One of my biggest concerns when I left my job was how I was going to create a secure future for myself. While I’m certainly not risk averse, I didn’t want to put myself in the incredibly vulnerable situation of being broke in a foreign country. To be honest, I still worry a lot about security.

We all want to feel secure, and for many of us this means earning a reliable salary that more than covers our needs and wants. Many cultures prize money and earning power for the security that it brings.

While lack of money is a huge source of insecurity for many people, in truth money is not the only source of security in the world. Over the past few months as my income has dropped and I’ve consequently felt less secure, I’ve challenged myself to embrace other forms of security. I’d like to share them with you.

1. Knowing What You Can Do Without

The greatest gift that minimalism has given me is the ability to know that I can go without. I’ve slowly given up a lot of the things that most people say they can’t do without. I gave up my (reasonably nice) condo downtown, a lot of my furniture (some is in storage), my TV, a lot of my makeup, almost all of my books (I have a Kindle and haven’t bought anything that I once owned a hard copy of), and many of my other possessions. I’ve also given up a lot of expensive habits: take out during the week, expensive nights out at the bar, brunch and dinner out every weekend, a minor Starbucks habit. I still indulge in these things occasionally (now that I have better cash flow), but I know that I don’t *need* them.

The moments when I think wistfully about the things that I once had are astonishingly rare. What I feel is a sense of liberation. I will never again fear losing material things, because I know that I can be equally happy without them.

2. Adaptability and Flexibility

If you lost your job tomorrow, what would you do? Would you be willing to move to a much cheaper apartment/city/country?

What if you got an amazing job or life opportunity but it required you to move across the country? Would you be willing and able to turn your life upside down to take advantage of the right opportunity?

I once had to move across the country (from Vancouver to Toronto) on about 2 weeks notice because I was head-hunted for an amazing job opportunity. I was able to do this for a few reasons: firstly, because I had the support of my friends and family; secondly, because I had a life that allowed for a lot of flexibility (a.k.a being single and in my 20’s); and finally, because I was open to changes in my life plan.

While there are things that you can do to build more flexibility into your life (rent rather than own, minimize your physical possessions, be single, etc.), I think the most important part of flexibility and adaptability is opening your mind to new possibilities.

What does being open to new possibilities mean? It means operating on the assumption that something good can come from any change, and not saying “no” to something simply because it is new or unknown. Listen to your words and your inner monologue when you think or talk about making changes in your life. If they first words out of your mouth are “yes, but…” or you find yourself coming up with a million reasons why something wouldn’t work for you, you might benefit from challenging yourself to be more open to change.

If you are trying to make, or are faced with a change in your life ask yourself: how could I make this work for me? What good could come of this change, and what can I do to make the most of this opportunity? What measures can I take to successfully adapt to this new change?

Once you are open to change, you begin to see logistical problems that you can solve rather than intractable obstacles. “I can’t move; I’m in a one-year lease” becomes: “all I have to do is find someone to take over my lease.”

Being flexible and adaptable provides the security of being able to roll with, and often benefit from, the punches. Life will always be unpredictable; being good at handling change brings peace of mind that money can’t buy.

3. Friends, Family, and Community

In an emergency or stressful situation friends, family, or other community members are often better than money. Some people call this “social capital.”

There are times in life (especially if you move somewhere new) when the information and the know-how that your friends have are exactly what you need to solve your problem. Need help with a resume? You probably have a friend who is great at them. Need to know the cheapest/fastest way to get from A to B? Maybe you have a friend or acquaintance who has done it. Your community may be the greatest source of information you have – especially if you need to know how to do something in a foreign country.

Pooling resources with your friends or your community is a great way to save money, especially on items that you don’t use very often. Here are some ideas of things that you can share within your community:

Kitchen appliances (blenders, food processors, mixers, etc.)
Hair styling equipment (hot rollers, curling irons, straighteners, etc.)
Clothes and shoes (having a friend who is your size is such a blessing)
Cleaning supplies (especially vacuums)
Laundry detergent
Books and magazines

And of course everyone loves having a friend with a big truck or van! These are just a few ideas to get you started, but think creatively about the things that you can share.

Your friends, family, and community can play an important role in your safety as well. Knowing that if you go missing, someone will look for you is an important part of feeling secure when you’re in a new place. In life we will always face emergencies or tough situations, and frankly close friends and family are often a lot more useful than money. Sometimes you need someone to help you carry something, or drive you to the hospital, or help you practice for a job interview; in these cases friends and family beat money every time.

4. Self-Assurance and Capability

Self-assurance is the gift of knowing that you are an able and capable person. It’s having faith in your judgement and your ability to get things done.

To be honest, some people are born with self-assurance, but if you’re not, self-assurance can come from consistently pushing yourself outside your comfortable zone. Every time that you challenge yourself to do something that makes you a bit uncomfortable, you learn that you can survive (and even thrive in) a new experience. Going forward you will have more faith in your abilities because you will have seen what you’ve been able to accomplish and overcome in the past.

Capability is a set of skills and strategies that are highly transferable to a number of life situations. Capability includes skills like being able to quickly learn new skills, make friends, to find information, adapt to changes, overcome obstacles, create new habits, deal with logistical issues.

Think about the capabilities that you have. For example, if you’ve moved abroad before you probably know how to research a new city, find housing, learn a new language, navigate a foreign bureaucracy, access health care, make travel arrangements, make new friends, and much more. Once you learn one language it becomes easier to learn others, once you’ve built a new social circle from scratch you may feel like you can make friends anywhere.

In my opinion, my own capability is my greatest source of security. I may not have a perfect business now (who does?), but I’m investing my time and energy to learn to build an online business. Once I’ve built this business, I’ll have a ton of new skills that I can apply to any other business I build in the future. Conquering the fear and insecurity associated with running a business is an achievement that pays dividends all through one’s life.


So it may be worth asking yourself – what non-monetary forms of security do you have in your life? What can you do to build these four areas of security, and how could working on just one of these areas benefit you?

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