Yesterday, I had a fight with my girlfriend. Nothing major, but something she said really stuck out to me, she told me “You focus so much energy on personal development and no time on liking who you are”. This level of insight is one of the many reasons we’ve stayed together this long.
After thinking about what she said, I realised that she was (for the most part) right. For those of us on this journey, there is that constant nagging in the back of our heads that we’re not doing enough. It’s crippling having your brain tell you; “You should be doing this better,” “Why aren’t you using this time more productively?” “Are you really going to enjoy that treat more than saving that extra £2?”
I infrequently, but regularly, get overwhelmed with all those thoughts and have a depression day where I sulk and mope. However, the majority of the time I feel so fulfilled and excited by how far I’ve come in just a year! What I’m going to share with you today are the techniques that I use to pull myself out of my depression days and maintain a feeling of fulfilment throughout the journey to financial freedom.
What causes the brain nagging?
After the argument I spent some time thinking about why my brain would (and still does) nag me, and what the roots of the nagging were. I realised that there were three aspects of my personal development that gives me anxiety; financial development, ability development, and social development.
All three of this topics deserve a longer post. I’ll post articles detailing what you can do about the brain nagging for each topic over the next few Fridays, for now, here is a brief definition of what I mean by these terms.
This concerns everything relating to money. I often get anxiety from spending too much on treats (or “wants”), or not maximising the amount I budget to invest, and ruining my current spending habits by being frivolous with my money.
However, I also get anxious about; focusing too much on saving and not enough on living, the feeling of treating unnecessary expenditure as a negative thing, and becoming miserly. Similarly, often my concern for getting the most value possible from something means that I will deliberate over making a purchase for far longer than I need to.
Here I’m talking about education-based knowledge and skills-based knowledge. Essentially, it’s book learning and activity learning. Here the anxiety comes from; worrying that I’m wasting time playing video games, reading comic books, and listening to music. It also comes from the feeling that I’m not pushing myself to do bigger and more difficult projects. Finally, it comes from not knowing if my reasons for not doing something are founded or is actually a well-masked fear of failure.
On the other hand, I worry about pushing myself too hard to complete bigger projects quickly, spending too much time working and not enough time with other aspects of my life, and that I listen/read/watch too much personal development material and not enough time implementing the lessons learned.
All the success manuals teach us about maintaining a solid network of individuals that we can help and that can help us. However, most of the people I meet in my life consider their dreams unreachable and ludicrous.
Naturally, we all have a desire to help people. My anxiety around this is based around following what the books I’ve read taught me about relationships, so I ask myself questions like:
- Am I wasting time with this person?
- Is this a relationship healthy for me?
- Can I actually help this person?
But by the same stroke, I worry about the humanity behind being this cold, and judgemental about people, so I ask questions like:
- Am I being preachy?
- Am I qualified to give this person advice?
- Am I being too cutthroat about who I choose to spend time with?
The quick fix
As I’m sure you can see, I’m quite conflicted about the whole thing. With that said the most useful phrase about getting over feeling down is an old Persian phrase; this too shall pass.
Whilst the phrase doesn’t deal with any of the issues, it does help me keep on keeping on. Essentially, what it means is that no matter how you’re feeling at one time, you’ll eventually feel different so you needn’t worry.
However, telling myself this phrase is only useful when I’ve got things to do and can’t spend a lot of time ruminating on the causes of why I was feeling like that in the first place.
The not-so-quick fixes
If we’re going to address the root of the problems that takes a quite a bit more time and energy, but is worth it in the long run.
You eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that for each issue I had about doing something too much, I had a very similar issue to doing something not enough. It is this lack of balance that is the ultimate source of my personal development anxiety. In my quest for balance, I’ve stumbled upon three techniques that work particularly well in reducing my anxiety and make my personal finance journey more enjoyable.
I set myself milestones for doing anything arduous. This includes; buying a new phone with the budget of 10 per cent of how much I can save in a six-month period, making myself a coffee after working continuously for three hours, and giving myself a “watch films and play video games” day after completing a two-week project.
By setting milestones that require you to treat yourself based on doing laborious or challenging tasks, you build a positive feedback loop in your brain that keeps you on track with your goal. The point of the milestones is also to remind you of what you’re working toward and to take some time to reflect on the good that you’ve done. For example, as I’m making the coffee, my brain gets a chance to unwind and review all the writing/editing/emailing that I’ve done.
Realise it’s not a race
Every day that you contribute to getting closer to your goal adds a little extra speed to accomplishing it. The speed of communication and advertising techniques have taught us that we can have everything now. We’ll you can’t. There’s no other way around it, you just can’t. You earn everything in this life, and if you don’t earn it then you’ll probably waste it. Relish in the fact that it’s not a race, you’re not looking to get to the finish line as fast as possible. Financial freedom
Relish in the fact that it’s not a race, you’re not looking to get to the finish line as fast as possible. Financial freedom demands that you understand how it’s systems work before granting you it’s gift. Anything worth doing takes effort and time. By pressuring yourself to get to your goal faster you put unnecessary stress on something that requires patience and consistency.
As long as you’re contributing something to your goal every day, you’ll get there.
Record what you learn
I’ve started posting some of the older FYTFF articles on my LinkedIn profile so people can see the kind of work that I do. It’s been awful. Going back six months I can see that my writing was stiff, poorly edited, and lacked cohesion. By writing down the lessons I’ve learned on this blog, I can see how far I’ve come in my understanding of financial freedom and in my ability to write.
I’m not saying that you should start a blog (although that is a great option), but you should record your journey in some way. Start a Twitter account where you post three lessons you learned that day, make a YouTube series that tells people about the five best quotes that you read that week, or create an audio journal.
With the ability to look back, you can stop looking at how much more you’ve got to do and appreciate how far you’ve already come. The human mind is notoriously bad at remembering things properly so it’s only with a physical memory that you can understand the distance you’ve already covered.
What to take away from this article
When you’re on a personal development journey, the road is full of bumps, potholes, and obstacles, that you don’t see until you’re crashing through them. Figuring out how to balance complacency with appreciation is one of the hardest to avoid and to weather. Here’s my advice to making it simpler:
- Divide your personal development into the three categories; financial, social, ability
- Have a think about what you’ve done well, and what you want to focus on
- Set milestones for completing mini-goals
- Understand that change takes time
- Create a physical or digital record of your journey
We’ll go into much more depth about the three forms of development in the following weeks. In the meantime, check out the Financial Freedom Education forum it’s a great place to discuss any issues or questions you may have about property, wealth, or increasing your savings rate.
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We’ve also got some more great articles for you to read:
- 5 bizarre ways to increase your income
- How “priming” can subconsciously help you achieve everything you’ve ever wanted
- A practical guide to answering the question “WTF should I do with my life?”