There was a time about eight years ago when I woke up thinking about the possessions I had and the money I was earning. I was a collector of stuff and I was immensely proud of the money I was earning. Not only did I want lots of stuff for my own enjoyment, I also wanted to flaunt it to a certain extent.
Over time, though, I began to realize that something was missing in my life. There were things that I wanted in my life that were drifting farther and farther away from me.
I wanted the freedom to write for a living because I deeply enjoy the written word.
I wanted a strong relationship with my wife.
I wanted a strong relationship with my children and to raise them into a self-reliant and curiosity-filled adulthood.
I wanted time to read and enjoy books – not to collect them, but to read and enjoy them.
I wanted to build a close circle of friends that would stick with me through thick and thin (as I would stick with them).
My life was focused heavily on my income and possessions, but it really felt empty after a while.
Eventually, after I realized that I really needed to turn my financial situation around, I began to really focus on the things above as the center of my life. Each of them – along with another focus or two that I’ve added since then – pushes me to build a great life that I enjoy without spending money.
Writing only requires a computer and trips to the library to do research.
A relationship with my wife requires just time and attention, as does a relationship with my children.
Reading just requires time, along with those aforementioned trips to the library.
A close circle of friends mostly just requires time and attention.
Better health (a newer focus) requires time to exercise and attention to the foods I eat.
There’s no significant money being spent on any of these things, yet they fill up the vast majority of my time and attention. These are the components of a life that I’m happy leading.
For me, a major key to financial success was simply taking stock of my life and figuring out what I wanted most from it. When you’re not doing that, it’s easy to get distracted by the constant hum of consumerism that fills life in the United States, from the advertisements to the product placement within programs, from the social influences to the pressure to be seen as affluent.
Take some time to step back and ask yourself what’s genuinely important to you. What really matters in your life? Step back from the things you invest your time, money, and energy into and focus instead on maximizing those things that matter most to you.
You might find that financial success comes easier than you think.