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How to Pursue Financial Freedom in a Healthy Way

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“You become what you think about all day long.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This little financial blog turned 1 month old this week.  Sitting down and writing two posts per week has afford me the opportunity to do a ton of soul searching.

I didn’t expect to do so much self-reflection but, it’s been a pleasant side-effect to allowing my creative brain to function again.

Pursing a debt-free, and now financially free life has been a passion of mine for a few years.  Some days… mainly bad days at work leave me day dreaming about financial freedom.

Thoughts of a being financially independent fill my mind and I drift off into a semi-conscious la-la-land.

It wasn’t until today that I started to wonder if my passion, or… obsession was actually robbing me of life’s little treasures.

Happy Sad ManSelf-reflection done right

It took a lot of negative self-reflection and acceptance to allow us to break out of consumer debt.  We had poor habits, those poor habits led to poor financial decisions and POOF, we had a shit-ton of debt.

Back then focusing on our negative behavior was necessary.  We had to change, and thankfully we did.

Now that we are out of debt, I still find myself dabbling in negative self-reflection.  Stressing over stupid financial decisions, or worrying if I’m worrying too much…  Did you know people actually do that?  We worry about worrying that we might be worrying too much… What. The. Fu…

Chasing financial freedom is a marathon and it requires years of focus and discipline.  Along the way mistakes are going to happen… You’re human and it’s a long road, but kicking your own emotional ass isn’t going to help anything.

I’ve found that self-reflection, if completed in a healthy way can be therapeutic.

Focus on what you’ve done right.  Where have you won today, this week or even this year?  Yes, maybe we’ve made a few mistakes this year.  Maybe we spent a bit too much on sushi from time to time.

We’ve also kicked some major ass this year.  Our net-worth has more than doubled and we are now debt-free.  Perhaps spending too much on sushi from time to time isn’t that big of a deal?

Self-reflection should also be a timed event.  Allowing yourself too much time to sit and dissect every little decision can lead to negative self-talk.  Set a time limit to any period of reflection, be intentional.

Maybe it’s 10 or 30 minutes, but set a limit.  Don’t allow your brain too much time to take you down the “what if” rabbit hole.  It’s dark and filled with anxiety.

men arm wrestlingMy financial life isn’t equal to your financial life

I hate social media.  Honestly, I hate it.  I find myself using it a lot now that I have this blog and I have to be intentional with my time navigating this digital disaster.

When perusing social media I try very hard to keep my focus on only the financial independence community but, one little slip up and I’m diving head first down the “why don’t I have that yet” rabbit hole.

Social media creates a false narrative to someone’s life.  People only post the coolest, most entertaining parts of their day online.  It’s not often someone logs onto Instagram to toss up a photo of their vacuum cleaner…

The same things applies with finances.  What I’ve achieved and what Mr. Money Mustache has achieved aren’t comparable.  Not because he’s better than me, but because he’s light years ahead of where I am.  By comparing myself to him, I’m belittling my own achievements.

Don’t ever believe that there isn’t someone out there wishing they were in YOUR financial position.  If you’ve got $100,000 in debt, there’s someone with $150,000 looking at you with envy.  If you’re upset because your net worth is “only” $20,000, there is someone out there dreaming about the day they break out of the red.

Stop negatively comparing yourself to someone else’s story.  Just because they’re where you WANT to be, doesn’t mean they weren’t ever where you’re at RIGHT NOW.  Use their success as motivation and use your success to help others.

 burning matchDeprivation is the devil

I think pursuing financial freedom is a lot like dieting.  When dieting you set a goal and you focus your energy on achieving that goal as fast as possible.  Maybe you want to lose 10lbs so, you decide that carbs or calories are the enemy.  An extreme diet typically leads to fast and unsustainable results.

In my opinion, financial freedom is extremely similar.  Some of the posts I see on social media worry me.  There appears to be a ton of deprivation in this community.  It’s almost celebrated.

A few weeks back a lady posted on Instagram that she was over on her grocery budget but, totally out of food… For 3 days!!  People were pleading with her to use some of her savings to go buy a few groceries but, she didn’t appear interested. It’s possible she was totally full of shit and just seeking attention but… still…

I have no faith that person will maintain that lifestyle and achieve their financial goals.  Actually… they haven’t posted in a while (concerned face)

A financial diet based around deprivation will lead to some wild behavior.  Maybe when you do break down it’s on a $2,000 flat screen, or worse yet… a brand new car!

The emotional instability that follows deprivation is something to fear.  Allow yourself an opportunity for a sliver of normalcy.

By allowing some leeway in your budget you’re paving a path that can be followed for years, and remember… financial independence is a marathon, not a crash diet.

Focused manPassion vs Obsession

This part is especially important for me.  I know I have an obsessive personality and I can mask some of my obsessive tendencies under the false flag of passion.

I have another hobby that I greatly enjoy besides personal finance.  That hobby used to consume my thoughts because I was not able to achieve the goals I continued to set for myself.

The thought of never achieving a goal made me miserable.  The “passion” I had was an obsession and it wasn’t healthy.  The same thing can apply for any of your goals.

I absolutely love talking about finances, looking at budgets, and engaging in anything pertaining to financial freedom.  I’m a gigantic nerd and I love it.

Does that mean I’m obsessed?  It can be difficult to distinguish obsession from passion because they are so closely related.

I’m a firm believe that being passionate is a great thing.  There isn’t a damn thing wrong with wanting to achieve a goal, or to be the absolutely best at something.

If that goal is difficult, that passion is going to act as the fuel to get you through the tedious moments. It’s going to continue to drive you when others would quit.

If while pursing that goal you find yourself falling into a pit of misery, unable to control your thoughts or prioritizing the “passion” over other important activities in your life, you’re obsessed and need to take a step back.

Complete some of that self-reflection we talked about earlier.  Recognize that you might be heading down a dark road and check yourself.  Passion is wonderful but, don’t let obsession be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Final Thoughts

The pursuit of financial freedom is a long, long road.  Unless you’ve come into a tremendous amount of money, it’s probably going to take you years to cross the financial finish line.

Dive head first into your pursuit of financial freedom.  Pursue it with all of your heart but, do it in a healthy way.  Don’t let the pursuit of your financial goals consume your entire life.

If and when my wife and I walk across that financial finish line, I don’t want to look back and realize that I missed out on the previous 5+ years of my life.

1 Comment

  1. Moderation is a healthy approach to most things. It helps to balance things and promote the self-awareness needed to distinguish between passion and obsession.

    I’ve binged on social media to promote my blog as well in the past couple of months. I don’t really get stranded comparing myself to others because I don’t really care what new car someone got or designer handbag someone splurged on. I value setting a higher baseline of happiness for myself and I find by practicing gratitude for the things I’ve achieved, the wealth I’ve accumulated, the friends I’ve made, or the ideas I’ve had the luck to discover, my baseline for happiness elevates.

    Sure, I stumble along the way, but I try to remind myself how gratefulness leads to happiness. Life has its setbacks. They’re largely unavoidable. As long as I’ve got a good plan in place and I’m looking to improve myself, the short-term noise becomes less of a factor.

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