If you had a million dollars and no debt, what would you do?
At age 30 I paused long enough to ask myself this question. Just ten years later, my husband and I were completely debt-free and had a million dollars in the bank.
How did this happen?
We didn’t win the lottery, inherit from a long-lost uncle, or invent the pet rock. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, either. When I was a child, my parents struggled to live paycheck to paycheck. My sister and I shamefully hid our free-lunch tickets, then spent after-school hours dumpster-diving behind our neighborhood grocery store. As a young adult, anxious to get out of the house and start making my own money, I dropped out of college… and landed the graveyard shift at the corner donut shop. Then I married a blue-collar construction worker.
Despite the odds, I became a work-from-home small business owner and self-taught investor, and by age 40, my husband and I were millionaires.
How did I go from free-lunch kid to millionaire mom?
You will never leave where you are, until you decide where you’d rather be.
— Dexter Yager
My transformational journey started when I discovered an important truth: Our lives are the stories we narrate for ourselves. If you don’t like the story your life has become, tell yourself a better one. Change starts with a thought, not an action. Think about all of the things you can do instead of the things you can’t. Start a different internal conversation and you’ll become wealthy in more ways than one.
If you don’t know where you are going, there’s an excellent chance you won’t get there. You need to create a crystal clear vision of exactly what being rich is for you. Your personalized image of “rich” needs to feel so real to you that you can literally smell it, touch it, hear it, see it, taste it, FEEL it. You need to own it.
Visualizing what wealth means to you shapes the way your mind thinks about money and your life. Your mind then sets in motion the actions necessary to begin achieving your goals. By taking the time to establish what real wealth looks like to you, you direct your efforts in ways that make becoming rich, in your own terms, simple.
I created my first “Treasure Map to a Rich Life” vision board in my early twenties. A few years later, I was living the story I had envisioned through the Treasure Map tacked upon my wall. Every few years, life experiences modify some of my aspirations and passions and my vision of wealth and happiness change, so I design a new Treasure Map. Lo and behold, my life soon morphs to fit my new vision. And it repeats over and over again.
My most recent Treasure Map (included above) reveals:
- I choose to live an enthusiastic and playful life.
- World travel, culture, nature and creativity continue to place very high on my list of interests.
- I will share my passion for lifelong learning with my daughter. The world is our classroom – we can homeschool as we travel.
- My heart is open. Perhaps we will adopt a second orphaned child in need of a loving family.
- I remind myself that romance and parenting is a balancing act.
- I yearn to give back and make a difference in the lives of others.
- I am opening the door to new possibilities – perhaps I’ll write a book, offer financial education, motivational speaking, mentoring, teaching.
- I choose happiness.
How to Create Your Own Treasure Map to a Rich Life:
1. Round up a poster board, some old magazines, scissors, glue, and colored markers.
2. Flip through magazines and cut out images, photographs, illustrations, titles, and quotes that catch your eye. Select images that evoke your feelings of happiness, phrases that put a smile on your face, and words that intrigue you.
3. Glue your cut-outs onto your poster board to create a collage.
4. Use your colored markers to add any additional words, quotes, or statements that make you feel happy.
5. Place a title on your poster board- something like, “My Treasure Map” or “My Rich Life Is…”, or “Happiness is…”.
6. Now step back and take some time to look at your collage. Do you like what you see? Do you feel happy when you look at it? If not, simply paste new images over the parts that don’t make you feel good.
7. Make a wild guesstimate. Write down how much money you think you’ll need to live the happy and rich life that you’ve just created on your Treasure Map. Don’t worry about being accurate, but do be specific. “I want to have lots of money” is not specific enough. You need to quantify how much money is “lots” for you, and include when you want it to happen. Write down some specific numbers and dates. Try something like “I want to make $100,000 next year and I want to have $1,000,000 saved by 2020”.
8. Proudly hang your Treasure Map where you will see it every single day.
9. Finally, take a photograph of your Treasure Map. Place this photo in your wallet or checkbook.
Consider your map a work in progress. As you look at it daily you’re bound to change your mind about a few things and clarify some details. Just pull out your glue stick and modify your map accordingly.
Now that you can visualize exactly what it is that you really want, you’ve taken the biggest step towards living a rich life. Your personalized image of wealth and happiness will drive your daily actions in simple and incredible ways.
Next, I’ll explore how identifying, prioritizing and living according to personal values is key to personal happiness and financial well-being.