It’s smart to manage your financial life from a state of awareness. But fretting about past mistakes can be a problem. I know because I’ve made plenty of mistakes and then wasted years feeling terrible about them. Blah.
Don’t get me wrong. When you make a money misstep there are priceless lessons to be learned. But once you glean those golden insights, there’s just no point in holding on to the angst. Here are 3 key areas where you might get up tight about ancient history and how you can let it go.
Debt is a very nasty business. And I hope you find the very idea of creating debt unacceptable. But that doesn’t mean you should dislike yourself if you are in a debt pond or puddle. Maybe you made some “Dodo Bird” decisions in the past. Maybe you are stuck paying for those slip-ups now. It’s annoying. I get it. But why rake yourself over the coals at this point?
- Did you go to a pricey college you couldn’t afford? Ok….how many years ago was that?
- Did you buy a car or house that was out of your league? When?
- Did you rack up hefty credit cards debt by trying to live like a rock star on a roadie budget? When did your take you first step to turn that around?
How To Let It Go
Get present. If you turned left when you should have turned right sometime in your past financial life, realize that it’s in your past. You can’t undo it. They haven’t invented a time machine yet. That being said, there is one very important proactive step you can take that will almost force you to forgive yourself.
Put a spending tracking system in place pronto if not sooner. This will help you fix the overspending problem (if you still have one). It will also help you save more money faster. You can use that extra savings to pay off that ugly debt you can’t stand. Feeling better already I bet.
Some people kick themselves for years because they feel stuck in the wrong career. That translates into frustration, resentment and a general sense of just not having very much fun. It’s true that the older we get the harder it is to make a change. But all is not lost. If you are in this unenviable situation, you can slay this shame dragon with a two-pronged approach:
1. Consider the real options.
Maybe you aren’t as stuck as you believe you are. If you have your heart set on another profession, volunteer and/or work during your free time on a part time basis. Get your foot in the door, make some connections and get some experience under your belt. Then stand back and watch the magic happen.
If you aren’t sure what you want next but are sure you want out of what you currently do, get a side gig going and cut your living expenses at the same time. Keep your eyes open and actively seek out opportunity. Talk to other people who have what you want. Interview them. Ask for advice. If you actively listen and take action, you’ll find yourself in a far better situation far sooner than you thought possible.
2. Find A Way To Love What You Do
Some highly paid motivational speakers try to convince people that they can achieve anything they want to if they just set their minds to it. I agree that most of us can achieve a lot more than we think we can. But there are some things that we can’t alter. And there are other aspects of our lives that can be changed but aren’t worth the cost of doing so. Sometimes that includes our career. Ever heard of the Serenity Prayer? It’s the key to living a calm and happy life if you ask me.
G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
We have to take the Serenity Prayer and make it our own. It beats the pants out of beating ourselves up over our career. If you really aren’t able to make a huge career change right now because of your commitments or training, find something – anything- to love about what you do and focus on that. As Crosby, Stills and Nash (almost) said at Woodstock,
“If you have
the (job) you love honey.
Love the (job) you’re with.”
I talk to people about money all day long. I haven’t met anyone – rich or poor – who hasn’t made a nitwit investment sometime in their financial career. That includes yours truly.
Instead of bothering yourself over the past, just make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.
And by the way, are you sure you made an investment mistake? If you made the best decision possible with the information available at the time, what more could you have done?
Sometimes, investments don’t work out. That’s the way it goes. My experience tells me that people rarely get fouled up if they have a solid investment strategy and stick with it. It gets sticky when people take big risks on speculative investments. Those people often end up getting burned. If you want to reduce the risk of making huge investment blunders, stay clear of speculative plays.
Shaming yourself for past financial bloopers is a waste of time and energy. It also distracts you from doing the important work of making sure you have fixed the problem and then getting on with enjoying your life.
Are you still castigating yourself for previous financial mistakes? When are you going to move on?