We've all heard of fate. But what is fate exactly?
“the will or principle or determining cause by which things, in general, are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do” – Merriam-Webster's Definition of Fate
Does free will exist? Or are we living out a predetermined plan that was set before us?
To me, this is an important question. Because if fate does exist, like most of us would define it, then that could change how we look at life.
I'm not trying to get ultra spiritual with this post, but it is hard to not touch on it because this is a deeply theological question.
Does humankind have free will? Or is there a superpower that has already determined everything we have done and have yet to do?
According to this article, the average adult makes 35,000 choices PER DAY. That's a lot of decision making!
Today, I could make a decision that not only affects my life but the lives of my family.
As I do believe there is a God, I think he has given us free will because he loves us. He wants the best for us, and true love dictates he has to provide us with the freedom to make our own decisions (otherwise we would be robots with an incapacity to love from within ourselves). Whether those decisions are good or bad, that is up to us.
The Butterfly Effect
Every choice we make has a ripple effect on our world.
This article describes this well:
“This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle.”
It's scary how such a small action (a butterfly flapping its' wings), could end up leading to a hurricane in the future.
I think the point here is that every choice we make matters immensely. So much so, that it is hard to imagine what choices we make today will lead to in the future.
Financial Success Is Not Instant
When we were paying off massive credit card balances, I constantly felt like we were playing catchup.
But the reality was, we got to this spot from multiple bad decisions in how we spent money. Eventually, we got to a place where we were sick of the results we were getting and turned things around.
At this stage, we are in a much better financial spot, and our financial stress has gone down dramatically. But now we are facing new problems that involve expanding our salon and planning how next year is going to look.
It would be great to be able to see the long-term effects of small choices. But I don't think this is necessary to get on the right path.
Financial Reflection is Key
In our case, our problem was that we didn't spend enough time thinking about if we were on the right financial path or not. We focused on the immediate issues and lost sight of the long-game.
If we paused for a moment every once and a while, and figured out what was and was not working, we would have corrected our financial course a long time ago.
Our past bad financial decisions could indeed end up giving us problems. But it is also true that our good choices today if we make a habit of them, can correct course. We can't gain back the time we've lost, but we can do what we can with the time we have left.
Looking at my own life, it wasn't just one wrong financial decision that got us to where we ended up. It was a bunch of smaller bad decisions. I'm sure there could have been massive financial mistakes that would have been harder to dig out of, but I think for most people it is a mixture of many small financial mistakes, maybe mixed in with some medium-sized bad financial decisions, that lead to where they arrived.
Make one Good Financial Decision after the Other
This summer we started contributing $500/mo to each of our Roth IRA accounts.
This amount is a lot of money, but it is going to take a while for the account balances to grow to significant amounts. As long as we continue to do this every month, we are going to have a large amount of money after 10-years (hopefully).
Right now, it seems like putting $1,000/mo into these accounts is pretty painful. That's a lot of money that we could use for many other things.
But we've decided that investing in our future is a smart move. This financial habit will give us more options later on, and we will start seeing the fruits of this decision as the balances grow over time.
Ten years ago, the cost of doing this didn't seem worth it, because we focused on more immediate problems. Now we are looking at the bigger picture, and realize that we need time making sound financial decisions for us to build our net worth.
If I jump off of a high cliff, I'm most likely committing my future to immediate death.
So in a sense, part of “our” fate is determined by our choices. That isn't to say that nothing ever happens to us that isn't by chance, or the cards we've been dealt. But certain choices will have consequences, and it is a matter of cause and effect.
Our net-worth will “become” fated to grow faster over time if we can commit to making smart financial decisions. Things might come up where we will have to change course. But the progress we make now, even if we have to change the plan later, will still be worth it.
The goal is to try to dictate our future as much as we can — head in the right direction, and hope for the best. Luck might have us make faster progress than we hope, or we could get hit with setbacks. But all we can do is do what we can in trying to get to where we want to arrive — and then hope for the best.
Believe You Can Do This
If I tell my daughters every day that they are failures and will never be successful, what are the chances they will do well in life? I would venture to guess, that for them to be successful with growing up with this mindset, they would have to unlearn what I am teaching them.
We are not that different. Often we think we can only accomplish certain things, so we don't take many risks. Or we get comfortable with the idea that we achieved everything we “could” accomplish, and stop there.
By having the idea that you are in control of your fate, you prevent creating false ceilings that you can't get beyond.
When we were facing our credit card debt crisis, we were tempted to wonder if this was just how our future was going to look. Were we just these “kind” of people who always had credit card debt and lived paycheck to paycheck? Could we really break this cycle?
It was the idea that our future didn't have to look like our past, that we started believing we could break the credit card death cycle. If you don't believe you can change then you become your biggest obstacle.
Create a Plan
You can have the best intentions, but until you have a rough plan of attack, you might not make much progress.
This reason is why I think having a detailed understanding of how you are spending your money is vital. Without that knowledge, it is hard to know whether or not you are spending your money in a way that reflects your priorities.
Creating a plan has also helped us figure out if we are sacrificing the present too much for the future.
Figure Out What You Want
It is hard to prioritize your spending or invest in your future if you don't have an idea of what you want the most out of life.
And over time, your priorities will most likely change. That is totally okay and is expected.
If my primary goal were just to become wealthy, that wouldn't motivate me very much. But being able to travel with Andrea and spoil our grandkids with gifts and vacations in the future? Now those are things that get me excited!
Figuring out your “why” is essential, because investing in your future is not something that most of us would do naturally. We have to have a reason to do it; otherwise, it won't happen (which was our case for a while).
To keep on the journey towards financial freedom requires dedication and motivation. It isn't just going to happen. This reason is why I love writing for this blog. It helps keep me motivated and challenges me to continue to push things forward.