There’s a Spanish proverb which says ‘self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement’. We can’t start to improve until we know ourselves. As mentioned in other posts, since we retired, Martin and I have both received interest and questions from people ages 20 to 60 wanting to know how we pulled this off. As you read my posts, you’ll see this inquiry answered in greater depth, which, I hope will enable you to move forward with your plan to retire or retire early, depending on where you’re currently situated in life.
Over the years I’ve met many who started out with good intentions to budget, pay off debt and save more. Making a budget is the easy part. Today there are all kinds of computer programs to help you set up a budget. I started out years ago using paper and pencil then graduated to Microsoft Money. Now, there are sites like mint.com to help you keep track of your spending. Whatever you use to set up your budget, know this. Coming up with a budget is the easy part; sticking to it takes WORK! But, that’s another post. Today, I want to talk about what I call ‘the hole in the soul’.
When I talk about the hole in the soul, I’m not talking about going to church, although going to church certainly may help. I’m talking about a life situation, which causes you to spend unnecessarily. Some of us are stress spenders. The more stressed we become, the more our particular button is pushed, the more we spend on things we don’t really need. Instead of addressing our stressor and resolving the issue, we avoid our inner discord and spend money to make ourselves feel better. As you read this, keep in mind, masking our stressor with purchases isn’t usually a conscious decision. So, my question for you is do you have such a stress point? Do you have the hole in the soul? Now, understand, not everyone prevents themselves from being successful with a budget or saving more or carrying less debt because of the hole in the soul. I’m just saying, it’s been my experience, my observation that quite often there is a stress point. So, what I’m asking you to do is take a good, hard look at yourself and your buying habits and honestly assess whether or not you have a particular stressor, which is preventing you from being financially successful.
Most often the hole in the soul is centered around relationships or the lack thereof or life regrets. If you have such an issue, which carries tremendous emotional weight, until it’s addressed and resolved, it’s very difficult to focus on financial health. Some people can soldier through and accomplish their financial goals anyway. But, they are the exception. You may even have a hole in the soul because of your relationship with yourself. That was my particular hole in the soul. I never took time for myself without guilt being attached to it. I’d dance as fast as I could at work, at home, in the community. I thought I could be super woman. It wasn’t until I almost went down in flames that I recognized why I held this misconception about myself. In fact, this is when I coined the term, ‘the hole in the soul’. The lesson I learned was…if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone else, least of all you. When I learned to put my own oxygen mask on first and realized it wasn’t being selfish, then I was ready to save instead of spend.
I once read that top CEO’s only make the “right” decision 10% of the time! The trait which put them at the top of their game was their willingness to correct and change course. We often think we are stuck in life circumstances with no alternatives. Or, worse yet, we’ve put our lives on automatic pilot and just keep flying along without taking the controls back to manual. So, if you have a hole in the soul, plug it. See a counselor, if necessary. Have a heart to heart with yourself or whoever you need to talk to be it children, spouse, parents, in-laws, bosses or co-workers. Make peace with your regrets. Take action. Until you do, you may not be able to stop yourself from buying more shoes, jewelry, knick knacks, cars, boats, trips, trips and trips, bigger houses, more furniture, stuff, stuff, stuff while you convince yourself you deserve all this. Once the hole in the soul is plugged, you’ll realize what you deserve is financial independence. Money is nothing more than a tool. Once you harness your money instead of your money harnessing you, you’ll realize what financial freedom buys. That is when your spirit will truly soar!