If you only had a year to live, how would you make that time really count?
Where would you want to live? What would you want to do? Who would you spend your time with?
Think about your perfect life. What do you really want in the limited time you have here on earth?
Write this down.
Seriously. Write it down.
No, really. Go write it down. Then may you proceed.
Now that you have that in writing (right?), how does that perfect life compare to the one you are living right now, at this moment? Are you living life according to your values? Are you spending time with the people most dear to you? Are you doing the things you love to do?
Identifying your values, evaluating your current situation, and making changes to get closer to living that life you want is not as simple as just writing it down, but it’s certainly a good start.
If you are currently living your life in perfect harmony with your values, that’s wonderful, yet I know many readers are not. I know I am not, though I get closer every day. No one is perfect, but the closer you can get to that ideal, the happier you will become.
Realizing which parts of your life need tweaking is an important first step to making changes.
I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that most people would agree that their financial situation and the way they spend money is not a good representation of their true values. In fact, when most of us look at what we value most in life, it generally boils down to people, time and freedom. Having money most definitely helps us have more time and freedom – time and freedom to spend with our loved ones, pursue our interests and dreams, and help others.
So if money can help us live a life with more time and freedom to spend on the things we love, then why do we spend it on all of the stuff we don’t really value?
Because it’s hard, it’s overwhelming and we don’t have a clue as to where to begin. Because we are so busy we don’t have time to deal with it. Because it’s nearly impossible to continually stay focused on something that can take so long to fix. Because it seems easier to leave things as they are and continue on with life.
Yet, if you want to get closer to that ideal life, you have to do the hard work. You have to be honest and willing to change your current direction. Make yourself look at the overall state of your finances and expenses. Track every outgoing penny for a month. What is the specific area you spend on that goes against your values the most?
Let’s say you have a large car payment. What could you do with that money if you didn’t have that payment? Could you enroll in a class you have been longing to take? Could you travel to see family? If you’re a two parent household, could one parent cut down to part-time, or even stay home? How would getting rid of the car payment get you closer in line with what you value most in life?
In my life, I have discovered that making my values a priority creates more balance, leading to more contentment and happiness. My husband and I made the decision never to sacrifice the things we value most to get ahead financially. We have learned to cut back drastically in some areas to allow us to have those luxuries that we value most.
For example, during the time we were aggressively paying down student and auto loans, we never sacrificed vacations and camping trips. Traveling has been something that we were never willing to give up. So even though we vacation on a budget, the time spent with our kids and the priceless memories created traveling with them throughout the years is something we will never regret.
Even though we choose to give up some things, we live a “rich” life, one that allows us to prioritize what we value – our family and our time.
Are you using your money in a way that’s in line with your values, allowing you to spend time on the things you want to?
When you do decide to take a hard look at your life values in relation to the state of your finances, the temptation may be to try to make all the changes that will fix all the problems at once. This NEVER works. Don’t do this.
Start with one thing that will make the most difference and do just that one thing for two months (or longer if it’s a big change). Studies have shown that it takes much longer, in fact, up to 66 days to make a new habit. Move on only after that change becomes a habit that’s more automatic and no longer takes much time and energy to manage.
To continue to make positive financial changes and work toward living your most meaningful life, you have to persevere. Figuring out your current financial standing is a first step. To continue to make progress you have to put in the hard work, educate yourself and find what methods of money management work best for you.
When motivation is running low, and it will, take out that exercise you did at the beginning of this post (you did write it down, right?). Take a look at what you value most in life and remember that you are doing the hard work to get closer to living your perfect life. Though it may seem far away, as you make changes to align your life with those things your hold dear, you become happier and closer to your dreams day by day.
What areas of your life can you make changes to that will get you closer to your “perfect” life?
If you want to take things a step further, here are some resources I highly recommend:
- Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez, and Monique Tilford.
- Steve Pavlina of StevePavlina.com has incredible information on working through values and making changes to live life in accordance with those values here.