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Ah to be young and idealistic – with the whole world in front of you and nothing holding you back. Or to be older and more pragmatic- with knowledge of how the world works and bills to pay. Pragmatic vs idealistic is an internal struggle for everyone, myself included.
At heart, I’m a young idealist who dreams of a life of adventure, excitement, and exploration. But my brain is an old pragmatic soul, obsessed with being responsible and ensuring the security of our future self. I’ve been working to find a balance – Does pragmatic vs idealistic have to be a winner take all fight to the death? Can we have both?
Pragmatic Vs Idealistic
Trying to find a balance between opposing characteristics is tough. Pragmatism is being realistic and doing what needs to be done, while idealism is being a dreamer and doing whatever you want. They are opposite ends of the spectrum, but I think most people can relate to wanting both. Everyone wants to do their own thing, on some level, but most of us are practical enough to realize it isn’t always possible.
I’d venture to guess that most people live in the real world of pragmatism. We can’t do what we want because we have responsibilities: bills to pay, kids to feed, work that needs to be done. Sometimes we feel trapped in the insidious work culture that tells us we have to do these things or we are a bad person. But more often than not, we get stuck in the middle class trap because wages are stagnant, and if we don’t do these things, we won’t be able to survive.
Idealism is the opposite. It’s all about living your dream life, with no worries about how bills will get paid or where you will live. Go climb that mountain, travel the world, open a business, create art – the world is your oyster! You’ll get by, things always work themselves out. As much as I abhor the nine to five slog, I’m not idealistic enough to believe that things will just work themselves out if I quit without a plan. Pragmatism wins round one.
Finding Balance Between Pragmatism and Idealism
The truth is that I want to be idealistic. I want to hike mountains, ride my bike through deserted highways, and live each day to the fullest. But the pragmatic vs idealistic struggle in me is real. I can’t do those things because I’m too pragmatic. I value my own financial stability and I feel a sense of responsibility towards my work and my word. As much as I want to quit everything and start my dream life, I know it’s a bad idea.
That doesn’t mean I’m resigned to live a life of boring misery though – and neither are you! There’s a way to balance your life so that your pragmatic side and your idealistic side can live in harmony.
Enter Financial Independence
Seeking financial independence is my way of striking a balance with the pragmatism vs idealism dichotomy that I struggle with inside myself. The pragmatic in me would be happy to let loose and live a life of adventure if I knew my basic needs would be taken care of. The idealist in me struggles everyday while we strive for it (and sometimes wins by booking random trips to exotic locales) but she is generally held at bay just from knowing that her time is coming.
Financial Independence can give people the opportunity to pursue their ideal lives. It will give you a safety net to fall back on in case the idealism doesn’t work out. Of course, we all hope it will, but we still have to be a bit realistic (we’re pragmatics after all). As Americans, we don’t have anything else. And honestly, I think that’s a huge problem in our society.
Why We Should Embrace Idealism
I know its not practical, but I think we as a society should embrace idealism far more than we embrace pragmatism. Pragmatism never wrote tales of intrigue, never painted grand masterpieces, and never discovered new worlds. Pragmatism is safe. It gets done what needs to be done, but lacks imagination and innovation.
Idealism is what changes the world. The irony is that most of us don’t have the freedom to pursue it. I fully acknowledge the privilege that I have that allows me the opportunity to even consider giving up everything and pursing my ideal life. Millions of Americans don’t have those same opportunities, and I think that’s a huge limitation.
We should find ways to give everyone the opportunity to pursue their idealistic dreams. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone had the opportunity to pursue the things that they are passionate about? We’d see beautiful works of art, new innovations in clean energy and information technology, and more people helping those less fortunate. Maybe my idealism is showing in even imagining such a world…but I digress.
Back to the Balancing Act
We have to live in the world the way it is now. We have to be pragmatic, because we don’t have a lot of other options. It’s either live in reality or struggle for survival. Although I admire those who chose to struggle in order to achieve their dreams, I just can’t do it. The need for security is just too strong. But there are ways to find balance along the way.
I dedicate most of my time to working my full-time job – which pays the bills. It sucks, but it’s responsible. But I dedicate a ton of my free time to my idealistic dreams. I maintain my blog, create art, design t-shirts, and plan out my path to freedom. I dedicate a few weeks per year to travel (it’s not nearly enough to satisfy my adventurous side, but it will do for now). Dedicating my free time to these pursuits is a sacrifice I’m willing to make, and not only because I hope to monetize them one day. They are things that I will continue to do when I achieve financial independence – they are a part of my ideal life that I can engage in now.
What parts of your ideal life can you engage in now? I’m sure there are things that you would focus on, if you had more free time. Why not start now? It will make the pragmatism much more bearable.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.