Life is hard going these days and perhaps more than ever before it is seemingly normal to feel at least ‘somewhat stressed’ the majority of the time. We’ve kind of accepted this as normal, despite the fact that it’s obviously nuts to go about life this way. The financial crisis hasn’t helped but even before that we were pushing ourselves harder than ever and it never quite seemed to be enough.
This makes people unhappy and largely it comes down to our mentality. Capitalism in particular has hardwired us to associate success and happiness with wealth and job security. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to other people, feeling jealous of the things we want and don’t have, and stressing about the huge number of financial commitments that we’ve taken upon ourselves. It’s enough to drive you slightly mad and to wear down your last shreds of sanity and dignity.
If that sounds familiar then it’s time to recognise that your problems are twofold. On the one hand you’re stressed for financial reasons, or because you’re stuck in a ‘rut’, but at the same time the problems exist at least partially in your mind. They’re there because of the way you’re interpreting the information coming in. If you can change the way you’re thinking, you’ll find that this can be very effective in helping you feel happier and more at ease – even if you’re still in the exact same situation in terms of cash flow.
Here’s how you can alter you assessment of your situation and find yourself feeling instantly happier and less stressed…
It’s Okay to Struggle
The first thing to recognise is that it’s okay to struggle when times get hard. Too often financial problems are kept as some big secret – even from our loved ones – because we feel as though our very worth is based on how much money we have in the bank. This is especially the case if you are the breadwinner of the household, and it’s something that men seem to struggle to come to terms with in particular. Having financial trouble doesn’t make you less of a man, doesn’t make you less successful and doesn’t make you a bad person.
Money is just money, how much you have comes down to how good you are at managing cash flow and how much your work pays you. If you don’t have a lot, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t highly capable. Having no money sucks, but at the end of the day… who cares?
Being Happy Without Money
So if you’re not feeling guilty about your lack of cash or ashamed, then that’s a great start and you should find you already alleviate a lot of the stress you might have been struggling with.
But while you can tell yourself it doesn’t matter, that won’t change the fact that you’ll have less money and thus be less able to do the things you enjoy. If you want to really be happy without money then, you need to find ways to live your life the way you want it without relying on cash to do so.
Most people will day dream about being rich a lot and think about how much better life would be if they had money. You may imagine yourself in a large, beautiful house, going on lots of lavish holidays, spending more time with your family and less time in the office… etc. You carry on thinking that all of this will happen ‘one day’ as long as you keep working tirelessly and don’t give up.
But the truth is that if you carry on with this attitude you will never be happy – you’ll always be thinking about ‘what you could do if…’.
Instead then try making three lists. These three lists will help you to appreciate your time right now and to make the most of it rather than constantly working towards an abstract goal. You don’t need to be rich to be happy and all the things you want you can have right now. These lists will help you to realise that and make it happen…
List 1: Gratitude
The first is going to be a list of things that you are happy with right now – perhaps it’s your great health, perhaps it’s your current relationship, perhaps it’s the fact that your job is rewarding even if it is a little stressful at times… Taking stock of what you’ve achieved rather than focussing on what you haven’t is a great way to be happier and healthier.
List 2: Pain Points
Next you’re going to make a list of all your current ‘pain points’ that you suffer with on a daily basis. Pain points will be all the sources of stress that you face going through your regular routine – maybe it’s the busy commute to work, maybe it’s your untidy kitchen, or maybe it’s the lack of quality time with your family/hobbies. Make a list as you go through your day of all the things that prevent it from being perfect, and then think to yourself afterwards about how each of these items could be removed or improved. An untidy kitchen for instance could be solved by just… tidying the kitchen and creating better systems to make it easier to keep clean. A nasty commute could maybe be improved by moving work, arranging a ‘remote work’ agreement with your employers, or perhaps even getting up half an hour earlier when it would be quiet (and grabbing a nice coffee with a book before work). Need more quality time in your relationship? Then stop bringing work home with you, as we’re learning your success at work is far from the be-all and end-all.
List 3: Goals
Finally, spend some time imagining your dream future – you know the one, it’s probably the one you fantasise about all the time whenever you think about being rich. It probably involves you relaxing a lot in a big beautiful home on a sunny tropical island.
But this time, instead of just abstractly daydreaming about this perfect future life, you’re instead going to analyse the content of those fantasies in order to outline specifically what it is you’re trying to achieve. Be as specific as possible to get to the route of what it is you want to accomplish. Mine would look (something) like this:
• Big beautiful house – spacious, light, clean, tidy and comfortable
• Great clothes and health that make me feel and look my best all the time
• Time to pursue the things I’m interested in and the money to support those hobbies. I’d buy some more VR tech, learn German, create an awesome home gym…
• Lots of long holidays abroad, including my dream visit to Tokyo for one month of writing and reading in hotel lobbies…
The reason you’re doing this, is because you should find that you can tick off at least a few of these items right now with no need to win the lottery. My home might not be huge or ‘beautiful’, but recently I decided to clear out all the things I didn’t need, to create a dedicated ‘reading corner’ and to introduce systems that would make it easier to keep everything clean and tidy. Now my home is much closer to that dream home. Likewise this has immediately freed me up more spare time to pursue those interests because I’m not always washing up.
Over the holidays I’ve been managing to do lots more of lately thanks to some money saving tricks – including using sites like Couch Surfer and getting cheap flights thanks to my friend who happens to be a pilot for Easy Jet. Befriending a pilot is a great tip if you want cheap holidays…
The Wealthy Lifestyle for Less Cash
There are other ways you can tick things off this list and start making your life more like the one you imagine too. For instance you can get nicer things by simply buying less. Sounds useless perhaps, but the point is that if you were to half the amount of items you have decorating your kitchen cabinet, you would find that you had a cleaner and more minimalistic cabinet (that looked nicer) and at the same time you’d have increased the ‘average value’ of the items on that cabinet several fold.
Another trick is to stop spending money on ‘boring’ things. If you can cut your spending in the super market and on clothes, then in a short space of time you could save enough money to buy a holiday or that exciting new computer. Don’t believe me? I recently quit my expensive health club (I’ve made a home gym) saving £80 ($150) a week and stopped having my coffee before and after work every day for £2.50 a pop (£100 a month or $190) and as such I’ve saved an impressive £180 ($340) a month – or enough for a small holiday/games console. Things are valued strangely, so if you choose where to save the cash and where to spend it you can enjoy much nicer things.
Finally though, my biggest piece of advice is just to relax. Most people’s ‘rich fantasies’ are about them being able to ‘finally’ relax, but the irony is that striving towards that goal makes it impossible to relax right now. If you were to just stop worrying about work and money so much right now, then you could spend more time on the things you love and enjoy more health and less stress today while you’re young and while you’re really able to benefit from it.
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