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Freedom Has Its Price… But It’s A Price Worth Paying, Isn’t It?

By Max Eames

max.jpgMany years ago, a very wise and special person urged me to live life with a sense of possibility rather than seeing it as hampered by limitation. My friend Josephine is now in her mid-80s. She has been an inspiration and mentor since my childhood. And she never stops. Josephine still goes on archaeological digs, serves as a trustee for various organisations, volunteers for charity, and always seems to be learning to play another musical instrument. She continues to be an inspiration.

I would never have guessed that a simple outing with Josephine when I was a young lad would have had such an impact on my life. One sunny California day, Josephine decided to take me to an antiques emporium, but when we arrived it was shut. Undaunted by this turn of events, she peered through the window and enquired, ‘Max, if you could have anything in there, anything at all, what would you choose?’

‘Nothing,’ I stammered.

She sighed, ‘Oh c’mon, Max. Try again.’ She waited to see if I would rise to the occasion. Frustrated, I told her I thought it was a stupid game, a bit of torture, to even consider such a question – since I obviously couldn’t afford a single thing within those four walls.

Josephine stooped down, looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘I’m talking about possibilities – and you’re talking about limitations. Never live your life that way. Not even for a day. It’s a big mistake.’ She then asked me if a university degree with my name on it might be on the cards.

‘Gimme a break,’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s a long way away.’ But after a long pause, I finally whispered, ‘Dunno…I’m only ten years old.’

I could sense Josephine’s impatience as she rested her hands on my shoulders. She then looked me squarely in the eyes and gave me what for: ‘Listen to me carefully, Max. However you do it, you’ve got to start to broaden your horizons, right now. You’ve got to imagine the possibilities. The academic world isn’t for everyone; that I know. But it opened a lot of doors for me, and I can’t help but think it’d do the same for you. Just because you’re young, it doesn’t mean you can’t dream about what the future holds.’

Josephine then softened toward the startled little boy, who by now was instinctively standing at attention: ‘It’s just that clearly you need something up your sleeve that makes you believe you can do anything – absolutely anything. Even when you’re an old man, you need to keep hold of a dream or two. From now until the day you die, if you don’t have something to aim for, believe me, you’ve got nothing.’

I have never forgotten that moment. It is etched in my brain to this day. No matter what happens to me in life, it always colours my thinking: always aim for something, and always imagine the possibilities. Admittedly, sometimes the possibilities seem at low ebb when you feel that you don’t have what you want or need – or when struggles with things like debt overshadow every aspect of your life. The key to genuine happiness is a sense of balance; a healthy dose of the sensations of prosperity, freedom and abundance.

And it isn’t always what’s in your wallet that determines the strength of these sensations. We’ve all heard of people who have everything they could ask for but are desperately unhappy. Indeed, what can money actually buy? What is the point of accumulating wealth, if you don’t choose to enjoy it or to share it sensibly?

Ask any lottery winner what it meant to them when all those noughts suddenly appeared on their bank statement. For some people, I suppose the thought alone triggers images of briefcases brimming with cash, guitar-shaped swimming pools, and cars I’d be too embarrassed to drive. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m glad somebody’s revelling in it somewhere out there at this moment.

But money in itself only ever ‘buys’ you one of two things. When you have a bit more than you need, it creates possibilities. When you have a bit less than you need, it creates limitations. It reminds me of what Mr Micawber said in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield: ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six; result: happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six; result: misery.’ Indeed, if ‘prosperity, freedom and abundance’ prove to be nothing more than positive feelings – upbeat sensations – then each of us could choose to invoke these feelings in our lives every day, starting today.

In that sense, I hold the view that prosperity in itself isn’t the answer to anything in particular. At best it’s a tool, something you can use to create the kind of life you want to put into motion for yourself and your family. At its most basic level, money is part of the machinery of life. Discovering a way to keep more of it in my pockets was the launching pad of the Wealth Mechanic programme.

When I myself was chronically in debt, I was forever constrained by my own limitations.

The balance of my life was skewed. At the time, I was choosing to believe that, before I could explore possibilities, I had to climb out of the financial hole I had gotten myself into.

I decided to find out if there really was such a thing as ‘life after debt’. Since an early age, I knew that ‘freedom has its price’? In my quest for freedom, it was my fate to learn the lessons the hard way: fellowship programmes… hypnosis… life coaching… group chanting… you name it; I rode the ride and bought the T-shirt. Along the way, I’ve gained a lot of insight into what leads us toward destructive overspending (especially when the "Winter Blues" hit us), having struggled for years with my own issues.

The freedom I fought for and eventually won gave me the opportunity to rehabilitate some long-forgotten dreams. Although I had worked so hard to be a successful architect, I was no longer finding it a fulfilling career. I’d begun to suspect that I could contribute more through retraining as a psychotherapist – a decision that still enriches my life to this day.

Because of a ‘financial fix-it’ formula I devised in order to address my struggles, I started to believe in myself enough to take a few chances. My leap of faith took an unexpected direction: a friend of mine and I decided one day to live out a commonplace fantasy by opening a restaurant around the corner. Although I had no prior experience, part of me simply wanted to see if I could do it – and do it well.

Being my own boss was an extraordinary and rewarding adventure. Nonetheless, some six years down the line, I started to feel I’d fully extracted all there was to learn from the experience – and we sold it as a successful going concern.

The point is, we did it – and isn’t that what life should be about? After all those years of getting it so wrong financially, the experience enabled me to re-shape my self-belief and confidence afresh by finally getting something so right. I would never have had the opportunity to follow my dreams – explore life’s possibilities – if I hadn’t earned the financial freedom to take a few chances. Yes, freedom definitely has its price. But often it’s a price worth paying – don’t you agree?

Max Eames

Psychotherapist And Author Of The WEALTH MECHANIC,

Your 100% Proven 7-Step Financial Fix-It Formula