Can you be free of financial stress while in debt? Not if you believe the media today. Let’s face it…just about everything you read from personal finance books and blogs (including this one) might convince you that you can’t in fact be happy until you get rid of financial stress.
Everywhere you turn, you get the same message pounded into your head; you can’t do or be anything if you have debt.
Does Financial Stress Mean I Can’t Be Happy?
Let me go on the record; I think life goes better with no debt. I also think it’s important to take whatever steps you can to get your spending under control and get out of debt as soon as you can. It has to be a priority. But at the same time, I think you shouldn’t wait to be happy until you reach your financial or business goals.
I spent way too many years thinking that financial serenity would be mine as soon I paid off my mortgage or reached a certain business goal.
What a waste. I’m here to tell you that I’m through thinking that way…and I hope you are too.
If we tie our happiness to some external achievement, we may work really hard and achieve a lot….but we’ll be stressed and not have any fun. We also won’t be that much fun to be around.
On the other extreme, if we abandon the goals we strive for and adopt a “who cares” attitude, we’ll be worse off. I never would have learned how to make a business successful if I thought like that. By so doing we shut off a part of ourselves that is truly wonderful. That part of us that wants to learn, explore and advance.
Clearly, we need a balanced approach.
While I can’t say this works for me all the time, the following idea has really helped me.
What is it?
Simply be present.
Being present is a very difficult thing to do but well worth the effort. Let me give you an example.
I met a woman the other day who had an amazing story. Even though she was a young woman, she had suffered a heart attack, lost her job and while recuperating, discovered she was being evicted from her apartment. She also had no disability insurance. Talk about something to worry about….right?
I asked her how she coped with that stress.
She told me that she couldn’t afford to waste any energy worrying about the future because it saps her strength and makes it hard to make rational decisions. Instead, she focuses on her daily activities….one day at a time.
She gets up every day and asks herself what the most effective thing she could do that day to improve her situation. All she “worries” about is making sure she completes those tasks. If she does, she feels successful. If not, she vows to try harder the next day.
She’s satisfied with doing her best. Why? Because if she does her best, she can do no more. Whatever the result is, if she tries her best, she feels successful.
I think focusing on daily activities rather than outcomes is a fantastic approach to finances…and life. It doesn’t allow anyone to escape responsibility. It keeps you focused on doing what you can and letting go of the things beyond your control.
It’s appealing….isn’t it?
Do you approach your challenges this way or do you get caught up worrying about the future so much that you miss what’s going on today?