Six years ago today, I wrote that in my personal journal.
It was the first sign that I was able to find that there was some level of serious unhappiness with my career, my financial state, and my spending choices.
Over the next two years, I spent a lot of my time – and a lot of my money – chasing things. I would throw myself into something I had discovered, toss a lot of money (and often a lot of time) at it, and then discover that it really didn’t bring me much happiness at all.
So I’d chase something else with my money and with my time.
Golf. Video games. Gadgets. Alcohol. Trading cards. Sports equipment. Audio equipment. Piles of new books. DVDs. Trips.
The list goes on and on.
I wanted something, but I didn’t know what it was.
It turns out, after digging myself into an even larger debt hole, that the very thing I was searching for was a simpler life, one with fewer debt responsibilities and with more career and personal freedom.
Many readers of The Simple Dollar stumble across this site because they’re in that very situation. They’re drowning in debt. They’ve got a job that they have to keep, putting them completely at the mercy of their boss. They’re unhappy with how things are, so they find themselves leaping from thing to thing, throwing money into fleeting interests. I see it over and over again in the emails I receive.
Here’s the solution. Sit down and figure out where you want your life to be in five years. Sketch it out in detail. Specify the things you really want from your life in that period. Focus on the core things that you truly want when you think about where you want your life to be in the future.
When you’ve set down those key things on paper, let everything else go (unless it’s a required responsibility). Stop spending money on things that don’t bring you closer to that goal. Every time you spend a dollar, look at it in terms of that big picture you want.
Nothing else matters.
When you start putting that kind of attitude front and central in your life, it becomes much easier to do things that might otherwise seem difficult. Instead of just jumping from thing to thing and feeling a lot of stress and unhappiness about the state of things in your life, you begin to feel a unity in your work, your financial choices, and your personal choices.
It took me two years to really figure this out, and it took a few more to really bring it to fruition.
But when I compare my life now to the way it was then, I can’t believe how far I’ve come. I don’t really care about – or even remember most of – the things that seemed so important to me at the time. Instead, as I began to really figure out what my real goals were – what I really wanted in life – and put those goals front and center in every aspect of my life, all of the distractions and unnecessary spending just melted away.
Start today. Spend an hour thinking about exactly how you want your life to be in five years. Focus on the things that actually bring you happiness. Break it down to the real key elements, the biggest things that you’d like to have in your life then.
Then put those things at the center of your life and discard everything else. It’s surprisingly easy to do it if you sit down and start.