Our actions and choices dictate our beliefs.
But how can we continue doing things that we know are not healthy? I’ve been thinking about this, and I think it is has helped me understand my past behavior.
The Art of Deception
The only reason we continue to do things that we know is not healthy is because we don’t really believe they are not healthy.
We might not like the consequences that come from our choices, but the fact that we keep on doing them reveals that we don’t believe they are real problems. That whatever we get from doing them, is worth the cost.
Before you know it, you’ve created habits around these bad decisions, and breaking the cycle becomes harder. You get used to dealing with the consequences, and it becomes routine and a regular part of your life.
You get used to feeling miserable, stressed, behind, and lost. But these feelings don’t have to last forever if you can break the cycle.
Broken People Making Broken Decisions
We all have unique struggles. Maybe you genuinely understand that you are making bad financial choices, but still have a hard time turning things around.
Maybe the problem is that you don’t believe you deserve better. That even though the consequences of your bad financial choices are painful, there is something inside of you rooting for you to continue failing.
This idea is dangerous because you become your own worst enemy. If you don’t think you deserve better, chances are you won’t do anything to make changes.
In my case, purchasing things I couldn’t afford helped me get through life. I was continually struggling internally, and I used buying expensive things to relieve that pain. These purchases only gave me temporary satisfaction before leaving me feeling more empty and behind.
As I’ve written before, I also struggle with self-confidence. But I’m learning that I deserve better than what I was giving myself, and making good decisions has helped boost my confidence.
Revealing Lies for What They Are
The power in lies comes from their ability to convince us that the consequences are worth the cost. But they never are.
This issue is where self-reflection can be incredibly helpful. I started asking myself what I was really getting from buying things we couldn’t afford. After close examination, I determined that they weren’t adding to my life or weren’t improving what matters most to me.
I started learning that it feels so much better to buy things with cash we have on hand. Whether that is for vacations or stuff we need/want. Not having to figure out how we are going to pay off a credit card balance frees up so much financial stress, and has benefitted our marriage too.
There is nothing I could buy that would fill the void I have in my heart. That requires me to dig deep to figure out the core issues and learn that I am worthy of love and affection.
I’ve also realized that money has been working against me for too long. Instead of being a blessing, it has taken us down. I decided that this was unacceptable, and that helped create motivation to turn things around.
Defining What Matters Most
For a long time, I was regularly spending money on things that I thought would make me happy. The issue was not on me spending money. The problem came from how I was spending that money.
I’m learning the most valuable things to me are the following:
- My relationship with Andrea
- My relationship with my kids (two girls)
Everything else isn’t nearly as important as those two things, and I want the way I spend my time and money to focus on what is most important to me.
There are all sorts of things that I could randomly get excited about, but the way I have been thinking about them these days has removed a lot of the power they used to have over me. They still can get me a little excited, but that high doesn’t last nearly as long, and it fades much more quickly than before.
Before I used to focus on these thoughts, about how awesome owning something would be — now I may have these thoughts every once in a while, but I don’t allow my mind to think about them continually.
Getting on the Same Page with Your Marriage Partner
I’m not in this fight alone. Andrea, my wife, is also here with me.
This relationship is a massive benefit because it requires that we continuously work on getting on the same page with our priorities. For the most part, our priorities match up exactly.
Sometimes we unintentionally shift priorities and have to reset what we are doing. This idea requires that we create a safe environment for both of us to be able to talk to each other about anything. Without deep honestly and communication, it is easy for walls and emotional distance to be created in the relationship.
We are two unique individuals, but we are on the same team. The more we can grow our relationship, the more it becomes easier to get on the same page with each other.
Avoiding Self-Inflicted Wounds
Sometimes life will throw unexpected curve balls that make things difficult.
But in my case, most of the financial issues we had to recover from were from the choices we’ve made. This idea is a hard pill to swallow because I realize it did not have to go that way.
But maybe things had to happen the way they did for me to learn what I know now? If I didn’t go through all of those bad financial decisions and consequences, would I have the wisdom I have now? Probably not.
This thought brings me to a place of gratitude that I was able to learn from my mistakes, even though it did cost us time.
I now focus on not having our choices work against what we want out of life — that we can live happily and fulfilled right now but set us up for having more options in the future.
Figuring out what matters the most has made me realize that the best way I can move forward is to do a few things:
- Developing a healthy love for myself.
- Learning to express the love I feel for Andrea and my kids more fully.
I don’t want to develop a massive ego. But I need to give myself grace for the mistakes I’ve made, and continue to learn from them.
And above all, I need to show the deep love I feel for my family. I know they realize I love them, but showing them the depths of my love fills my soul. But I also need to give them space and not smother them (something I need to work on).
In the end, all that matters is these things. I don’t know how the future will look. All I can do is focus on what I have today and move things forward.
Chris is a financial blogger who loves to be transparent about money-related issues. He’s paid off massive amounts of credit card debt and is the blog author of Money Stir. His main focus on Money Stir is talking about how money relates to our relationships, personal development, and how to plan for the future we want. He’s been quoted on Market Watch, The Ladders, and other publications.