A while back, I wrote in detail about the longest night of my life, the night when I realized that I needed to change my financial situation. That night, the best answer didn’t come from me. It came from my infant son. When I looked at him, I knew I had to make some sort of change or else I wouldn’t be able to give him the wonderful future he deserved.
In short, he became my inspiration.
He’s two and a half years old now, and he’s still my inspiration. It’s more fun to walk across the hay field behind our house with him and touch hay bales than it is to do almost anything I could spend my money on. The greatest treasure I’ve found lately is finding his orange rubber ball, long believed to be lost, in the tall grass just to the east of our garden. Whenever I’m tempted to spend money, he’s who I think about, and I ask myself whether what I’m doing is in line with what’s best for him.
Not only is he my inspiration, he’s also a constant visual reminder of the financial direction I’ve chosen. For a very long time, I kept a picture of him literally wrapped around my credit cards, so I would see his face each time I pulled it out (it’s since worn into oblivion, but the memory is still very strong, enough to give me that same pause, even now). Whenever he’s with me in a bookstore or another place where I’m tempted to spend, his mere presence often reminds me to keep my impulses in check.
Do you need inspiration, and a way to remind yourself of that inspiration? Here are six places to look.
The vast reduction of stress and worries
Are you kept up at night stressing about debt? Is it causing you stress at work? Are you gaining weight, or have an ulcer? I’ve had readers write to me stating that their debt load is literally killing them because of the stress load it’s putting them under.
This, right here, can be a huge inspiration for a financial turnaround. When you’re up at night worried about debt, sit down and just write out what you’re feeling on a sheet of paper. Don’t worry about grammar or anything else, just try as best you can to express what you’re feeling right now. Are you scared? What are your fears right now? Write it all down, let it pour out.
Then take this sheet and wrap up your credit cards in them, or just keep it in your pocket where you’ll find it on a regular basis. Whenever you need help to make the right choice, look at that sheet and ask yourself if you ever want to feel that way again.
The ability to change careers
Do you utterly dread going to work, but you know you have to because you’re leashed to that paycheck like a pack mule? Are you terrifically afraid of the idea of losing your job, to the point where your boss uses that fear as leverage over you to get you to do more work than is appropriate? Do you dream about doing something else with your life, but know that you can’t possibly make that move right now?
Use your job as a motivation to right your financial ship. Take a picture of your desk/work area, print it out, and keep it in your pocket or wrap it around your credit cards. Every time you go to use the plastic, you can look at that little piece of paper and ask yourself whether that little purchase you’re about to make is worth chaining yourself to that desk for another day.
The dream you’ve always had
I spent most of my life dreaming of becoming a writer. I dabbled in serious writing for more than a decade, writing every day, trying out new things - and telling myself I couldn’t really do it. Why? Money. The almighty dollar ran the show for me and it kept saying, “You can’t do it!” Well, that was a lie.
Dream big. Dream about that thing that you want so badly it hurts. Keep it in mind all the time. Find a token that represents that dream and keep it in your pocket. A friend of mine dreams of becoming a professional poker player (and he’s closer than he thinks). He keeps a poker chip in his pocket, one that was initialed by Doyle Brunson. The signature has worn off but the dream is still there.
The child whose responsibilities you bear
The birth of a child is one of the most emotionally powerful things you will ever experience. The raw realization that you are now responsible for this child can be an overwhelming experience and, for some, an incredible burden.
You want to give them the world, but it’s not that easy. Or is it? Use your children as your inspiration to walk a stronger financial path. Keep their picture with you - or wrapped around your credit cards - and let them silently push you to do better. This is the inspiration that worked for me.
The things you notice and overhear
Have you ever seen the look of panic on a person’s face when they hear that their credit card is rejected? The worried sound in someone’s voice when they’re trying to talk someone out of a purchase that’s beyond the pale? Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Are they really happy with their situation? Better yet, would you rather be in that position, with all the trappings but with fear in your voice, or in a financially secure one?
I once witnessed a woman shout in a panicked voice at a waiter about her rejected credit card. She had no other way to pay for the meal, and it quickly became a spectacle. A person at my table said, “Sure glad it’s not me.” That memory has stuck in my head for years, and now, as I was then, I’m glad it wasn’t me.
Use images like that as a motivator in your head. Are you heading in the direction of security, or are you heading in the direction of the guy at the hotel desk, sweating nervously and having the person try every credit card in your wallet, hoping that one of them has just enough credit to pay the bill? Where would you rather be? Every little choice you make pushes you in one direction or another - remember where the path of overspending leads.
The love of your life
Perhaps, in the end, your spouse is your inspiration. Your financial lives are entwined, and every financial choice you make not only affects you over the long term, it also affects your wife. Sure, you want that nice new driver at the golf store, but wouldn’t it be better to sock away that thousand dollars for your earlier retirement?
One reader wrote to me a while back suggesting that you use your wedding ring as inspiration. He switches the ring around on different fingers every day, just so it always seems new, fresh, and important, and then whenever he makes a choice, that ring’s in an unexpected place, just enough to remind him of the great thing he has at home and the fact that he’s making choices that not only affect his future, but hers as well.
Inspiration can be an incredibly powerful thing. Get some today.
The Simple Dollar chronicles a man's road to recovery from "total financial meltdown." As author Trent Hamm puts it, "The Simple Dollar is a blog for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two." We'll post a couple of entries a week, but you can check out his writing daily at www.thesimpledollar.com