Your vision of where or what you want to be is the greatest asset you have.
Without having a goal it’s difficult to score.
I’ve never been one to dream big – or even small – generally because I’ve never thought I could bring any of my dreams to fruition, and have a long history of never achieving anything I set out to do (but that’s a whole other story for another day).
In learning to look at my life with a different perspective – an ‘I can’ one – I’m learning more and more how effective it is if you can visualise or paint a picture of something you’d like to happen, or how you want something to be. The first time I remember doing this was during the first year I was a single mum, just over 10 years ago. A university was starting a nursing degree in our local town, and it was my dream to become a midwife. I was talking with my counsellor about how I planned to apply, and hopefully start studying the following year, but I was also afraid I would end up not finishing the course, as had happened so many other times is my life.
My counsellor said to me ‘what would the graduation ceremony look like?’, and I described to her the vision that came to mind. Walking across the stage of our local theatre in a cap and gown, my family in the audience, and how I knew they would be proud of me. She told me to remember that as I went through the course over the next few years, to encourage me along the way.
There were a few times I was tempted to chuck it all in, and I would recall that picture to mind, and keep going.
And when it came to my graduation 3 years later, the reality was a near-perfect rendition of the picture.
It has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life – work out where you want to go, what you want to do, and think about what that looks like. There have only been a few things that I’ve started and followed through on since then, so obviously it’s still a work in progress, but each time I have pictured the journey or the end result, and I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
I share this with you now because after I posted on Monday, it occurred to me that I have never pictured my ideal financial life. I’ve thought about it – many, many times – but I’ve never visualised what that my life would actually look like if I didn’t have to constantly worry about money. This thought came after I reflected on how I had planned what I wanted the 1st of January to look like last week, what I wanted to do to start the year off well, and because I pictured the day and then wrote it down, the day went as I had hoped. Simply because I had a vision, and a roadmap.
To travel somewhere, we need a destination and a map. To make something, we need at least an imagined picture and directions or instructions for the process. Creating your ideal financial life is the same process. You need to know what you want that life to look like, and the steps to achieve it. If we don’t have that picture, that destination, we get lost along the way and are left wandering.
Se before we even think about budgeting, ways to reduce spending, saving money or anything else, we need to clearly identify the picture that will guide the process. Ask yourself the following questions:
What does my ideal financial life look like?
What doesn’t fit into that vision?
For me, my ideal financial life looks like trusting God every day that He will provide exactly what I need – that He will give me each day my daily Bread – whatever form that comes in. It means valuing the money I earn and am required to manage well, and not taking it for granted. It means honouring God with my giving, paying the bills (and on time), paying the essential living expenses for our family, paying down debt, contributing to savings and superannuation, giving generously to charities and organisations that God leads me to and saving for some minor luxuries such as family holidays and house renovations (pretty much in that order).
It means working and earning enough income to fulfill this and nothing more, so that I’m not tempted to fall back into old habits. It means not letting worrying about money become an idol that distracts me from trusting Jesus. It’s knowing that anytime I go to pay for something, there is enough money in my purse or bank account. It requires spending time each fortnight planning a budget and working within that.
What doesn’t fit into this vision? Putting off paying bills and other essential expenses so I can have the false security of leaving a bit of money in my account. Buying things I don’t need, but convince myself they don’t cost much, or I deserve it, or it will be useful to (insert any excuse here). Feeling guilty about spending money on food and household items that we truly need, because I so often feel guilty about spending any money at all. Feeling the squeeze in my chest every time I pay a bill and see the account balance drop. Feeling the dread of knowing it’s another 10 days before I get paid again, and there’s already no money left after paying for the basic essentials. The almost-despair of trying to work out how to reduce my expenses even more, when I’ve already done everything I can. Having to say no to my kids to doing anything that costs any amount of money, because we just don’t have it. Not being able to give my kids their pocket money, because I just don’t have it. I could go on and on, and on, but I think you get the picture.
Your vision is what you can picture right now. It can be as detailed or as simple as you can manage. Don’t overthink it, don’t worry about if you think you can or can’t achieve it (we’ll deal with that later), but do allow yourself to believe that your financial life can be different.
One point I do feel is important to make is that this process isn’t about stuff. It’s not about working out how to earn more money to be able to spend more money, how to get allthethings that you think will make your life better or will fill some emotional void, or even how to grow a huge savings egg that means you’ll never have to worry about money again.
It’s simply about giving yourself permission to picture a different life, to lean into hope and to believe that with God, anything is possible (even changing 20 years of poor money management).
Would you share your vision with me? And tell me, how can I pray for you as we walk this path together?