In 2014, I found a study that I had a hard time believing. Its conclusion was that money had no correlation on happiness. Really! If our basic human needs are met, (food, water, shelter and safety), a family living on $55,000 a year was on average just as happy as a family of great wealth.
Money had driven my life up to that point. Each year, almost all my goals were related to increasing my income, paying off debt or accumulating assets. All of these, I believed, would allow me to become financially free.
I was making no real progress, however. Nothing was really changing. In particular, the feelings of scarcity and lack that always filled my mind when thinking about or working with money weren’t lessening at all.
Last year, I started trying a different approach, because I realized that money (or the lack thereof) wasn’t the evil force in my life – it was the fear and anxiety I was creating around it that was doing the damage.
Financial freedom isn’t about having a certain amount of money in the bank or assets that appreciate and drive income. Those things can help, but true financial independence is a state of mind more than anything else. It’s about not allowing money to create stress, anxiety, fear or greed in your life.
Based on that definition, I know some very wealthy people who are not financially free. They’re terrorized by the prospect of losing their fortunes, or the constant desire to accumulate more. But it’s never enough.
Likewise, I know people of little wealth who I’d define as financially independent, because money has very little to no impact on the happiness they experience and the meaning they derive from each moment of their lives.
Financial freedom is not something to be attained, it is something to be experienced; and it can’t be experienced in the future, only practiced in the moment.
Create an ever-expanding feeling of financial freedom in your life with these six mindsets to become financially independent:
1 – Simplicity
The United States is a consumer society. We want and believe we need soooomuch. The problem with this is the resulting pressure we apply to ourselves financially. Do we really need that third device, that second daily cappuccino, or the multitude of other luxury items we’ve become conditioned to yearn for?
Of course we don’t.
I’m not saying to give away all your possessions and head for the mountains. What I am saying is, the simpler you can become, and the more you focus on the things in your life that don’t cost money, the less pressure you’ll experience financially.
The next time you are considering a purchase, try asking yourself, “Is this an investment in my mind, my body, or my soul?” If the answer is no, you may want to consider not going through with it. This elimination of “needs” in your life is a first and critical step to the financial peace of mind we all want.
2-Comfort with Ambiguity
There have been so many moments in my life when I’ve been terrorized by financial fears. My mind would start telling me terrible stories about where all this was heading: I was going to be on the street, homeless and penniless.
What’s most irrational about this entire cycle is that the day before, I had felt fine. Nothing had changed but the ramblings in my mind. They had taken over and I was suffering unnecessarily. Nothing was different except the story I was telling myself.
The reality is that everything has always worked out; almost never like I imagined it would, but it always ended up okay.
There is a great quote from Lao Tzu: “Clarity is the ability to see into the darkness.” I have always called this the wisdom of uncertainty, or the ability to be comfortable with the ambiguity of life. That is what I want for you.
Fear and anxiety only paralyzes you from doing what is needed. Force your brain to believe that it will all work out, that “this too will pass,” and that, years from now, the uncertainty of today will clarify itself into a wonderful and fulfilling life.
3-Trust in Your Creativity
I once heard Ed Catmul, the President of Pixar, speak. He had this amazing perspective on challenge in the work place. He said that adversity and mistakes are not impediments to the job, they are the job. A great job, just like a great life, is a series of solving problems; growing, expanding and becoming more than you were yesterday.
The fear of financial disaster can be so paralyzing that we turn off our imaginative and creative capacity – and that is where the great power we have to break free resides.
Throughout time, countless catastrophes have been circumvented, near-miracles have occurred, and the very fiber of our society has transcended disaster simply because people kept moving forward creatively.
When times get tough, the tough get going, but the best among us do this by adjusting and doing things differently than the decisions which got us into the pickle in the first place. A strong belief in one’s creative capacity to solve problems is the antidote to the anxieties of financial pressure.
4-Connection with Others
Perhaps the quickest path to becoming financially independent is through the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. There is nothing more precious and meaningful than connection with another human being. In them, we can find encouragement, inspiration and solutions.
When money starts taking you down the path of fear, the worst thing you can do is disengage, lock up and disconnect from those you love and care about. When there is real financial pressure in your life, there is no more important time to allow yourself to be vulnerable and reach out.
Through others, we can find comfort, gain new perspective, and challenge the irrational thoughts of our own minds. Most importantly, connecting with others often yields solutions.
Identify five to ten go-to people in your life. Let them know you’ve put them on your personal dream team, that you’re there for them, and that you respect them and may need to lean on them from time to time. When it’s called for, seek their guidance. The knowledge that we have a support team in our lives is critical to the security we’re all seeking.
There is a fundamental reason some people are paid more and get more value from the work they perform: They are better self-advocates. This means that they’re more proactive, and more comfortable asking for things like increased salaries, raises, bonuses and stock ownership.
So many people feel like they have no control over what they get paid or whether they get promoted, when the reality is that they can and do have a great deal of influence. The key is to pay attention and be ready to have the uncomfortable conversation when the time is right.
All of this is tied to what I call self-remembering. It’s a process of valuing yourself and recognizing when you need to present your case and make your arguments. If you don’t do this up front, it can cause resentment, anger and poor performance on your part.
Be proactive! Recognize the lever points in your life and take action. This feeling of control and influence is a great combatant to the fear and anxiety around money that we create.
The last mindset that I believe will put you on the path to financial freedom is that of an opportunist. Sometimes this term has a negative connotation, but I’m simply talking about the mental acuity to be constantly and optimistically looking out for opportunities. It’s forward-thinking, and an approach to everything (including finances) that is driven by hope.
Opportunities present themselves every day. Sometimes they arrive through a new individual coming into our lives, or a change in our circumstances or the marketplace.
Keep your antennas up. Filling your mind with positive opportunism leaves no room for skepticism and fear. It will take you down new paths toward that place of financial peace that is so important for all of us to reach.
Jim Rohn once said that, in life, we can choose to pursue either security or freedom, and if we choose security, we’ll have neither.
Security relies on extrinsic things like interest rates, salaries, job security and market conditions; in other words, things we often have little control of.
Conversely, freedom is a state of mind – it’s intrinsic, and it’s the one thing we can have complete control of.
I hope some of these tips help you take your first steps on the elusive path toward becoming financially independent.