Picture this. Lancaster, PA. January 31, 2017.
I’m sitting next to Garrett, budgeting for February. We realized we were close to debt freedom, but we didn’t know how many weeks we had to go, so we took a look at the calendar.
“I had no idea we were this close.”
And other explicit exclamations of exuberance. Why?
Because we had just 6 weeks to go to debt freedom.
At the beginning of our personal finance journey two years ago, we were excited. Tons of energy to try all the personal finance things out there that you read about on PF blogs.
You name it. We’ve done it to eradicate our debt, all of which paid off.
After seeing how close we were to debt freedom, my anxiety grew…
“I just want to be debt free.” – I said repeatedly.
Rather than wish away the days until we could say we’re debt free, we made it a point to use each and every day between February 1 and today to make progress on other goals, like learning ASL and enjoying more action verbs. Anxiety continued to rear its ugly head on occasion, but making progress on other goals helped me focus on the gift that is each day.
I feel comfortable enough to focus on something other than the work I do, which is not something I would have said a year ago because I had a scarcity mindset. I worried about taking the proverbial foot off the gas for fear that we wouldn’t achieve debt freedom.
I mean, we had the most debt we ever had one year ago because the big house didn’t sell, so OF COURSE I was scared! There was NO WAY we could go after other goals with that kind of debt, right?!
This scarcity mindset didn’t come about because of this personal finance journey. Oh no. It’s been there since childhood and it’s held me back in adulthood. I was afraid of EVERYTHING.
Last year, I was afraid we couldn’t sell our big house, afraid that leaving a “secure” job to pursue entrepreneurship would “ruin” my resume, afraid that I’d fail on my own, afraid we’d end up bankrupt.
Having a scarcity mindset made the world of possibility seem scary, so it’s no wonder that we used to spend our big house days doing what was normal, like binge watching [fill in the blank] TV show and leasing new cars, you know, to be happy.
And I can’t believe I only *just* realized the impact that having a scarcity mindset had on our choices. It’s only because the burden of debt is lifting that the world seems so full of possibility once more.
With my old scarcity mindset, I thought of only the potential for failure.
With my new abundance mindset, I focus on the inevitably of success.
Having a scarcity mindset made me focus squarely on our debt as THE problem to eliminate. But that’s not it at all. Debt wasn’t the problem. Debt just made it easier to hide from the real problem: me.
We could have easily started a business years ago. We’ve had no shortage of ideas. Rather than capitalizing on any one of these ideas, we’d talk ourselves out of every opportunity.
“Too much time”
“Not enough money”
Worst of all, we didn’t have any specific goals. Living without goals was the equivalent of being a rudderless ship.
Sure, we had career goals (vague, at best), but they were the kind of goals that kept us within the well-defined boundaries of W-2 employment when we both longed for a life of travel.
Talk about contradiction.
To say we had no idea what we were doing or what we truly wanted would be an understatement.
And none of it matters now. Everything is different for which I am forever grateful.
I found this quote from Adam Smith on the Internet somewhere, which you know has to be accurate because it was on the Internet.
“What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?” – Adam Smith
I can say resolutely that my conscience is clear is because we’re a week from satisfying the last of our debts AND because we’re healthy. We’re living the life we had in mind at the start of our debt free journey. I’m happy. Garrett’s happy. Life is good. 🙂
I felt it important to capture this moment in time. I don’t want to forget where we came from, if only to serve as a cautionary tale of what life was like when we were in debt and lacked goals.
If you’re still on the journey to debt freedom, keep moving forward. I know the road seems long while you’re on it, but it will end, so consider setting some other goals now you can make progress on before and then once you’re debt free — don’t drift through life rudderless like we did.