Achieving a large financial goal–or any goal, for that matter–requires discipline, good habits and a few strong mental mindsets to get you there.
A statement like that is easier said than done, I know.
But I’d like to break down just one of the mindset hacks that I’ve learned over the years that has helped me to achieve many big goals, including one of the most ambitious ones to date: F.I.R.E. (financial independence to retire early). For me, achieving FIRE was not just about hitting a certain number in the bank account. It’s really about lifestyle design–intentionally shaping the best version of your life. It just so happens that figuring out how to take away the stress of finances or the stress of relying on a tradition paycheck for income is a major facet of lifestyle design for most people.
“Living from your future” is the best way to reshape your life into what you are aiming to achieve.
In order to live from your future, you need to dream big and get very clear on what that dream looks like and feels like.
To give a personal example of lifestyle design, I want to juxtapose my dream with my reality just six years ago:
When we first began our financial independence journey, I began dreaming of what it would be like to be debt-free and to have passive income funding my dream life. In my dream life, future-me lived in a tropical jungle where she could walk to the beach and stare at the ocean while she sipped her coffee. Her hair was long and filled with salty waves and she dressed in loose-fitting gauzy white linen. She would write every day, because in this dream life future-me would be an author. Then she’d sit out on a shaded bamboo deck with a view of the ocean to do yoga–something she did every day without fail. My dream future self was very fit and healthy. She was mindful and intentional and stress-free. Then she’d wander past her vegetable garden and free range chickens and walk into her little art studio to put another layer of paint on the canvas. She’d feel secure that there was money in her bank account. She’d feel inspired by one of the amazing trips she’d just taken to somewhere new and be looking forward to her next adventure. She was radiating joy.
At the moment I began dreaming this, I lived in a downtown loft in a big city in a desert. I was in debt. I did not write every day, or hardly at all. I rarely painted. I ate junk food more often than healthy food, I drank too much alcohol and I did not even own a yoga mat. I wasn’t sure how to get out of debt and I had no idea how one actually generated passive income, much less create wealth. In a concrete downtown apartment, I had no land to even plant flowers, so I was far from any reality of homesteading and living off the land. It had been many years since I’d travelled internationally. I owned no white linen but had closets overflowing and overstuffed with cheap trends. I was very stressed and in that slight depressive state one would call “a funk” more often than not.
You can see the disparity.
If you want to achieve something wildly different from your present, then you have to break the habit of being your current self. To get from Point A to Point B you have to stop living your same ways. It’s been said by neuroscientists “What fires together, wires together” which is referring to the neurological pathways you build in your brain. It will take a repetitive mental rehearsal to build an entirely new way of thinking…which will eventually take you to any goal you may have.
Conscious Clarity in Vivid Detail
So “step one” of living from your future is to get very, very clear on where you’d like to head.
Don’t question this vision. If you start thinking too hard about the details of all that it may entail to get there, you’ll become paralyzed by how hard it seems and impossibly far away this goal feels. If you question the vision, you’ll get stuck. Nothing kills dreams faster than indecision. Don’t fall prey to analysis paralysis.
Instead, create those future experiences in great detail in your mind and pay attention to all five of your senses as you immerse yourself in your ideal future reality: Where in the world are you located? What does your house look like? What does it look like outside? What do you smell? What are you wearing? How do you feel? What does your morning routine look like? What does your day look like? Do you travel? How often? What are you creating? Who is with you? What is their energy like? What kind of food do you eat? What does your body look like?
Remember, if you shrug and say “I don’t know what I want” then you can’t be a match for your future. You have to create the end goal so you can begin to create that bridge between your present and your future.
A great exercise to try out is to journal from your future. Literally get out a pen and paper or pull up a blank Document on your computer and start journaling about your day… but in ten, twenty years from now. Write in detail about what it was like to wake up. Write about that morning routine and what any spouse or children said or did. Write about what you’re eating and what you did with your day. Write about how you’re feeling and what you’re excited about. If you take just five minutes to jot down this future day, you’ll begin to have real clarity on where you want to be heading.
Another tip for this stage is to create a “Vision Board.” Traditionally, you’d cut up images from magazines and collage them onto a poster board, and I have done this with surprising success. However, magazine content can be pretty limiting, so I recommend you make a dreamy Pinterest Board and grab images from the vast web to help create a complete and clear picture of what you want in your future. (If you want to see mine, here is my “Life” board and my “Costa Rica” board.)
Get Inside Your Future Head
Now that you’ve painted a vivid picture of your future, the next step is to focus on what future-you is thinking.
Ask yourself, “How do I show up to be that person?”
It’s one thing to go buy new clothes that match your vision or move to the city you pictured future-you living in. But it won’t be complete until your current thoughts match the way future-you thinks.
For example, does future-you think it’s important to invest in him/herself? Or her business? Or his health?
Then current-you needs to model that and invest in yourself or your business or get serious about the kinds of food you put in your mouth or the level of physical activity you build into your day.
Is future-you worried about finances? Is she worried about overdraft fees or how he’ll pay the rent next month? Is she feeling depressed when she enters a boutique because she thinks she can’t afford the trinket she was eyeing? Is he worried about having any funds saved for retirement?
I’m going to guess the answer to that is an adamant “No!”
So, even if your current financial state feels rather paycheck-to-paycheck, you need to start modeling your future-you’s mindset. Shed that worry. Move with confidence. Know that you can afford anything you want, but not necessarily everything you want. What you purchase comes down to priorities, but simply thinking that you could afford anything you wanted, will help you build that “muscle” in your mind for rewiring your thoughts. I’m not saying go out and spend like you’re ultra-rich, but browse a restaurant menu or a boutique with that abundance mindset, even if (and especially if!) you walk out of there with nothing. A wealthy person can buy anything they choose. But they don’t buy everything in the world–they’re intentional when they do make a purchase. So you can choose to not buy anything. There’s great power in this feeling. So even if your bank account is low, you can move through the world with the mindset of a wealthy person and ironically, when you choose to me more prudent with who you bestow your precious cash to, you’ll notice more cash savings and growth in your account.
You have to embody the character you want to become right now. It takes practice and you might feel silly at first. It’s as if you are handing yourself a theatre script and rehearsing the character over and over until one day you can throw your script away.
Live As If It’s Already Been Achieved
Now you know where you’re headed and you’re working on making decisions like your future self and embodying how future-you thinks. Now, show up as her/him in the life you have now.
Stop waiting around for money to magically fall into your bank account. Stop waiting for weight to magically disappear. Stop waiting for your dream soulmate to just magically come knock on the door. Stop waiting for a book publisher to solicit you for your book idea. Stop waiting for a plane ticket to just show up in your mailbox. Whatever that big vision was, you can’t stop there. Don’t let it die as a daydream.
Start living as if you already have a large investment account growing. Just continue adding bits of savings to it as if this were already a routine habit of yours.
Start living as if you already are a fit person. Make decisions about what you put in your mouth as if you already are the kind of person that eats small portions of whole foods. An already fit person would naturally take the stairs or go for a walk on their lunch break or go for a hike on the weekend. So you should, too.
Start living as if you already have a book deal with a big advance check. Someone who has achieved that gets up and writes 1,000 words or more a day every single day. So should you.
You get the picture.
You have to evolve who you are so you can create the space to be something new. If your goal was one of those three examples, then after a certain amount of time, you really would have achieved a nest egg in your investments; a fitter body; and a finished book that you could now pitch and now make that dream a reality.
Right now? I’m podcasting as if I’ve already got a million downloads. I’m showing up for this as if I’ve already achieved 200 episodes and never missed a single Wednesday airing. The reality of my analytics would reveal what a newbie I am to the scene, but I know what I envision “future-podcasting-me” looking like. I can see what she’s achieved and how she feels when she goes into interviews and what she’s thinking. So I’m doing that right now. I’m thinking that right now. I’m living that version of me right now, even with only 8 or 9 episodes under my belt.
Want to get back to the financial example and lifestyle design?
Remember the vast difference between the me of 6 years ago and the vision my husband and I wanted to achieve?
We wanted to live in a tropical jungle. We specifically envisioned Central America, and I still am holding onto that vision and working towards that, but what was realistically achievable was to move to Mid/Southern Florida, which had a subtropical environment that better matched the lifestyle design I wanted opposed to the concrete and sand of the downtown desert I was in. I wanted palm trees and hammocks and salty breezes, and I designed that into my life in a way that made sense at the time.
We wanted passive income and had zero idea how to actually do that. We didn’t get paralyzed by not knowing what the next step was. We deep dived into podcasts and blogs and audiobooks and anything we could get our hands on to learn all the different ways to create passive income. We didn’t get paralyzed by the vast amount of ways to do this. Remember, indecision kills dreams. We made a decision. We picked one. And we went for it. After we mastered that, we tried another one. And another one. Eventually, we had several passive income streams and now we know from experience which ones align with our personalities and risk tolerance.
We lived from our future. We knew our future selves understood the stock market and understood real estate investing. So we did everything we could to fill in that educational gap, made swift decisions, and created the exact experience we thought our future-selves would have.
That’s the bridge. That’s how you get from Point A to seemingly-far-away Point B.
Start living from your future… today.
If you enjoyed this blog, I hope you check out my “Journey to Freedom” podcast which airs each Wednesday and covers everything from financial freedom, time freedom and freedom from ‘stuff’ (minimalism/anti-consumerism) and all sorts of fun things in between. My goal is to inspire you to get out of the rat race, to hop off the hamster wheel, to bust out of the golden handcuffs of your job and debt. I want to show you the many different pathways you could take to go live a more free and fulfilling life.
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