I’m overdue for a “My Journey” update. Not because I was too busy, or that I forgot.
Sadly, I’m late writing this because I didn’t believe I had anything to report.
I didn’t believe anything positive had changed, both in my personal finances and my blog. I worried that I was overspending and my net worth was steadily declining. I felt like I was failing at so many things.
It became so bad in fact that I set out last week to wander the neighborhoods with the personal agreement that I was not to head back to the house until I had some idea of why I was in such a pessimistic funk.
Here’s what I came to realize during my walk and inner reflection:
- I have not been practicing what I preach
- I’ve been battling some major self-limiting beliefs
- I actually had no idea what progress I had made, or not made, over the last 6 months
- I was selfishly wallowing in my own negativity to the extent that I had neglected to practice gratitude
- Lack of gratitude leads resentment
- Resentment causes a limiting and pessimistic mindset
- I was in serious need of an attitude adjustment
Whenever I feel like I’m not happy with my life or my progress, I know it’s time to review my overall vision and regain clarity. So, for this journey update, 1.5 years into my blogging and FI journey, I’ll let you in on my personal exercise of self-reflection. I do this so you can see firsthand how I managed to remove my fog of pessimism and change my mindset for the positive.
All in the span of a walk around the neighborhood.
Contents and Quick Links
- 1 Never forget your long-term goals
- 2 Self-limiting beliefs are cranky little gremlins that sabotage your success
- 3 Why you need to practice gratitude on a daily basis
- 4 Recognize feelings of resentment and kick them to the curb. Pronto.
- 5 How to overcome a bad attitude and start living your ideal life
- 6 1.5 year update
- 7 Blogging update
- 8 Savings Update
- 9 Investing update
- 10 Net worth update
- 11 Personal goals update
- 12 Recap / Lesson learned
Never forget your long-term goals
During my walk, the very first realization I came to was that I had forgotten all about my long-term goals. You know, those 1, 5 and 10 year goals that I have published for the whole wide world to see? It used to be front and center on the SStoFI website, on the main menu between the “about me” and “contact me” links. The only reason I have moved it to the Goal Setting Category page is because my main menu became a little too cluttered.
The point being, these goals are important enough to be front and center. No matter how horrifying and scary the thought is of people actually reading and judging me for them. They are personal and I’m not the best at letting people in.
Your 1, 5 and 10 year goals are meant to guide you on you the path that you want to take during this lifetime. They should keep you excited. They cause you to jump out of bed in the morning, motivated to step up your game and be the very best at being you.
As soon as I realized that I had lost sight of my long term vision, I was so disheartened and disappointed in myself. Here I am, telling the world how important it is to set goals and keep them front and center in your life. Yet I’d lost sight of my own goals. I haven’t been practicing what I’ve been preaching.
Without the clarity of the path I wanted to follow, I felt deflated, unmotivated, lost and stagnant.
This opened the door for self-limiting beliefs that I simply didn’t have what it takes to make progress.
Self-limiting beliefs are cranky little gremlins that sabotage your success
As I walked I focused on the negative thoughts that kept surfacing. I acknowledged them for what they were, cranky little self-limiting beliefs hiding out in my subconscious. These little gremlins were leading me to believe things like:
- I was a total f-up. I had no idea what progress I had made over the last few months, so the obvious assumption was that I’d made none at all.
- I was a total imposter. I mean, who am I to help people take control of their money and create a life of abundance and joy? I wasn’t feeling the abundance and joy myself.
- Since I’m a stagnant imposter, I’m doomed to failure. I’d better squirrel away my money because I’m not likely to succeed at this blogging gig.
- If I can’t earn the money I dream of having, I’d better live a life of scarcity.
Not only are these limiting beliefs a load of crap, they are exactly what they are called: Limiting. They hold you back from being the awesome and capable individual that you are. They prevent you from achieving your goals and realizing your potential.
My limiting beliefs were preventing me from taking action and making progress. Since making progress makes me happy, and I wasn’t getting anywhere, I was an unhappy and ungrateful mess. And I was stuck in this cycle without even being aware of it.
Why you need to practice gratitude on a daily basis
Just as I had set out on my walk, I mentally set out to banish all the negativity I was wallowing in. My tool of choice was gratitude.
Somewhat coincidentally, or serendipitously, a fellow blogger had just reached out to me and asked if I would contribute to her multi-post series on gratitude. She asked every contributor to answer one question. My question was this:
In the spirit of gratitude, what makes you feel better after a lousy day?
The problem was, I was in such a funk that I didn’t even know how to answer this seemingly simple question!
I realized that I was stuck in a whole string of lousy days and I didn’t know how to make myself feel better. So in the spirit of my homework, I turned to gratitude.
The cool thing is, once you embrace gratitude and start practicing it on a regular basis, life becomes pretty awesome. And you can kick serious goal setting ass when you are in a positive mindset. When you appreciate what you have, embrace the positive and have an optimistic outlook at what’s ahead, nothing can stop you.
I’m going to climb off my soap box now, but you can read more on how I feel about gratitude and success at Why Gratitude is the Key to Unlocking Happiness & Success.
Recognize feelings of resentment and kick them to the curb. Pronto.
As I was trying to answer my question about turning around a difficult day, I was becoming increasingly annoyed by my inability to quickly come up with anything.
Immediate thoughts like “sit in a dark room and read a book all day” and “veg out on the couch to a good Netflix binge” came to mind. But thankfully, I recognized them for what they were: my subconscious attempt to hide from my own issues.
I started by focusing on all the negative feelings I was experiencing. Why did I feel this way? What was bothering me so much? As these negative thoughts came to mind, I simply acknowledged them and moved on to the next. It was important that I not judge or belittle myself for them.
Once I had a general idea of why I was in my funk, I started going back to each negative thought and resentment, and adding a positive thought to go with it.
How to use gratitude to dispel negative thoughts and resentments
The first and biggest negative emotion I was experiencing revolved around my W2 work week. For every negative thought I had about work, I countered it with something I was grateful for.
Negative thought: I hate my long commute. It makes me feel grumpy and frustrated and that I’m wasting valuable time. I’m resentful of the time I waste during my commute.
Replaced with: I love my job. I feel appreciated and valued and that I’m making a difference. I knew my commute would be long and made the decision that it was worth it anyway. I’m fortunate enough to only work three days a week, so this long commute is manageable.
Resulting change in mindset: Yes, my commute is long, but if I leave early enough I miss all the traffic. My drive isn’t stressful when there isn’t any traffic. Also, this is a great opportunity to listen to audio books that I’ve been meaning to read but just don’t have the time. Now my commute time is productive and enjoyable.
The result of this exercise was to lighten the mental and physical burden of resentment. It took the span of a walk around the neighborhood to accomplish, but the result was an entirely improved mood and mindset.
How to overcome a bad attitude and start living your ideal life
After just 20 minutes of walking I had managed to uncover the limiting beliefs and resentments contributing to my grumpy mood. I simply acknowledged the negative thoughts, recognized them for what they were, then countered them with gratitude.
This immediately left me feeling unburdened and filled with budding optimism. It sounds corny, but it’s true! With a more optimistic mindset I was better able to reflect back on the last 6 months without just assuming that everything was terrible. I vowed to revisit my goals and measure the progress that I had made.
Then, I shifted my focus to the big picture. I needed to regain clarity on my short and long-term goals, and how I was going to achieve them. I started imagining the life I wanted to be leading, the person I wanted to be and the goals I needed to achieve in order to realize this ideal life.
I started dreaming of exactly what I wanted in my personal life, my family life, my career and my blog. Then, I started defining those dreams as my new long-term goals. Some of these remain the same that I had written for myself a year and a half ago. Some of them were new. And many of my old goals needed to be redefined.
As I finished up my walk, I had a newfound inner peace, optimism and excitement to take action. I was feeling much more like my usual self, ready to take on my goals and create the life I want, while still enjoying all that I have right now.
1.5 year update
And now for the fun part. What have I actually accomplished since my last “My Journey” update? Once I arrived back from my walk, I started reviewing the data.
The last six months have filled with the typical blogging highs, and very low, lows. I’m learning that this is just the norm.
- I was interviewed by the New York Times!!!! (For These Women, a FIRE That Burns Too Male and Too White)
- I had my first guest appearance on a podcast! (Episode 59 – Suddenly Single – Parenting and Financial Insecurity with Dawn Holley)
- I rebranded from fi&wine to Stepping Stones to FI, which reconnected me with my overall purpose, to provide readers with the tools and action steps to achieve their financial goals.
- My traffic can go from 28,000 down to 4,500 monthly viewers, without much rhyme or reason.
- Blogging is a time consuming and expensive endeavor! It’s easy to become overwhelmed and disheartened.
- It’s taking me longer than expected to achieve my blogging goals.
That said, here’s a look at how my stats have improved over the last six months:
- Increase in traffic to my site: 250%
- Increase in subscribers: 360%
- Highest Pinterest monthly viewers: 1.2 million
- Income increase: 60%
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m saving any money. The thing is, I automate my saving as much as possible and keep my monthly checking account balance at the bare minimum that my budget allows. Which means I always feel like I have juuuuuust enough money.
Meanwhile behind the scenes, I have money shuffled around almost daily.
I have 15% of every paycheck automatically moved to my employer sponsored retirement account. My company matches 10% of my paycheck as well. After all my other deductions, like healthcare and taxes, I continue to pay myself first by moving an additional 50% of my take home pay over to my savings account.
Once my savings account reaches a set amount, I transfer the extra money over to a longer term online savings account with a higher interest rate.
When all is said and done, my savings rate has maintained an average of 60% over the last 6 months. This is a very big increase since my last “My Journey” update, not only because I haven’t encountered any large unexpected expenses, like my $7,700 social security bill, but also because my monthly expenses have decreased and my earnings increased.
It’s worth noting however that I don’t intend to maintain this high a savings rate. I’ve found that a range between 40-50% is manageable without sucking the joy out of life. A savings rate of 60% feels like a sustained mindset of scarcity. And that’s just no fun.
Six months ago I reported that I was in the process of purchasing a passive real estate investment house. This investment has taken many months more than expected. Thankfully, it is in escrow and the sale should be finalized within the next couple weeks.
The estimated rate of return is 15%, which is much better than leaving savings in an online savings account, earning around 2% interest.
I’m already starting my research on what my next real estate investment will be. My goal is to own a vacation rental next!
Want to get in on the best form of investing? Check out these posts on real estate investing:
- Real Estate Investing: 6 Pivotal Reasons To Get Started Today
- How To: Analyze Your First Rental Property
- How I Purchased My First Rental Property
Net worth update
This next update goes to show how impactful and limiting a negative mindset can be. My net worth update blew my mind!
Here I was thinking that I wasn’t making any financial headway. In reality, I wasn’t doing a good job tracking my savings and investments.
Over the last 9 months, my net worth increased by 14.8%. I’d consider that progress!
Personal goals update
When I reviewed my 2019 goals, I found that there were some areas I was actively working on, and some that I had either forgotten about entirely or just didn’t want to pursue anymore. So I went through the exercise of rewriting my goals, following the worksheet for (link to 10 year goals).
The process left me feeling newly energized, positive and motivated to continue moving forward and living my very best life.
Recap / Lesson learned
It’s so important to recognize those times in your life when negativity and resentments start creeping in. These are the times when you begin to lose sight of your bigger picture. You lose clarity of where you are right now, how far you have come to get to this point, and where you want to be in the future.
We all have the power to live the life we want to live. Regardless of how crappy current circumstances may be.
I started out 10 years ago as a widowed single mom with no job and no career training. I had no income and no savings. But I did dream of a better future and I set the goals which led to where I am now.
I have every reason to believe that I can continue making progress and creating the life I dream of. If I can do it, so can you.
You can visit my previous “My Journey” updates: