Does other people’s success ever stop you from achieving your goals? We were reminded the other day of a time when we let this happen to us. It all started with a post over at Out of Your Rut. Kevin wrote an article about the dangers of The Brady Bunch, and the memories came flooding back. It was 2012, and we were in the throes of realizing that we were in way too deep concerning our debt. But of course, that didn’t stop us from buying seasons 1 and 2 of The Brady Bunch for the kids. We’re always looking for “healthy” TV shows for the kids; ones with not too much violence, illicit encounters or other garbage that don’t do much good for either kids or adults.
However, the Brady Bunch didn’t do too much good for me, either. The Brady family left me feeling like quite the failure with their perfect hair, perfect house, perfect clothing (well, perfect for the 70’s, anyway) and stable finances. I would’ve loved to go to bed perfectly coifed like Carol Brady, complete with stunningly modest nightgown and high heels, but frankly, we were having trouble paying the bills, and I’m not sure Rick would’ve felt much more for that nightgown other than “What the he___ are you doing spending money on that? Take it back and go back to wearing my old, torn-up t-shirts, da**it! We just can’t afford this!” After watching a few episodes of the perfect TV family, we were once again convinced that we shouldn’t bother trying to work toward financial freedom.
Often times too, in the world of personal finance, those little voices in our own heads use the stories of personal finance success, lives of early retirement and the joys of traveling around the world, instead of motivating us, to discourage us. We read stories of great financial success, we look at our own situation, and we just want to give up. Our dreams of freedom from debt and financial independence seem completely unachievable, so we don’t even bother to try.
You probably know by now that the road to financial independence is even more of a mental battle than it is a money battle. So, how do we work on achieving our dreams of financial freedom with those little monsters of doubt running to and fro? Here are some tips for staying strong as you work on achieving your goals:
1. Get tunnel-visioned. Focus on the day, the hour, the minute or the decision that faces you right now. Focus on making dinner based on what you have in the house today and fight that urge to order pizza. Then, congratulate yourself on the victory. Focus on paying off that one small credit card bill, and don’t worry about/focus on the rest.
2. Change your perspective. Instead of focusing on how dire your financial situation is, spend some time imagining how much better things will be a year, or two, or five from now if you stick with your plan. Make a list of what you’ll do with all of that extra money once the debt is gone. Work to see yourself as the conqueror instead of the defender. Work to see yourself as the attacker instead of the attacked.
3. Count your wins. Write them down – every one. Write down every time you’ve said “no” to your wants and how much you saved by doing it. Write down every time you made dinner at home instead of going out, and how much you saved by doing it. Write down every time you had to buy a need and saved money by buying on sale or used instead of paying full price, and how much money you saved by doing it. Each time you use a new money habit instead of an old, unhealthy one, document it, celebrate it, and count it as a win.
Last night we were watching The Middle. Those of you who’ve seen that program might argue that it doesn’t exactly fit in line with our purist TV viewing preferences, and you would be right. The parents on The Middle are far from perfect, and the dysfunctional, awkward kids in the family often leave us cringing. But as I compared it to the Brady Bunch, I realized one very important thing that puts The Middle far above the Brady Bunch on the “good TV” scale. The characters on The Middle are REAL. They fail, often miserably. But at the end of the day, they chalk it up to experience, commit to do better next time, while at the same time accepting the way things are. And most of all, they love each other.
On your walk toward financial freedom, no matter how long it takes, remember that what’s important is not that you are “there” but that you are “getting there”, no matter how long it might take. You might not have achieved your goals – yet – but you are achieving your goals. Give yourself credit where credit is due, forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made, and keep on keepin’ on.