What is a rich life for you?
What are your deep values?
We need to ask, and we need to be honest. Because whether we like it or not, our real values at any given time can be easily assessed. How we spend our time. How we spend our energy. And how we spend our money. Those are our values. But do they line up with who we genuinely want to be?
Other people can’t see inside us. They only see what we do. There is an incredible quote in the book Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut. This book is about a man who believes he is a spy, and believes that he is transmitting coded messages while doing propaganda radio broadcasts during World War II. Eventually, he becomes the most prominent and effective broadcaster for a government bent on committing atrocities. He is even told by a top bureaucrat who was in charge of unspeakable crimes that he, the spy, was the bureaucrat’s primary inspiration. Vonnegut writes, “We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Be careful about what you pretend to be. Money can grant you the ability to promote all sorts of illusions about yourself, and you may find that you get in the worst trouble when you get what you think you want.
Instead, focus on what you really want to become.
You’ll find that as your money gets more in line with who you want to become, so will everything else. As you make better decisions about money, you’ll make better decisions about everything else too. The habits you need to form to say no to bad spending decisions are the same habits you need to fend off energy vampires of all sorts.
This point will be repeated over and over again, so much that you may get quite tired of it. But it doesn’t go away. One of the deepest truths about personal finance is that you must go after what you really want. It matters whether you get it, sure, but what matters more is simply that you go after it. Taking action, actually doing what you really want to do, making some sort of forward progress, is necessary in order for you to give yourself permission to not spend on things you don’t need.
However, even if you are pursuing your deep values, you may find that your spending is not under control anyway. So let’s talk in the next part of the series about how to take control.