How I stopped coveting expensive cars and started saving
Immersing myself in the world of personal finance helped shatter long-held perceptions surrounding luxury
For years, I was an ogler of cars. I had a mind for a Mercedes-Benz, blushed for BMWs and was riveted by Rolls-Royce. If I saw a shiny car, my eyes would track it to take in every detail and curve. I coveted them and even believed that a fancy car would show the world I was successful.
I also believed that owning the car of my dreams would improve my life until it resembled something out of a hip-hop music video. These beliefs were reinforced in a thousand ways by the media I consumed.
It wasn’t until I got obsessed with personal finance and financial independence that those beliefs began to fray, and eventually enough of them broke that I was able to escape my delusions about cars and personal value.
Instead of seeing cars as objects of veneration, I started to see them as a drain on my bank account, costing me thousands of hours of work, stress and environmental destruction. When I saw a Ferrari, I no longer envied the owner. Instead, I thought of it as a big shiny chain, forcing the owner to work in a high-stress job just to be able to afford the maintenance budget.
In its place, I built a new set of beliefs that were more in line with my values of financial freedom and environmental balance.
I imagine that I am not alone in this process. If you look at your deeply held beliefs, they’re simply what you’ve always known to be true.
Maybe for you, it’s an idea around money that is holding you back. Perhaps that money is a corrupting influence, or that the rich are evil, or you’re not smart enough to learn how to invest on your own.
If you want to change your life, you have to change your actions in a sustained and meaningful way
Those sorts of stories can dramatically guide our actions and have generational consequences. The good news is that you can change those beliefs. You can build a new story for yourself. All it takes is curiosity and interest, which, if given the right circumstances, can lead to obsession.
Obsession is the key. Obsession is what gives us the motivation to consume content that cuts the ties of old beliefs. Each piece of content is like one snip of the scissors, so it requires a great many snips to destroy a long-held belief.
Sometimes, obsession can be intentional. We can look at those we admire and see what they are doing to get an outcome we also want, then start learning the principles of that field. It can be based on a pastime we’ve had for most of our lives but never given the space to really explore. It can come from a YouTube hole we fall down and start watching all the recommended videos about a topic.
Changing our habits and actions is hard. If you want to change your life, you have to change your actions in a sustained and meaningful way.
For me, when I look back at my life, the things that have caused those sorts of actions are all based on things I was obsessed with. Things I was passionate about and learned on my own for an hour, two hours, three hours a day because I just had to know more. It’s helped my career to become an international school teacher, it’s gotten me this column, it allowed me to build a photography business and play in bands and orchestras all around the world. It’s gotten me healthy and increased my net worth multiple times.
If you examine your beliefs about money, you may find some that are keeping you from the values you now hold because they stem from long ago and differ from your current goals. Find a blog, find a group to ask questions, look at YouTube or find a friend. Everyone learns differently and often the most varied sources of good information can help cut the bonds of previous beliefs efficiently.
If you want to change your life, get obsessed.
Dubai schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher
Updated: October 29, 2020 05:43 PM