I consider myself to be cautiously optimistic, but I’ve also been accused of being an over-thinker, a procrastinator, and a perfectionist. Saying “yes” is not my first instinct. I usually start with “maybe” (or worse) before coming around to a new idea. My wife has learned to plant a seed a few weeks early so that I have time to consider all the details. Although I ultimately consider my analytical nature to be a strength, sometimes it gets in the way and can be personally frustrating.
The past 16 months have been a whirlwind of constant change in my personal and professional life. I’ve proposed, married, and honeymooned. I’ve moved twice and bought a house. I’ve quit a great job and become an entrepreneur. I’ve traveled through four countries, and stepped a little deeper into “adulthood.” Change isn’t always easy for me, but a mentor once suggested that I throw myself into the path of life’s experiences. I’ve tried to embrace each change as a chance to learn, to grow, and to realize new opportunities.
In October 2014 I proposed to my wife, and she agreed! Then in short order I quit my job and started a business. Remarkably she wasn’t scared into changing her mind, but it did set the stage for a hectic and financially uncertain year in 2015. And we didn’t slow down at all when we bought a house in March on one income. Or in September when we had the opportunity to leverage an international work trip into a comparatively cheap (but still costly) vacation in Amsterdam and London. Despite our cash-crunch, we found to say yes to these life experiences by not letting our fear keep us from moving forward in life, and by making calculated compromises along the way.
For any couple merging finances for the first time, it can be difficult. Having quit my job, I was bringing little to the table financially. It was particularly hard for me to ask my wife to adjust her lifestyle due to my career choice. We got through it by compromising in some areas and focusing on the things we really value. We bought a smaller, more affordable house just South of our ideal neighborhood. Doing so cut our housing expenses by a third compared to what we’d been paying in rent. Each of our vehicles could stand to be replaced, but for now they’re still running strong! Through it all we’ve also been able to increase our savings for retirement and shorter-term goals because living within our current means is something we both value.
Leaving behind a great job with upside and fantastic people was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made. But when I look back, it’s clear to me that I made the right choice. Had I dwelled on what I had to lose, I never would have realized the opportunity before me. In accepting the risks and moving past the fear, I found a way to focus my skills as a financial planner in a meaningful way. My last day at my old job was emotional, but making that decision provided focus.
Building a business has meant constantly reworking projects I previously thought to be complete, and every day brings both victories and struggles. This is very frustrating, particularly for a perfectionist. Rather than live within that frustration I try to see this process as an opportunity to find better ways to deliver a valuable experience for clients. Keeping that focus will help me build a career as a financial planner that I love.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone
“Comfort Zones” are funny things. They’re fluid and malleable, but at the same time staunch and self-fulfilling. It’s something that we define for ourselves and are in complete control over, but it also quickly becomes an excuse not to try something new. In the same way that rules are meant to be challenged, your comfort-zone is meant to be expanded.
The past 16 months have certainly pushed me to my limits and beyond, but I found out that it’s not so bad on the other side! If you only live within your comfort zone, it will never grow any bigger than you’ve allowed. Letting the fear of the unknown keep us in a box prevents us from finding out what is possible. Rather, if you try to view difficult decisions as opportunities to move forward in life, you may learn that you are comfortable with a whole lot more than you thought! And if it doesn’t work out, it’s very easy to go back. Moving forward is the hard part.