If you aren’t familiar with the term “flow state”, don't worry - you may have experienced it before without knowing.
By definition, flow state is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
That sounds like the exact opposite of dealing with your personal finances, right?
While it can be difficult to imagine, you can achieve these feelings around your money with a little work and planning.
For me personally, flow state is achieved through many different tasks such as client meetings, skateboarding, photography, playing video games - anything that I truly enjoy.
If you’ve ever read a book that you couldn’t put down and all of the sudden 2 hours passed by without realizing it, that’s flow state.
Now, how can you apply this to your money?
Zen Habits outlines these 9 steps as ways to achieving “flow” in your work:
Choose work you love
Choose an important task
Make sure it's challenging, but not too hard
Find your quiet, peak time
Clear away distractions
Learn to focus on that task for as long as possible
Reap the rewards
The first 3 points are crucial to achieving flow state in your finances. To start, you need to choose goals that you love that are also important.
For example, a lot of millennials have a strong desire to travel. If traveling is something that you love and is important to you, you’re going to put more emphasis on reaching that goal and the reward will feel like it’s worth it.
I believe this is a fundamental part of what’s wrong with a majority of financial advice.
You’ve heard ‘make a budget’ or ‘save more money’ throughout your life but it never resonated with you.
Guess what? It’s not your fault.
If you don’t tie actions (make a budget or save money) to a tangible goal, there’s very little reasoning as to why you should follow through with those tasks.
But if you know there’s a reward that you truly love on the backend, you’ll do anything to reach it.
Of these two statements, which would you rather listen to?
“You need to save money for retirement”
“If you start saving now, you’ll be able to travel to your favorite countries twice a year without worrying about it”
I don’t know about you but I’ll go with the latter.
This leads me into step #5 - clear away distractions.
This is easily translated into personal finance through unnecessary spending and is also why it’s important to establish your goals first.
If you know that every time you spend money on something you don’t need is taking you further and further away from reaching your goals, you’ll be less likely to spend.
The last steps of “enjoy yourself” and “keep practicing” are just as important as the first steps.
It’s okay to make mistakes.
It’s okay if you don’t follow your budget to the exact dollar.
Everything takes patience and maybe you spent a little extra money around the holiday season, but as long as you know you’re still working towards your larger goals, they’ll fall into place.
Don’t beat yourself up over a $5 Starbucks drink.
Don’t beat yourself up over a $50 hoodie that you know you’ll wear a lot.
The key is to recognize this spending and try to be aware of it in the future.
The last step is the best part - reap the rewards.
That moment when you can finally say “I made it”. All of your hard work of saving and investing has paid off.
If you could pick one thing to spend money on, what would it be?
The Bottom Line
Now, your life shouldn't fully revolve around money and be your only motivation but it's important to take some time to think about what your ideal life looks like.
What do you value?
Whether it be traveling, spending time with family, your health, or helping others - money can be viewed as a tool to make these things happen.
This will help remove negative emotions around money and hopefully help provide the motivation to stick with it and make smart money decisions.
Being rich is having money, being wealthy is having time - Margaret Bonnano
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