What do financial freedom, health and fitness, education, achieving goals, maintaining relationships, and overall success in life have in common? One word: discipline. The only way I have achieved anything in life was having discipline. This was much easier when I was younger. I was picked on a lot and had few friends, so it was easy to focus in class. I had strict parents, so I always did my homework. The structure was there. When I turned 18, I wanted to break free from rules and proceeded to spend the next 2 years destroying my life physically, mentally, and financially. By the third year, I was unable to support myself financially and all of my freedom was taken away from me. I was forced to focus again. I got everything that needed to be done to start college and graduated four years later.
While I succeeded in graduating college, it was not because I was disciplined. It was because I cut corners. I figured out how to fulfill my requirements by taking “easy” classes. I pulled many all-nighters. It wasn’t until my senior year when I realized I did not have a job or a strong resume. I realized what my lack of discipline had gotten me: A piece of paper and $25K in student loan debt plus $10K in delinquent debt. It wasn’t until then that I realized how important it was to practice discipline in every area of my life.
Buckling down and getting on a budget was hard. Not having a car for eight months was hard. Not eating out and shopping was hard. But they all taught me discipline. I saw that going through life trying to avoid hardship, pain, and loneliness got me nowhere. Going through that pain has given me everything I need to live a healthy, balanced life today AND be debt-free (well almost, I have $1600 left.) There were many times when I doubted my efforts along the way. I had no positive examples or reassurance except the books that I was reading and the podcasts I was listening to. I had to have faith that it was worth it.
So what’s the point?
Whatever you want in life, whether it’s money, fame, a fit body, a healthy relationship, a home…anything, you have to make discipline a priority. That means writing down your goals and sticking to them. Much easier said than done. For me, I have way too many goals and interests. I decided today to narrow them down to ONE: growing my Maddy Money community. And I have been spending most of my Saturday focusing on this. I did a (late) spring cleaning of some of my posts. I added some more links to my “Free Personal Finance Resources” page. I fully expanded my “About Me” page. I created a MailChimp account and added a signup for my Maddy Money weekly newsletter on the website. Signup here!
The scary thing is that I knew I wanted to do those things; I just thought I would eventually get to it. I am sure you have done that before and know that it never happens. Tomorrow becomes the next day becomes the next day becomes a year later. I was talking to this guy last week about where our dating was going and he said: “let’s just see what happens.” I knew then it wasn’t going anywhere. I never thought I would be that person doing work on the weekends. I wanted to “have fun.” You know what ruins my fun? Knowing that I have dreams and goals that I am not working towards because I am chasing “let’s just see what happens” and worrying about FOMO (fear of missing out.) At some point, we have to say “no” to these distractions if we want to do anything with our lives.
OK, but how do I start?
There is no trick to getting that initial push to start doing and stop thinking, but here are some things that helped me:
Journaling about my goals and values: Do not underestimate the value of the written word. If it isn’t written down it doesn’t exist. If it doesn’t exist it doesn’t happen.
Surrounding myself (virtually) with people who were doing the things I wanted to do: Be mindful of who you surround yourself with. I listen to a ton of podcasts and read many books and they were all telling me to “just start.” Eventually, I started. Even better if you actually know people who are doing what you want to be doing. We are products of our environments.
Creating systems of accountability: By setting up a weekly newsletter I must commit to creating content every week. Automating savings and bill-paying makes it easy to never get behind. Having a gym buddy will get you to the gym. My next step will be to create a Maddy Money community on Facebook where we can share our goals and be accountable to each other. My next step is to start a podcast. See, just by sharing it in this post, the more likely it will get done.
So what are you going to do? What is your next step? How are you going to start? You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @maddymoneycash. I will respond. We are in this together!