Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. – Earl Nightingale
I know of people who did not have a good year. Many were pretty wrapped up in the 2016 presidential election, and when the outcome didn’t go the way they hoped, they were despondent. Even those I know who supported the winner spent most of the year griping about the side that lost. It was a very troubling year, to say the least.
However, that’s not how my year turned out. In fact, I dare say I had one of the best years yet since I started writing these year-end reviews six years ago. I will get into the why later in this post, but to start, here’s a look at how my goals for 2017 panned out.
As in 2016, I had four goals.
- Pay down $10,000 in student loan debt by Dec. 31, 2017. We got close, but didn’t hit this goal. We managed to pay down a little more than $8,000 in student loan debt (our final debt). We sidetracked ourselves because I got a wild hair when the summer rolled around and convinced the wife to take the family on a road trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and back through Kansas to home in Missouri. That cut into our progress. However, it was worth every penny. I hadn’t been on a “real” vacation with the family in a long time, and never with all three of my children. The trip was a highlight of the year, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
- Create a passive/semi-passive income stream by Sept 1, 2017. I completely failed at this one. A co-worker and I began work on a technical book series, which ultimately got sidetracked by a completely insane year at our day jobs. I know, I know, had we really wanted to make it happen, we would have. But, it didn’t happen, so the onus is on us (or in this case, me).
- Hit my goal weight by June 1,2017. In retrospect, I didn’t define this goal very well. I basically said I wanted to be “25 lbs. lighter than I am now” when I wrote that post, but that wasn’t really a firm goal. I didn’t even start making an honest effort to attempt achieving this goal until April 1. The way my body holds onto excess pounds, I should have known better. I did spend a decent amount of my summer exercising and eating very well, and results were visible. Sadly, as winter set in, I have resumed my self-defeating ways (as I tend to do this time of year).
- Have a regular date night with Amy by February, 2017. This is the one I am most proud of. My wife, Amy, and I went out by ourselves for an honest-to-goodness date night almost every month in 2017. The only month we missed was in July when we took our vacation. A couple of months, we even went out twice because we had childcare to do so. Having a regular date night turned out to be one of the best decisions I made all year.
I failed at 75 percent of my goals, and yet I had a fantastic year. I mention this to friends often, but I highly encourage anyone who is working through adversity to read the book, “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. That book helped shape my outlook on life when things aren’t going the way I want them to go.
The attitude espoused in the book is one of keeping your head up when the struggles are heavy. It’s that attitude that helped me see the world much differently in 2016, when many people I know felt their world was falling apart.
I will make no apologies for the wonderful year I had. I have embraced every moment of it.
But my annual post would be negligent with no set goals for the coming year. In a rare turn of events, I have but one goal for the new year.
- Pay off our final debt by Dec. 31, 2018.
This has been a long road for us, one filled with setbacks usually of our own doing. It has been a dream of mine to be free of the last of our debt.
Debt has been a source of contention in our house for a long time. It caused problems in our marriage. It is that thing that sits in the back of my mind when we make every financial decision. People have told us we “worship money” because we want to get out of debt. Others have told us the financial steps we are taking are foolish or wrong.
I do not care what anything thinks about what we are doing. This isn’t a goal for 2018; it’s a reality that just hasn’t been fulfilled yet. We are getting out of debt next year.
To make this work, we will sacrifice. It will require understanding from friends and family. It will require acceptance, because there is no room for anything else. We are getting out of debt, and we will stop at nothing to get there in 2018.
I have even given 2018 a slogan: The Year of No.
We are going to say “no” to every paid thing we’ve enjoyed since we started this journey. There may be extra sidework to be done to achieve this goal. Are we going out to eat? No. Are we going to the movies? No. Are we doing anything to take funds away from what leads us to our goal? Big. Fat. No.
One of my favorite characters from the TV show The Walking Dead is Michonne. I see myself like her character. She walks through an apocalyptic world with a fire in her eyes, carrying nothing but a katana (samurai sword), slaying every obstacle that comes between her and freedom. This is how we will spend 2018. We will fight, and claw, and scratch, and finally be free of this weight that needs to finally die.
Because the thing is, if you want to get out of debt, you cannot do it lackadaisical. You must hate it. It must become an enemy. You must have that fire in your eyes. You must be prepared to stay “no” to the biggest enemy you have in the process: yourself.
I’m very excited for 2018. To be honest, I would love to complete this goal by our anniversary on July 26, 2018. This will be our 15th wedding anniversary, and I can think of no greater gift to give my wife than to say, “We are free. We are finally free.”
I’m not sure the math works to get us to that date, but we are sure going to try. Even if we fail to hit that date, I promise we will be debt-free by Dec. 31, 2018.
Here’s to “The Year of No.” It’s only an obstacle, and the obstacle is the way.