There have been many, many times over the past several years when I have felt completely overwhelmed by the huge gap between where I am right now and where I want to be.
My big dream is to reach true financial independence. By that, I mean that I have enough money socked away in relatively stable investments so that the income from those investments provides me with enough for my family to live on regardless of whether I’m actually earning income.
Why is that my goal? It’s not so that I can sit idle. It’s so that I have the freedom to take giant personal risks, like spending several months doing nothing but perfecting a novel or spending a bunch of time laying the groundwork for a charity or campaigning full-time for a political position without having to worry about the downside of failure.
There are moments – and those moments are surprisingly frequent – where that goal simply seems impossible. It feels like an absolute pipe dream. I tell myself that it’s something that I will never, ever achieve.
I feel overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the goal. I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of little steps that it will take to get there.
In those moments, I’m sorely tempted to just toss the goal aside, forget about it, and live solely for today. It is very, very, very easy to just believe that “future me” will take care of my future and that I have no responsibility for it.
I felt that way today. As positive as my financial progress has been over the last several years, I sat here running through the numbers on my spreadsheet and I felt almost hopeless. The path to where I want to be is a very long one, even beyond the successes I’ve already had in terms of turning my financial life around.
It feels enormous, and I almost feel overwhelmed.
For me, the way out of this is to go back to the very basics.
First of all, I look at what I already have achieved. I can achieve things – big things. I built The Simple Dollar out of nothing at all. I turned my financial life around, moving from being scared to open the mailbox to debt freedom and mortgage-free home ownership. We have a healthy amount of money in the bank and in various investments. We’re in very good shape.
Second, I look at why I want more. Why do I want more than this? I think about Sarah. I think about my children. I think about the things I want to leave behind that will continue to improve the lives of others, even after I’m gone. All that I want to achieve in life centers around those things.
Finally, I look at today. Nothing matters more than today. Can I finish off today with a run of good choices? Doing that makes my financial situation at the end of today better than it was at the start of the day.
It’s hard to do that sometimes, especially when everything feels overwhelming, but it’s the key. If you can go to bed that night knowing you did everything right today, you’re going to go to bed happy. Do it again the next day, and the day after that, and you’ll really have something.
If you feel overwhelmed by your goals, look at what you’ve already achieved. Look at why you’re striving for something more. Then, just focus on today. Get that momentum back and, before long, that sense of being overwhelmed will fall away.