

    What a great question!

    One thing directly comes to mind. After graduating my gf and I spend 3 months back packing SE Asia, mostly Indonesia and almost 6yrs later I can pretty much recall what we did every single day for that 90 day period. That’s crazy! I can remember so much detail about that trip. Quite sure I remember more about it than I do about last week. We did so many things, saw so much. Indonesia really is a very beautiful and divers country. Traveling really is great.

    Reply
  • Polly February 1, 2019, 4:56 am

    My mum has a theory: Many people remember university as one of the most memorable periods of life. Three key components of student life are 1) Doing something you’re interested in every day, 2) Spending lots of time with your friends, and 3) Not having much money, but everyone you know being in the same situation. Therefore, the three tenenats of a good life are learning interesting new stuff, spending time with friends, and not competing on material stuff. She certainly lives this philosophy: she retired at 57, and at 70 she is learning Italian and Welsh, co-runs the local farmers’ market, plays bridge weekly, is a member of a book group, is treasurer for the local Women’s Institute, babysists the grandchildren, goes to the theatre and cinema regularly with friends, grows her own food in a suburban garden, goes to Italy annually to spend 3 weeks harvesting olives and making olive oil, and is actively engaged with both and national environmental politics.

    Reply
  • MKE February 1, 2019, 5:50 pm

    Get out of your car.

    It’s that simple. Walk places every day. Ride a bike places every day. Using human-powered locomotion practically begs for you to take new and different routes and to check things out. The library, for instance, is about a mile from my house, and I never knew which way I am going to take until it’s over. I just don’t think about it. I just decide where to turn as I go. This happens on a lot of errands. Living on a bike will improve your life in the manner this post describes.

    There is a reason our car-based culture is full of gigantic, ugly signs. You can’t pay attention to anything – can’t really see anything – when you trap yourself in a box and go way faster than your brain evolved to process.

    Cars are a form of death in so many ways. I mean, sure, cars have killed more Americans in a quick 100 years than all of our wars put together. But if you put aside the fact that people use cars to kill each other every day, drivers are also killing themselves slowly. No reason to eat right and maintain physical energy or try new foods if all you do is sit your lazy ass in a car. Might as well take the same fast route every time and get the misery over with. Then, besides ruining your physical health and emotional outlook, you are burning away tons of money.

    With the rare once-a-decade cold we just had, I used the car recently to do some errands. It was awful. I can’t believe people deliberately design their lives to be so crappy and and make the world so dangerous. For the whopping 20 minutes or so of driving, I just thought, “What is wrong with all these people? This sucks!”

    Reply
  • Married to a Swabian February 2, 2019, 5:53 am

    I agree – the more new experiences you have in a given period of time, the more you remember about it and the more time seems to slow down. Must be that our brains’ “sampling rate” increases, as we record more data!
    The time between ages 4 to about 12 seems to stretch out much longer than 8 years would now, as it is a time filled with many good memories and positive experiences. For me, though, the first two years I spent in Germany while age 24-25, were really the two best years of my life to date and filled with a ton of new experiences: people, learning a new language, met my wife, we got engaged, learned about German and other European cultures, travel and on and on.
    These two years hold many more vivid memories than, say two randomly chosen years since.

    I would posit that, like Einstein’s theory of relativity, it’s all about your frame of reference. If you’ve “seen it all”, life will seem mundane and go by quickly. As he famously said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” …the latter category is the one we Mustachians are going for. ;)

    Reply
  • Steve P. February 2, 2019, 11:08 am

    Great article MMM,
    I agree that times with the most changes are the most memorable. Although I am a creature of habit and I seem to dislike change in the moment, looking back my favorite times were when I was growing personally and excited about change.

    Thanks again, I am currently improving my life through commuting by bicycle to work, only 2 days a week for now (the other days carpooling). I just realized when I was riding to work over the summer I was breathing better and my mindset was better.

    Thanks for always promoting physical struggle. It helps me be a better human.

    Reply
  • Doug February 2, 2019, 9:20 pm

    Wow, good post with a thorough analysis by an engineer. It takes one to know one. Yes, time does appear to go by faster when you’re older because, as other commenters have said, it’s a matter of ratios. In 2 years I’ll be 60 years old and the past 10 years will have been one sixth of my life, whereas when I was 20 it was half my entire life. However, MMM is quite right in saying you need to get out and see, do, and experience more otherwise your life just zooms by fast forward on autopilot.

    So why don’t more people get out and do more? I find as many people get older they somehow believe you are “too old” to try new things. Back in my early 40s I was enjoying the fun sport of skydiving. I was still working, on a temporary assignment of course, and had 2 guys ask me what someone my age was doing skydiving. To this day I fail to see what my age has to do with how I’m affected by gravity and aerodynamics. I’ve done many other things like budget travelling staying in hostels and done a lot of fun recreational activities and seen I was a noticeably older than the average age, with only the odd exception. When you believe you’re too old, you stop doing fun things, get out of shape and can’t do as much, so it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Similarly, when you stop doing new things your brain gets rusty and declines faster also. The moral of the story is, don’t pay attention to that perception of what “everyone else” thinks, get your ass out and see, do, and experience more.

    Reply
  • Kerrie McLoughlin February 4, 2019, 8:22 am

    The decision to stay home with my 5 kids and then homeschool them almost 18 years ago has been the best decision of my life, also leading to working from home doing what I love (writing/proofreading). I, too, feel like I have been with them many more years than it’s actually been, and it’s a great feeling and we are close and they are rockin’ kids :-) No early retirement for us (we’re 47 and 52 with kids aged 9, 11, 13, 15 and 17 and just moved to our dream house on 8 acres in Peculiar, MO) but we do what we can, slowly and happily. Teaching our kids your concepts so they can have an even better life.

    Reply
    • Mike March 31, 2019, 6:22 pm

      That area of Missouri is one of my favorites. I always had wanted a piece of land around Pleasant Hill. Good for you.

      Reply
  • Katie Camel February 4, 2019, 12:03 pm

    This post explains so much! Every time I have 10 days off from work, going away somewhere always seems like such a long time, while a staycation seems to fly by. Taking a 14-hour each way, then spending 8 days doing fun and exciting things means exactly what you’re describing – breaking habits and patterns. That’s why my thoughts change on vacation too — I’m breaking away from my usual pathways around my city and the sights that trigger certain recurring thoughts aren’t around to spark those thoughts. Fascinating topic!

    Reply
  • Mr Andipendency February 4, 2019, 1:50 pm

    Spot on. This insight is what made me and my wife start to think over our life that led us to MMM and FIRE. But I think that I have a little different angle to this, but not contrary to what MMM writes. Some years ago we had an opportunity to travel around in Asia. Though early on in this 3 month adventure something happened that made it necessary to be close to good healthcare. So instead of cancelling the trip we rented a house close to a hospital and stayed there for a month. We had to be quite still in the beginning but could do some short trips. We really had to work on the restlessness but started to nurse our artistic interests. And it was great. And time went on slowly, like childhood summers. But we had fun all the time. Yes we did learn new things in the artistic area, but as well sitting around and reflecting over life. When we came back and started working again the thing I missed the most is the slow phase we had and the time to think. We went away again last year, closer this time. (More FIREly) and experienced the exact same thing. What I’m trying to say is that I want to learn new things, but it must not be that much. And reflecting and thinking is part of that. I have to add that in my work I have to learn new thinks all the time and it feels like my brain is about to explode sometimes, and time just flies anyway. Cheers.

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  • Gr8bkset February 11, 2019, 7:10 am

    I find that learning new things makes time go slower. My liberal education started after I received my engineering degree and began taking classes at the local community colleges and on the internet. I’ve taken the equivalent of associate degree in Environmental Science, Geology, History, Geography, Anthropology, Spanish and a host of other interests including Real Estate, Biology and Astronomy. I retired at 45 and make my travel an immersive experience by learning the history, culture, geography and languages of my destination. The world is full of things to learn and people to meet.

    Reply
  • C February 13, 2019, 5:28 pm

    Will have to check on those books. When I have some time. 😉 great reminder. Not FI here but making slow progress in the right direction. So much wasted time, so much wasted energy, so much wasted life. Didn’t have a clue what to do when younger, now theres gotta be a lot of catching up to do. So glad so many of you could make your FI dreams come true in time to spend your kids’ childhoods with them. I wanted that but didn’t see a way to make it happen in time. But, better now than never. I especially like the 5 min limit for email, social media etc. Such time wastes unless you must do it as part of your marketing or perhaps to keep up with close friends and family that live far away. I would toss in internet surfing, YouTube videos, unless educational and video games into this catigory to limit too. And, oh yes, hitting the snooze/sleeping in. And television. I almost forgot that. I haven’t owned a television set in years. And I love it.

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  • Anonymous February 19, 2019, 7:09 am

    Thank you!! This is something I have experienced with a flexible schedule and very free work schedule but I’ve never been able to articulate it. My husband and I spend a gluttony of time on our children and each other and we can’t imagine going back to the grind! The ultimate luxury is time and we have it and love it. Thank you for this article! Hits the nail on the head for me.

    Reply
  • Vérone February 24, 2019, 3:00 pm

    Creating memories is definitely an extraordinary way to make your life look richer, or longer – isn’t it the same ? A french writer once wrote : On est adulte quand les grandes vacances ont une fin, You are an adult when you see your summer holidays ending. As a child it feels like forever. Since retirement is far away for me, we use this simple hack : for holidays, we do something unusual at the very beginning. Never mind what. You will remember that beginning and feel that you have had soooo much time after this !

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  • Penny Pinching Ninja February 24, 2019, 6:28 pm

    This is such a powerful article. As I hit middle age and near early retirement the feeling of life passing by is ever more real. My daughter’s have grown quickly and the days fly by while working. I am hopeful for early retirement to slow everything down!

    Thanks for everything you do MMM

    Reply
  • Anonymous March 13, 2019, 8:42 am

    Your observation about novelty being memorable is true — I hadn’t thought about it in exactly that way. From my childhood, I remember transition times (grade to grade) and punctuation events (travel, special parties, interesting guests, etc.). I’m academically oriented, so college was a delight (Latin!! <3), though I lived at home and continued working through it all.

    After marriage, we lived on my husband's blue-collar income as long as possible; bought a little house; cared for my grandparents; and raised our boys. During those years, the memorable bits were 2 moves to slightly larger homes (to accommodate more people), some traumatic events and losses, and successfully creating a couple of micro businesses, one of which I'm still doing. I recently started a graduate degree and our children and families are moving closer, which is once again making time pass more memorably and delightfully. We've always had tight income, but with FI principles and getting rid of all debt, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Family, friends, travel, and learning are central for me.

    Reply
  • Chris K April 2, 2019, 6:44 pm

    Hmmm…and then there’s times when you’re not given a choice. You set one, deep intention with God, and the next thing you know, everything changes — marriage, kids, job, financial debt, health, religion, legal, house, etc. Starting from scratch with all life at once wasn’t a plan. Yet here I am (posting this lost comment to one day be a Google thread of the timeframe for the thick of it). Strangely enough I have found a greater peace as I work toward purpose. May we all sail the ship of change without quite so much at once. But if needed, may we find the courage to stand even after falling down again, and again, and again, and again.

    Reply
  • NWA-non April 11, 2019, 11:51 am

    Since I started working after my Bachelor’s degree almost 16 years ago, my job has been a “cubicle job”. In the last year or so, it has changed in the fact that I don’t have a designated cubicle any more and I travel a lot, it has remained the same in that I sit in front of a computer all day. All freaking day long. At least 12 hours a day. And I’m god awful tired about it!

    Even though I am not ready to completely retire, I think I can easily quit my current job and take up interesting, part time jobs. Be a (paid) soccer coach. A tutor. A commercial vehicle driver. Learn carpentry. Jobs that I have never had or would have if I continue on my corporate job for another decade!

    The time that I would “save” would so much benefit my family and kid. I can cook meals everyday (instead of the 1 meal I cook weekly now), I can help with homework, cleaning the house …the potential is endless.

    Reply
  • T.D. April 23, 2019, 6:41 pm

    The longest and one of the best years of my life was a year spent traveling slowly, and very cheaply, in South America, years ago. It was a slow, meandering journey with everything I owned jammed into one backpack, and no advance travel ticket purchases, no hotel reservations, no itineraries, and no real plan other than to stop everywhere that looked interesting, for as long as I wanted. It was a year of $3 hotels with shared, cold-water bathrooms, $1 plates heaped with enough Chinese food for two, Inca Cola, and overnight bus rides to save on hotels. In those days it was nothing to walk 4-hours round-trip to see a movie or go to an archaeological site or museum. I suppose the long, slow exploration, and the absolute freedom to do whatever I wanted (within reason) caused time to slow to an ideal pace.

    Reply

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