The other day, I sat at a tapas bar with a friend who I meet-up with twice a year.
If you want to know what life might look like at the age you’d like to retire, meet up with someone currently in that age bracket.
You’ll learn a lot about the real challenges currently facing that age group that you’d hopefully like to avoid.
I always enjoy these open conversations with people older than me because it always reveals when the penny dropped for them about various things.
And usually, there is then a big race to make a correction, with many often feeling like time is no longer on their side.
This particular friend and mentor is in his early 50s.
Whilst we sat at the bar, he asked the casual but yet perennial life question:
So, how’s it going?
Naturally, I jumped into talking about my life goals, and how I was enjoying content creation and the various exciting and yet challenging things going on.
Gradually our conversation drifted towards real-life challenges, and as you’ll know, these usually have something to do with money.
What became clear as we spoke was that the essential prerequisite for achieving financial independence is self-awareness.
It is the big domino. The one thing that sets everything else in motion.
The age at which you start to become highly self-aware matters too because this will dictate your relationship with money.
What was even more fascinating was that he related this self-awareness to culture.
Are certain cultures more likely to achieve financial independence more than others?
The bitter truth is yes.
It’s a challenge I face teaching about money practically as it is quite clear that there are broadly two kinds of people:
- Those who think aiming for financial independence makes sense and practically start doing something about it. E.g. Seeking out actionable help
- Then there are those who think it makes sense but do nothing practically to achieve it partly because of some conditioning about what success is.
This latter group are the ones who would say to me, “you’re a CFO, what are you living frugally?” or “why are you driving a Nissan?”
What my friend was really saying was that this second group, if segmented by culture, would reveal a glaring trend.
This led me to keep it real and ask myself this hard question:
I am black and a first-generation immigrant. What set me on a different path financially to a lot of people I know?
Although financial independence is really about the journey and process rather than just the destination, what I keep coming back to is that I became highly self-aware much earlier than most.
This is why I believe that the perceived “conditioning” of certain cultural groups can be broken, but it can only be achieved when people go on individual journeys.
What is Self-Awareness?
It is the key element of emotional intelligence, which Daniel Goleman defined in his best selling book, Emotional Intelligence, as:
“Knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions”.
Self-awareness goes beyond just gathering knowledge about ourselves.
It is also about paying close attention to our inner state with a beginner’s mind and an open heart.
Our mind is skilful at storing information about how we react to certain events to form a blueprint of our emotional life.
Such information often ends up conditioning our mind to react in a certain way as we encounter a similar event in the future.
Self-awareness allows us to be aware of this conditioning and preconceptions of the mind, which can form the foundation of freeing the mind from them.
How can you Become More Self-Aware?
This is all about becoming more uniquely you. Having firm beliefs and convictions, whilst leaving room in your life to understand and appreciate others.
Below are things you should consider doing:
- Practice getting better at listening – The better you become at listening, the better you’ll become at hearing your inner voice. Listening is about being present and paying attention to other people’s emotions, body language, and movement. It’s about empathy and understanding without constantly evaluating or judging.
- Create more space for yourself – This is necessary for asking yourself the simple, yet hard life questions (see below). It is also a good opportunity to do some reading and writing.
- Write a journal – This helps you process your thoughts and brings you closer to being at peace with yourself. It is private, reflective and non-judgemental. It helps you keep it real.
- Ask for feedback from others – Don’t be afraid to ask. Seek genuine and unbiased feedback.
Questions you could begin asking yourself could include:
- Why am I here today?
- Where do I think I am going?
- What do I want out of my future life?
- When am I happiest? Do other people play a role in this?
- What kind of things do I value the most?
- What am I ashamed of and why?
- Am I really good at anything?
- Are there things I could be alot better at?
- How could I build better relationships?
- What is work and what’s it for?
- How could I attract and master money?
Make sure you’re writing your answers down on a notepad with ink.
In all this, what you are seeking is coherency. A coherent life connects the dots between three things:
- Who you are,
- What you believe,
- and What you’re doing.
What does self-awareness mean to me personally?
A lot of this plays out in terms of how I look at my life journey so far, how I interpret it and what I do with that thought.
I have lived for 3 decades and a bit. The last 2 decades have been in the UK and these have made me who I am today.
The middle decade I refer to as The Decade of Darkness and the last one I refer to as The Decade of Light.
I needed to go through the decade of darkness in order to appreciate the decade of light.
Darkness refers to bad decision making, lack of financial security, emotional struggles, lack of direction, low in confidence, living in fear etc.
For a long time, I would hide these things due in part to shame. I had created dysfunctional beliefs around them.
Then one day, I made a list. A list of all my weaknesses and terrible life experiences.
I decided from that day onward, that I would reframe my perceived disadvantages and weaknesses and turn them into advantages.
This is what I do today on my blog and in person.
I tell stories with the primary goal of inspiring anyone I meet whilst moving forward.
These have helped to strengthen my life beliefs and philosophy. I say to myself:
To make this even more specific to my personal life, it practically means that:
- I am a faith-filled man under greater authority than my own;
- I don’t waste the precious asset of time I have been given;
- I have been called to be a positive influence using the gifts I have been given;
- focus on doing the right things;
- make decisions that aim to keep me happy, but ultimately, I focus on joy irrespective of the outcome;
- persist and keep going forward. Follow my heart and put others first;
- I am unstoppable when I bring together my Passions and Talents combined with Faith, Action and the right Associations.
All of the above makes me a part of what I refer to as our generation of Fearless Dreamers.
This doesn’t mean that there is no fear at all. It simply means that I’ve dialled down a lot on fear and instead dialled up a lot on faith.
I go out there and do stuff fearlessly knowing that I know who I am and why I am doing what I am doing.
One of such things is the deliberate pursuit of Financial Independence.
What Does Self Awareness Have To Do With Financial Independence?
The pursuit of financial independence is a waste of time if you are not growing in self-awareness.
In fact, it is highly unlikely that you’d even consider it a tangible goal to pursue.
And this is because, without self-awareness, you truly have no idea what you really want out of life.
There is nothing worse than drifting along and living other people’s dreams or at worst, a version of it.
Self-aware people tend to act consciously rather than react passively. They tend to be in good psychological health and to have a positive outlook on life.
They also have greater depth of life experience and are more likely to be more kind to themselves and others.
You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are. The path to Financial Independence begins with an inner voice and journey.
How has being more self-aware helped on hindered your relationship with money?
Do please share this post if you found it useful, and remember, in all things be thankful and Seek Joy.