Great Savings #48 – Focus On Prosperity

 

gst48-holding-a-baby

What do you see as you look at this picture? A curious baby? A proud father or grandpa? An extra burden on the family budget? What we see says a lot about who we are and what we expect. This is an example of the power of the mind at work.

We have only so much time in a day to focus our precious mental energy on the things we do. Focus on the wrong things and we risk spending time and resources in a way that define and set limits over everything else we might accomplish. Focus on the right things and we open ourselves to a multitude of opportunities. How we spend our metal energy is therefore critically important to all life’s business. And no where do we feel the impact more than when it comes to eliminating debt or creating prosperity.

 

The mind is a powerful tool. Every day men and women come up with new ideas, new inventions, and new technologies by focusing their mental energy on problems set before them. Interestingly, human experience proves time and again that the mere act of thinking about a problem is often the prime requirement for coming up with a solution. Achievements like flying to the moon, building pyramids or creating the virtual world of the internet ought to remind us that the capacity to accomplish great things is limited only by our capacity to dream them.

 

Defining Prosperity

 

A picture of a large house with a 3 car garage.

What does prosperity look like to you? A big house? A 3-car garage?

Several concepts may come to mind when we think of the word prosperity. Concepts like: Success, wealth, good fortune, personal achievement, or financial well-being. No matter how else you may define it, chances are you’ll also see prosperity as state of being with a feel-good positive vibe. And why not? What’s not to love about prosperity? If someone offered a “life of prosperity” you certainly wouldn’t turn them down.

 

Going Beyond Debt Free

 

One person's poverty is another man's wealth.

When you think of being debt free do you consider what it will mean and how it will change your options? For example, would you want a bigger house?

Think about a goal to get out of debt. On the surface it’s a great goal. After all, who wants to be in debt? That just means we’re paying someone else a fee for the right to use their money. Worse, over time the fees add up and create a huge burden that sucks the life energy out of our veins.

 

As we strive to be debt free there’s another issue at play that is easy to overlook: Say we finally achieve our goal and are completely out of debt. What happens then? Is life suddenly better? Do we have plans in place to achieve a sense of greater personal freedom or happiness? In a way, couldn’t we say being debt free is a great accomplishment, but one without a real plan for the future?

 

gst48-paddle-boat

Some people might consider this a poor man’s yacht. Other’s might see it as a way to fulfill a dream to fish or simply pass the time. Would a boat like this be a part of a prosperous life?

When our entire focus becomes one of “eliminating debt” we risk focusing on the wrong thing for the simple reason we aren’t thinking big enough. Without an equal or greater focus on generating more income, or on the opportunities available to us once we’re debt free, we’ll get caught up inside a very narrowly defined world—one where getting by on less and making monthly payments rule the day. That may work well for reducing the amount of money we owe, but it’s by no means a guaranteed formula for greater personal happiness.

 

Upping the Ante

 

Give me a luxury cruise and I'll be happy.

Does prosperity look like a luxury cruise to you? Does it have to?

Now, let’s consider a different goal. Instead of a goal to be debt free, what if we set a goal to be prosperous? Such a goal certainly wouldn’t preclude working down debt as a part of the equation, but it allows us to do more. There’s a sense of having the freedom to spend some of our precious mental energy developing more income or perhaps deciding what being prosperous really means to us as we go about day-to-day living. In other words, a goal to be prosperous allows us to consider what life should look like not only after we’re debt free, but how it should look right now.

 

This is Great Savings Tip #48 - Focus On ProsperityWhen it comes to accumulating wealth, being grounded in the present and having a long-term view are key. Getting rich won’t happen in a day. It happens over the course of years or even a lifetime. And as to debt, we might have it one day, not have it the next, or decide that in order to reach a state of prosperity we need to go into debt for a period of time in order to leverage our buying power—for example, if we wanted to start or expand a business. We should note going into debt this way is much different than going into debt just so we can accumulate more stuff.

 

Rethinking Prosperity

 

For some a fancy meal means wealth.

Would eating a fancy meal create a sense of being prosperous? Would eating any meal?

Prosperity is an elusive concept in the sense it means different things to different people. Most would probably include some measure of wealth to define it, but to complicate matters few people are ever satisfied with the accumulation of money alone. What they really want is to partake in all the opportunities greater wealth provides.

 

Experience the culture of a foreign land.

What are you going to remember most about your trip? Will it be all the money you spent or the experiences you had, like that time you met that crazy guy selling tequila?

Let’s look at an example to see how this plays out: Say you’ve always wanted to travel to Europe. You know need money to get there—lots of it. You’ll need plane tickets, places to stay, money for restaurants, sight-seeing, and so on. Ironically, the memories you take back home with you aren’t likely to involve money at all. They’ll be about all the things you experienced while you were traveling: The food, the wine, the sights unique to the countries you saw, who you traveled with, the people you met, etc. Thus, we might say leading a life of prosperity isn’t simply a matter of having more money; it’s about having the opportunity to use that money to create a better, fuller, or richer overall life experience.

 

Mind Over Matter

 

Where and how we focus our mental energy matters. Think again of getting out of debt. If your thoughts constantly boil down to statements like “I need to cut my spending” or “I can’t afford that” then life can look pretty bleak. Yet if you think in terms of being prosperous, eliminating debt is just another rung on the ladder. In other words, it’s not an end in itself, but a step we use to reach a different and hopefully better place.

 

I love sitting on the beach and soaking up the view.

Having wealth is great, but it isn’t a requirement to feeling prosperous. Rich or poor, try sitting on a beach, soaking up the sun and enjoying the view. Priceless!

Try to picture the following scenario: Your goal is to get out of debt. You have every intention of doing just that, but something always seems to get in the way and you aren’t making progress. You see yourself as a failure. You think, “I’m taking all the steps. There’s not that much I have to do. I just need to spend less money and cut up my credit cards. Why isn’t this working?”

 

Now picture this: Your goal is to seek a life of prosperity. You have every intention of doing just that, but you can’t seem to figure out how. You wonder if prosperity is really possible. You think, “What more can I do? Am I doing enough? How much will getting out of debt matter to feeling prosperous? Should I start a business? Can I get a better paying job? Is being rich really the same as being prosperous?”

 

To some the differences may seem subtle. In both instances we want relief from burdens in our hope to achieve something better. Yet the narrow focus of getting out of debt carries a negative energy about it. The formula is straight forward but restrictive in the sense it limits our view of what life is all about or what seems possible. The goal is short term.

 

 

On the other hand, by striving to achieve a sense of prosperity we are constantly seeking answers. There are no set rules. We may define prosperity differently depending on our values or where we are in life. We may conclude life already contains a certain measure of prosperity for we are already doing things we deem most important. We may even decide that taking on some debt at times allows us to achieve certain goals or have certain experiences we consider worthwhile—at least in the bigger picture. If you can’t understand this, go back to our example of a trip to Europe. Now imagine going into debt to do it in your forties or fifties instead of waiting until you saved up enough in your seventies or eighties. Your ability to get around and see more as a younger person may be greatly enhanced and you can take those memories into retirement instead of skipping them altogether.

 

No Excuses

 

We aren’t trying to provide an excuse for being in debt. We still believe it’s better to live debt free than live in debt. The burden of interest is costly both in terms of how it impacts the ability to accumulate wealth and how it drains vital life energy. Being debt free is therefore a good goal, but we suggest going bigger by making it a part of finding all the prosperity you deserve out of life.

 

Action Item: Ask yourself if your financial goals are really set up to work for you? If not, try defining what prosperity really means. Then massage or replace your old goals with new ones that lead to a sense of feeling prosperous. If you struggle, try thinking of ways you’ve already achieved a sense of prosperity—even if only for a short time. Then ask what made the difference. If you can zero in on the things that have worked in the past, you may be able to repeat them or adapt them to create better goals.

 

If you struggle to find meaning or think you’ll never get ahead, read:

Great Savings 20 – Thrive Through Self-Discovery
Great Savings 26 – The Power Of Gratitude
Great Savings 28 – Money And Happiness

 

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