Straight to the Point
- This is not new age hippy nonsense.
- Discovering my Stone of Life has helped me be happier.
- It’s not for everyone, but it can be when the time is right.
Not Another Book Review
Please excuse the hippy new age title. Just bear with me. This is not meant to be a book review, but I’ve read The Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steve Peters and discovered the concept called “The Stone of Life”. It was recommended to me by a Chief Superintendent (someone very senior). I thought if it adds value to someone at his level then surely there must be something in there for me. If you’re familiar with these ideas, then it might not come across as groundbreaking or new but it resonated with me. The author has done an excellent job in explaining complicated and abstract ideas in a simple and engaging way. I recommend this book.
It has really helped me and I expect it to continue to serve me well beyond FI. It might not be for everyone, but I am sharing this in case it helps someone.
“The person that you want to be is the person that you really are.” – Prof. Steve Peters, The Chimp Paradox
The Stone of Life provides a reference point, a guiding beacon if you like. It helps us navigate life and find our way again when we lose ourselves. There are three parts to it:
- Life Force
Over the years, I have slowly grown quite pessimistic about human nature because of what I do for a living. Talking to bad people, seeing the harm done by bad people, chasing after bad people day in, day out has taken its toll on me and my view of the world. It’s almost like I see the world through a murky piece of glass; always cynical of peoples’ motives no matter how good their intentions might be.
The Stone of Life has allowed me to see things differently, be happier and provided me with a real focus on why financial independence is so important to me. It goes hand-in-hand with determining ‘your why’.
Truths of life are how we see the world. They are true to us and is based on reality. As much as we may disagree with or dislike these truths, the sooner we recognise and learn to accept them, the happier we will be.
Here are my truths:
- Life is unfair
- Change is inevitable
- Bad people exist
Life is Unfair
I’ve always known this was the case, but I struggled to accept it. Being a BAME Officer (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), I used to actively avoid opportunities such as conferences, extra training and coaching which were specifically targetted towards us as part of ‘positive action’ initiatives. Whilst I recognised its aim was to promote equality, I still felt a sense of unfairness that my non-BAME officers were not offered these same opportunities.
Life is unfair. I’ve learnt that I should not hinder my own development by holding onto what I now see to be idealistic views of how the world should work. We’ve all had certain opportunities not afforded to others. Carrying any guilt due to certain ‘privileges’ is unhealthy. It’s about making the most of opportunities in a way which preserves my integrity and not step on top of others to advance my own goals. But if it were to happen to me? Oh well. Move forward. Learn. You won’t catch me dwelling in self-pity.
Going through life worrying about how I am perceived and constantly trying to prove that my achievements are based on merit alone is draining. Truly accepting that life is unfair when good or bad things happen has been one of the most liberating things.
Change is Inevitable
It sounds very cliché, but nothing is guaranteed. Things change. People change. Feelings change. The world itself is changing. Holding onto the notion that things remain constant can only lead to disappointment. The Mrs CC today is not the same person that I first met. She has changed in different ways. We both have.
Why do you think it’s always such a pain to go through any sort of change implementation at work? People hate change. Even when change is for the better, people tend to still avoid it.
One of the biggest change for me has been the arrival of my first born. That was wake up call. No amount of reading, warnings from friends and family or Youtube videos could have prepared us for what was to come. Being a parent is both one of the most rewarding and exhausting things I have ever done. With baby number two arriving next month, change is afoot again. I am excited and looking forward to embracing this new change.
Looking forward to my FI date and my transition towards potentially leaving full-time work, that is one change I am a little apprehensive about. There is, of course, the financial worry – will I run out of money? There is the worry of regret – will regret my decision if I leave and also regret it if I don’t? There is the worry of purpose – will my plans provide me with enough meaning in life?
Some change is deliberate and self-inflicted (children and FI/RE), whilst others can be imposed (divorce and redundancy). In either case, accepting that change is inevitable is an important step to help me adapt and grow.
Bad People Exist
This might seem odd given my vocation. I currently work in a department which deals with serious crimes. Some of the worst of society are dealt with by us. I need this Truth. Without it, I will constantly question why people do such bad things to other other human beings. If this Truth was not part of my Stone of Life, then I would not be able to do what I do. Although sounding negative, this Truth is actually a positive thing for me. This is because when I do encounter such evil people, I accept that this is the real world and I remember that there are also good people as well.
Values are our core beliefs. They are the rules by which we live our lives. They are our principles and differ from truths as they are judgement calls and are not universally agreed. It is based on what we subjectively care most about in life.
Here are my values:
- My family comes first.
- My work is meaningful.
- My promises are kept
My Family Comes First
This will make me sound like a right dick, but one of the reasons my previous relationship broke down was because I valued my work more than my partner. In fact, I made it quite clear and told her so. My work was the most important thing to me. This was because I knew I could rely on it, or so I thought.
I haven’t got a good reason for why it took me so long to realise this value of mine. Maybe because I confused the enjoyment I get from work with thinking it was my source of happiness. Since I’ve started setting this as my cornerstone of values, it has helped to guide my decisions and made life so much easier. I no longer ponder, worry, dwell and stress over certain decisions. I just ask myself: “Is this decision going to still make my family a priority?” If the answer is no, then I immediately know what I should or shouldn’t do.
Here’s an example. I was recently offered an opportunity to be an Acting Inspector. It was an incredible opportunity to advance my career and boost my earnings. I turned it down. It would have negatively affected my family. It meant commuting more and less time with them. The value made the decision a no brainer for me. For some people, such a decision may create a dilemma and perhaps even a sense of regret or resentment in turning down such an opportunity. It wasn’t like that for me. How quickly and decisively I made the decision surprised even my colleagues and managers. It was easy.
My Work is Meaningful
One of the main reasons why I didn’t pursue a career in finance was because I wanted something more. Policing allows me to feel like my work is worthwhile, even when all my hard work is undone when a jury refuses to convict someone who is clearly guilty, or a Judge gives someone a slap on the wrist for a heinous crime. When this happens, I simply refer to my first truth: ‘life is unfair’ and not let it wear me down.
This is not to say those who work in finance or any other type of work is meaningless. Perhaps I was drawn to this because I didn’t want to accept that life was unfair and needed to do what I can and in my small way to right any injustices.
Once FI, if I decide to leave Policing altogether, this value will help steer me in the right direction as I find a new vocation in life.
My Promises are Kept
Even as a child, I’ve always been known as someone who keeps my word. I do what I say. I remember being let down by my parents. In my mind, it feels like I was let down more often than in reality. They would make promises to me only for me to be disappointed when they forget or fail to follow through, sometimes without explanation. I don’t hold this against them. They worked extremely hard and made immense sacrifices to provide for us. They were and still are the best parents I could ask for. But I remember how I felt every time I was let down.
From a very young age, I vividly remember saying to myself, I will not make others feel the way I was feeling then. Promises should be kept. They should not be made likely. If they are broken, then they must be explained.
As a father, when I say to my son we are going to do something, or that I will give him something I do everything in my power to fulfil it.
What is my reason for living? For some, life is a chore: work, eat, sleep and repeat. If asked, these people would not say that these are their reasons for living. In answering this question, it has provided me with clarity and purpose.
The book explains this by asking for you to imagine you’re on your death bed. In the final minute left of your life, your grandchild asks you: “what should I do with my life?”.
What would your answer be? Really think about this. Write it down in 50 words or less. The answer you provide is how you should be striving to live right now.
For me, it is:
“Treasure real connections. Prioritise family. Be a life-long learner. Seek adventure. Add value to society. Don’t be wasteful. Spread kindness. Worry less. Avoid being too hard on others, especially yourself. Be grateful. Try not to regret. Time is precious. Find, foster and follow your passions. Live intentionally. Live meaningfully. Love.”
I am not perfect and as hard as I may try, there may come a time when my family will be disappointed. My Stone of Life will be there to get me back on track.
What’s your Stone of Life?