Almost every problem you face right now stems from ignoring who you will be tomorrow
In a time of such global uncertainty, it’s important to invest in our future selves.
I know what you’re thinking: all of that forward-thinking would give you too much anxiety; it would take you out of the present moment and make you feel totally disconnected from the joys of daily life.
In response, I ask you this: Are you really being present now? Are you really savoring and soaking up every bit of joy now? Are you really connected to the people around you now?
The answer is probably no.
This is because it’s almost completely impossible to relax, live in the moment, and foster healthy relationships when you are constantly stressed about the future. When faced with various external unknowns (such as, you know, a global pandemic and the potential ripple effect it could continue to have on life as we know it) it’s extremely important to focus on adjusting your life to support success down the line.
Your future self will thank you.
Properly organize your home
Cleaning is a temporary fix, organization is a long-term restructuring of the way you live.
Why does this matter to your future self? Because everything you need to function on a day-to-day basis is found in your home. When your belongings are shrouded in clutter, dust, and confusion, life becomes so much more complex than it needs to be.
Your surroundings have a far more significant impact on your mental state than you realize. Everything you see, touch, and interact with from the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed is slowly depleting your energy, willpower, and ability to choose.
When you’ve properly organized your home in a way that suits you and your needs — your clothing is in the right space, everything has a “place,” your paperwork is located in one area, your keys always rest in the same spot — you will save yourself a tremendous amount of mental energy and time.
If your space reflects who you want your future self to become, you will start to become that person.
Address your single most self-destructive habit
If you do absolutely nothing else for the well-being of your future self, addressing your single most self-destructive habit would probably do you more good than anything else.
This is because of the Pareto principle: 80% of your outcomes stem from 20% of your actions. This means that, likewise, 80% of your dissatisfaction is coming from 20% of your habits.
You don’t need to fix everything at once. You don’t need to fix everything you deem to be a problem.
Pick one thing you know to be extremely unhealthy or unsustainable. Then, tackle it and nothing else. Focus singularly on this issue until you’ve made even marginal progress. Your willingness to at least be conscious of the issue and take some form of action will yield greater results than pushing the problem out of your psyche altogether — which is what most people do.
Invest in yourself
You are your own greatest investment. The space between where you are and where you want to be can only be bridged by your own self-development — and everything you do for yourself is either a liability or an asset. If you take the time to read, complete online courses, get therapy or coaching, or learn a new skill… that $100 or so you invest up-front could turn into far more.
This has other applications, too. When you eat something healthy, you’re investing in yourself. When you learn to cook a meal, you’re investing in yourself. When you purchase a great wardrobe piece, you’re investing in yourself.
Strategically reduce your overhead
Of all the so-called “tips and tricks” of financially stable people, this is probably the most important one. No matter how much money you will or will not make in your life, your goal must be to keep personal overhead costs as low as you can.
…And your future self will probably make a lot more money than you — which is why you need to learn this now.
You need to be conscious of lifestyle inflation. Don’t buy into materialism. Well-off people aren’t always the ones driving the expensive sports car — in fact, that’s often the exception. They’re more likely the ones driving an older car they’ve cared for over the course of many years, paid off long ago, and truly squeezed for every last possible mile.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things. It means that when you get those nice things, you’re confident they will not inflate your monthly liabilities to such a degree that even a higher-paying job can barely float them. When your overhead rises, you end up right back in the financially strained position you were in when your income was far less.
Save money in small, automated bits
This matters for your finances, but applies across the board: Stop waiting for the windfall, and focus on the microshift.
If you’re like most people, you’re overestimating the likelihood that you’ll just come upon a great deal of cash — at which point you’ll invest properly. You’re underestimating the value of even just $20/week saved and invested. You need to automate, regulate, and downsize your saving strategy.
The key is really this: whatever you save must be small enough that you can put it on auto-pay and not think about it again.
Consumer expert Clark Howard suggests that you start by saving just 1% of your income (one penny of every dollar earned). It’s so small you won’t even notice that it’s not in your checking account. In six months, add another percent. Keep doing this until you’ve naturally adjusted to saving, and it doesn’t feel daunting or limiting anymore.
Forget your budget
Yes, you heard me.
But I don’t mean you shouldn’t budget at all. See, there are two things that hold most people back from sustainable long-term budgeting: Their categories are so limited it’s unsustainable (you budget the way you’d want to spend, not the way you really do), or the budget doesn’t reflect your fluctuating monthly needs.
If you’re working on a business and have to put a large chunk of money into outsourcing a project one month, it will seem like you’re totally out of budget. But you’re not. You’re increasing your returns.
What matters more is giving yourself a broad, annual view of your finances. You can do this by setting up a spreadsheet with your fixed expenses, variable expenses, and then a column for each month of the year. Next to each month, fill in what you earned, what you paid in taxes (if you pay them yourself), what you saved, what debt you paid, and any significant spending categories.
Over time, you’ll begin to see a clear picture of your financial reality. You’ll realize you haven’t saved any money all year, but you’ve invested in a vacation one month and a new leather jacket the next. Both of those items may have technically fit into your “budget” — but when you zoom out and look at the big picture, are they really supporting your goals?
Yes, you need to manage and track your monthly spending, but your annual spending trends are far more important — and they’ll tell you whether you’re heading in the right direction or not.
Fight for your relationships
The quality of your relationships is determined by two things: your willingness to walk away when it’s wrong, and your willingness to commit when it’s right.
Interestingly, most of us seem to be not great at either of those.
Fight for your relationships — the ones you know are worth fighting for. It’s easy to become passive, to pick fights, to allow time and schedules and jobs and distance prevent you from checking in on friends and being an active part of their lives.
Our relationships do not just manage themselves. Like so many things in life, they require our consistent effort. Relationships, more than almost anything else, are usually worth the investment of time and energy we put into them.
Learn to cook simple foods, and enjoy them
Aside from the fact that eating out tends to be the primary culprit of broken budgets, learning to cook and eat simply is an incredible way to ground yourself, invest in your health, reconnect to your essential needs, and foster better relationships with those you love.
The problem is that most people don’t cook because they think their food must rival a professional chef’s.
Once you’ve begun to think takeout Pad Thai is the kind of food you must be eating at home, everything seems like a failure. By remembering that it is perfectly okay to eat simple foods you enjoy, you invest in holistic wellness long-term.
Decide what you actually want to experience in life, and go for it
At the end of the day, you can tend to your budget and keep your house clean and know what your retirement plan is — but if you aren’t ambitious about pursuing the life experience you really want, it will all be for nothing.
Don’t get to the end of this thing and realize you never did what you wanted because you were thinking of the barriers instead of the solutions, limitations instead of possibilities.
At the end of your life, you’ll look back and realize how much was possible. Then, you’ll have to reconcile whether or not you took the leap.