Great Savings 20 – Thrive Through Self-Discovery


Who am I really?

Do you know who you are and what you want?

What does self-discovery have to do with saving money and building wealth? We all make important decisions that impact both our finances and emotional well being—decisions like choosing a career, a partner, having kids, etc. The trouble comes when we ignore who we really are, and then make these decisions based on what we believe to be the expectations of our families, friends, or the society we live in. When we do that, we almost always end up going in directions that don’t serve us or cost us far more in the long run.


Important decisions should be ruled by who you are and not what you should do.

It’s important to be clear who’s setting expectations.

Breaking It Down


Ignoring what we most desire from life carries risks. The risk often ends up looking like anger, bitterness, frustration, aggravation, or resentment. And from a financial standpoint, it can translate into not spending money on the things we want in order to afford the things we don’t want, but have to buy anyway. As an example, we could easily end up resenting our parents if we feel they pushed us into having kids too soon. Instead of having the freedom to travel to exciting places or hang out with friends we’re now stuck at home with another mouth to feed, or if we do go out we have to pay for a sitter.


Great Savings Tip #20: Thrive through self-discovery.Resentment, anger and frustration are all forms of emotional baggage that have a way of adding up over time. And unless we figure out how to shed this baggage, it starts to weigh heavily on the soul. This is another way to say it impacts our ability to be happy as we journey through life. Thus, self-discovery is really about uncovering the priorities we can feel passionate about and then going after them. This allows us shed all that extra weight and keep our baggage carrying duties to a minimum. Put is slightly different terms: Thriving comes only after building and pursuing a formula for life that’s in sync with a true inner sense of self.


What kiexpectations does your family continually pass off to you?

Expectations are easy to pass on to our children so it shouldn’t surprise us when they pass them right back.

What To Do? What To Do?


Now, let’s dig a little deeper to see how this plays out: Mary is young, single, and living at home with her parents. All her life she’s had the feeling her parents wanted her to go to college, marry a nice man, have a couple kids, and own a home. Now, while any of these expectations may be admirable or even reflect what Mary wants out of life herself, it’s important to distinguish whether they’re really Mary’s expectations, her parent’s expectations or the expectations of society as a whole.


It's good to be clear who is setting the expectation.

Some of the things we envision happening are a big part of who we are, but other’s are not.

If these expectations are derived from the things Mary’s heard her parents say, then chances are high they’re really all about what her parents want for her, and not necessarily what she wants for herself. Any loving parent wants their child to be happy, but happiness isn’t something that can be passed on through genetics or defined for others. Time also plays a role: When Mary’s folks were young people got married early and having kids was a natural extension of that equation. Mary’s folks also benefited from living in mostly better economic times. This meant owning a home and finding work in their chosen profession were also part of the package of expectation they bought into and passed on to Mary.


The problem for Mary is that though she attended college and even got her degree, she graduated just as the economy went into a major funk. Thus, she’s been lucky to get part-time work (not in her field), hasn’t been able to save any money, and has huge student loans. Mary also had a steady boyfriend throughout high school and into the first year of college, but since then hasn’t found anyone interested in starting a long-term relationship (not to mention anyone interested in having children).


Mary has several friends her age. Several are married, a few have started families, but many are just like Mary. At times, Mary can’t help but to be envious of her friend Julie who has a great job, a wonderful husband and a two year old. In the past, Mary has often wished her life looked more like Julie’s. Now, she’s not so sure. Julie lives the life Mary always envisioned for herself, but lately she’s noticed that Julie is almost always tired, paying a small fortune for daycare, and Julie’s husband is often absent since he travels long distances for his job. Is being married and having a child like Julie what she really wants, or it is just something others expect from her?


We are continually bombarded by messages to part with our money.

Advertising is geared to get us to buy–whether we can afford it or not.

Like the rest of us, Mary is also bombarded with ads and messages in the television and movies she watches. Many of these messages are aimed at getting her to buy products or services, whether she can afford them or not. For instance, Mary can’t really afford the payments on her new car, but it looked so cute in the ads and several of her friends all bought new cars so it was just too hard to resist. In retrospect, she wishes she’d thought things through because now she can barely cover her other living expenses.


It’s easy to see how our lives are impacted by messages we receive—be they from family, friends or otherwise. And unless we take to time to “know ourselves” it’s even easier to fall prey to them. This is where self-discovery comes into play and why it’s so important for building a brighter future. How can Mary get out of debt, save money and decide how she wants to live if she doesn’t take the time to know where she stands?



If this doesn’t make sense, think about a major decision like having children. On the surface, kids are easy to love and bring a thousand joys to life. To some, they are the very meaning of life itself. Yet with every new joy comes a change in stinky diapers, the expense of daycare, braces, and college. There’s also the hassle of ferrying kids to soccer, band practice or thousand other activities. And let’s not forget the ongoing struggle to help them through life’s unfolding dramas, or all the hours spent looking after them. In other words, having a child may be relatively easy—all it requires is a physical act—yet raising kids takes a lot of hard work and turns out to be hugely expensive. Should Mary eventually have kids? We may think it’s appropriate or not based on our own set of values, circumstances or experiences, but shouldn’t Mary be the one decide whether it’s right for her or and whether she’s up to the task?


This dinner costs too much. Why didn't I stand by my principles?

The financial cost of buying into the pressure of a expectation is you can end up living outside your means. That’s the exact opposite of thriving.


Discovering Who You Are


Everyone is different. Should we really expect that what works for some will work for others? As we’ve learned, when we buy into expectations it carry certain costs—both emotional and financial. That’s not always bad. If we embrace an expectation and take it on as our own, embracing the associated costs becomes an easy thing. Yet if we can’t fully embrace an expectation as our own, chances are it will ultimately lead to resentment or frustration. This is why it’s important to take time out, think over priorities, and discover who we are.


How do we do that? Start by asking questions like: Do I really want kids? If so, under what circumstances? Would I have kids if it meant doing it on my own? Would I have to be married first? Do I really want to own a home? Do I want a home with a yard? Am I willing to maintain it? Do I plan to retire? Am I willing to put some of my earnings aside every month to make retiring feasible? Do I want to be married or would I prefer to remain single? Am I good at sharing? Do I feel like it’s giving up when I have to compromise?


Sally doesn't want to get married. She knows she's a free spirit.

Knowing who you are can prevent huge problems down the road.

Questions like these are important as we go to define who we are and what we want. We may like the idea of getting married as a concept, but hate compromise. That makes getting along difficult. We may have high debts, yet even if our partner has a bigger income he or she may refuse to help pay them off. That’s perfectly okay for some and can lead to bitter feelings for others. The bottom line: The more we know about ourselves, the less likely we’ll end up making decisions that will come back to bite us down the road.


Self-discovery is a major key when it comes to building long-term wealth and happiness. Don’t let expectation or circumstance sweep you up into circumstances or situations you can’t embrace. Take charge of your future instead. Decide for yourself who you are and where you want to go in life.


For an excellent method for establishing long-term goals and priorities see our post, “The Life Timeline: Planning For A Brighter Future”.


Action Item: Without taking a lot of time, write out a list of your top priorities. These can be short or long-term. Now decide if the things you wrote are really your priorities or whether you only wrote them down because it’s what you think others expect of you. If they really aren’t about you, scratch them off the list and see what’s left. Then try to organize the list by putting the top priority first. Don’t worry. You don’t have to get this right the first time or feel like you’re locked in. Just keep at it until you have a sense of who you are and what you want out of life. It’s a good idea to revisit your list from time to time, add or subtract from it, and post it in a highly visible spot as a reminder.


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