Part of being successful both financially and otherwise requires us to be intentional with the choices we make in our lives, the big and the small. Analyzing our given situation, identifying pro’s and con’s, determining what choices align with our values and ultimately making well informed decisions are key factors in leading a successful and financially independent life.
When we apply an analytical approach to our decision making, and ensure our choices conform to our intrinsic values, we avoid the trap of doing things “just because”.
The “just because” mentality is the equivalent of putting your life on auto-pilot. Just because that’s how I’ve always done it, just because that’s how everyone else is doing it, just because that’s how it’s done. “Just because” becomes a scape goat for the choices we make and tends to push us along with the herd. And if we follow the herd, it’s easy to find ourselves on a path with no real sense of how we got there, or where exactly we are going.
In the fast paced world we live in, its easy to lose track of the rationale behind a lot of our decisions. For many, our choices become about surviving the day, not necessarily about taking a birds eye view of what we want out of our lives. But Financial Freedom isn’t just achieved through the big decisions, it’s the seemingly small day to day stuff that can really propel you towards your goal.
That’s why it’s crucial to make room in your life to take a step back, size things up, and always, always, always ask two really important questions:
- Is there a better way?
Why am I doing this? Does it align with my goals, does it bring value to my life? Once you have the “why” identified, and are satisfied that your choice is in fact bringing value to your life, then its time to ask if there is better option or more efficient way to achieve that “why“.
So many businesses consistently fail when it comes to asking these two questions. They get stuck doing business they way they have always done it, and because of that they miss out on increasing efficiency, improving quality, empowering employees, and ultimately what all businesses want, higher profits.
The businesses that do ask these questions tend to be both innovative and agile. They aren’t so rooted in the “way things are done” that the can’t respond effectively to a changing marketplace or client need.
It’s easy to identify when businesses or companies aren’t asking those questions. Usually it’s apparent in their employee moral, rate of growth, or even their overall bottom line. They tend to be stagnant and frustrating places to work. I know, I’ve worked in them.
Unfortunately, the failure to ask these questions is just as prolific with individuals, particularly when it relates to finances. Failing to assess each financial decision you make, coupled with not taking time to sufficiently understand all available options, can wreak havoc on your finances.
From something as small as banking fee’s, to the management expense ratio for your investments, to tax efficiencys; when we fail to take the time to educate ourselves on the financial tools we are using and why we are using them, we can’t possibly ensure that we are selecting the best tool to reach our goals.
Asking these two questions regularly is essential to managing your finances, but it should also be applied to every other area of life.
When we switch into auto-pilot and our lives become hectic, the ability to critically assess our actions is quickly lost. We become reactive instead of proactive about our choices. Tell tale signs of a reactive lifestyle are unhappiness, discontentment, and a feeling of stagnation. Society has even come up with a term to address the symptoms that arise when we feel this way, the mid-life crisis. Studies suggest that it’s happening earlier and earlier in life. So is it really a mid-life crisis? Or is it just that people are so busy trying to figure out their career and family that by the time they stop to assess things they have no idea how they got to where they are. Nor are they sure if they are happy about where they are.
So how do we avoid feeling like we woke up and found ourselves in someone else’s shoes?
Ask why all the time. About everything, big and small. It forces you to think about what you are doing, rather than just doing it. You should be able to easily identify the value that each choice or action is bringing to your life. If your answer suggests you’re doing it because you have to, because you “should”, or “just because”, it’s probably time to rethink that choice entirely.
When pausing to ask why becomes a habit, it highlights exactly how much we do in our lives without really thinking about it.
Why do I have a gym membership? Do I enjoy going?
Why do we live in our current neighbourhood? Do we like the area, the amenities?
Why do I drive to work? Do I enjoy the time to think, or to listen to podcasts?
Why do I buy designer clothes? Is it because it makes me feel good, or is it because of how it makes other people see me?
Once you are done asking the why, and you’ve identified the underlying goal of the action, make sure you follow it up by asking if there is a better way. Sometimes the paths we are choosing are not the most efficient, they’re just the most readily apparent. Or even more common, they are often just what we’ve always done.
Maybe there is a better more enjoyable way for you to stay active than paying for a gym membership. Maybe there is a neighbourhood, city, or even country for you to live in that would better meet your financial goals, lifestyle and values. Maybe there’s an alternative to driving to work that can reduce your stress and requirements for a vehicle (or that second vehicle). Maybe you could buy used designer items at a fraction of the cost, or skip them altogether.
Something as mundane as grocery shopping can be broken down exactly this way. Why do we go to the grocery store? To get food to feed ourselves and our family, which contributes to our overall health and well-being. I’d say that’s a worthwhile thing to do. But maybe going to the grocery store is difficult with your schedule, or its proximity to your home makes it time intensive. Or you just dislike doing it. So even though you’ve identified that the goal of ensuring your families health and well-being is worthwhile, perhaps theres a better way? There’s all sorts of grocery chains that offer online ordering and delivery of your groceries for a minimal cost. Perhaps the $4.95 you spend on having the groceries delivered will be offset by your gas savings, or any impulse purchases you may be prone to getting when you’re walking through the grocery store tired and stressed out. Maybe you’ll actually come out ahead in terms of time and money spent, while saving yourself some stress along the way.
The bottom line is that once you identify the why at the heart of what you are doing, it’s a lot easier to assess if there is a better way to achieve that why.
By being intentional in our choices, and understanding our individual motivations for those choices, we can not only save financially, but experience a happier and more contented life.