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I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately. It is truly amazing how much a positive mindset can make a difference. When faced with a challenge you can either approach it with defeat or as something to conquer. The mentality you have going into a situation will be a significant factor in success or failure. So, why do we let ourselves indulge in negativity?
My theory is that it is a coping mechanism. In order to get through the challenging event, we put up a defensive wall instead of embracing the challenge and the growth opportunity it presents. Bad things do happen to good people, but it’s important to distinguish the small things from the life-changing events.
One of those life-changing events happened recently when a very close family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. When faced with this news, she was obviously shocked and upset, but she never once played the “pity” card. I never heard her say, “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” I will never forget when she was sitting on the couch surrounded by family only a day or so after surgery and tears began to stream down her face. She wasn’t complaining or intentionally crying, it was just her body’s reaction to the pain. She is the strongest person that I know, and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about that moment and her remarkable strength. Her positive mindset and strength have helped immensely during her diagnosis and recovery. This family member also has a fun-loving personality and does everything she can to enjoy life. I’ve learned a few lessons in joy from her over the years.
Finding joy was a prevalent theme in a book I just read called “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. I really enjoyed the book and it emphasized positive energy in leadership and life. I recommend this book to anyone, particularly if you sometimes find yourself with a negative mindset. So, why am I talking so much about mindset when this is supposed to be a personal finance blog? It’s all related – mindset, career, family, joy, lifestyle, and money. We all have decisions we face every day that often involve money as a trade-off.
We need money to provide for our families, yet money is often obtained through jobs, which take time away from our families. Our lifestyles may be enhanced or negatively impacted by money or lack thereof. The truth is that money can’t buy happiness, but accumulating wealth does allow for some flexibility and freedom in life. Your mindset when you think about money can also translate to your success or failure at saving and ultimately achieving financial freedom. If you approach saving as a chore and money as a negative, you’ll likely have a harder time saving each month. Conversely, if you think of saving as a positive thing due to the freedom it provides, or as an opportunity to go on vacation, you’ll be much more likely to make it a priority.
Your money mindset will ultimately translate to your actions. You may think, “I’ll never be able to save enough, so I might as well spend everything I have;” alternatively, you could think positively about your finances, such as, “I just saved $2 on the cereal we buy each week, so there’s another $2 I can invest for my future.” (Notice how I didn’t say, ‘’we just saved $2 on this thing we didn’t actually need,” because that’s not saving, that’s really just spending). Another common approach people struggle with may be to not think through purchases and just hope you have enough money in your checking account to cover your spending. This approach is likely the least effective given that you could end up in debt, likely high interest credit card debt.
So, how can you get into a positive mindset about money? Here are 5 steps to consider:
- Start by making a list of all of the benefits savings would provide. Whether it’s your peace of mind for unexpected costs, a vacation, education, retirement, or anything else – write it down!
- Set a goal. For example, make a goal to save 3 months of income so you can cover unexpected items or events, such as losing your job. When you set your goal, make sure it’s achievable and measurable. Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself, but remember to be realistic.
- Create a plan to achieve your goal. Let’s say your income is $3,000/month and you are working to save that 3 months of income; that’s $9,000. Work backwards to set your monthly target savings. If it’s reasonable to save $300/month, it will take you 30 months to reach your goal. If you think you can save more or less, adjust your savings or time until you map out a plan that makes sense for you.
- Take steps to execute your plan. Remember, it won’t be a smooth ride; there will be bumps along the way. Stay focused on your goal, and the savings will follow.
- Have fun with it! Turn your savings goals into a game, or set up a competition with a friend. We decided to engage in a friendly spending challenge ourselves – check it out here .
No matter where you are in life, it’s never too late to revisit your mindset. How you approach your personal finances will directly translate to your success in achieving financial freedom!