2021 is an opportunity to get back to zero and start over the right way, says author Steve Cook
by Tina Manzer
No doubt about it: 2020 got our attention. As the world fell apart around us it revealed the cracks in the façades of our lives. Discovering the fragility and uncertainty of the businesses we own and operate felt like a gut punch. Forced togetherness showed us that we don’t know our kids and we’re not sure how we feel about our spouses.
Steve Cook, author of Lifeonaire: An Uncommon Approach to Wealth, Success, and Prosperity, says 2020 was a wakeup call on the fleeting nature of life itself. It brought us face-to-face with our own mortality. “Our life decisions have been brought into focus and we can clearly see the choices we’ve made: the excesses, the shortfalls, the flaws in judgment,” he says. “More of us are realizing that the old paradigm (the one that built the lives of our parents) is no longer viable. Perhaps for the first time we’re asking ourselves, ‘Are we really happy with the life we’ve established up until now?’”
“Getting back to normal” feels familiar and comfortable from today’s anxiety-driven viewpoint, but Cook believes 2021 presents the perfect time to shake your life down to its foundation and revamp everything with the goal of being happier. Call the opportunity The Great Personal Reset.
Making changes is scary, but isn’t it scarier to live within an old set of rules instead of developing new rules that work better for you? Here are Cook’s reset recommendations.
Don’t think in terms of “back to normal”
“Don’t spend your energy going back to the place you were hoping to get away from,” he wrote in a blog post. “Give that same energy to something new.”
That calls for a willingness to call a halt to what’s draining you, even if it (hypothetically) costs every cent you have now. The good news is that once you shift your mindset you can move forward quickly. “When you’re trying to fix a broken system, you have to fight from weakness,” he writes. “But from zero, you get to fight from strength.”
Rethink how you measure prosperity
It’s not about having a lot of money, Cook asserts. It’s about the freedom to experience life as you see fit. Too often, what we think of as success comes at the expense of broken marriages, broken families, broken health, and broken peace.
In Lifeonaire, Cook lays out four stages to prosperity.
• Stage 1: Lay the foundation. Come up with a plan rather than living life by default.
• Stage 2: Meet your needs. Start living as simply as possible.
• Stage 3: Generate excess cash.
• Stage 4: Invest in income producing assets.
“When you reframe prosperity this way and start seeing results, you may still work but it’s a choice, not an obligation,” asserts Cook.
Forget what you’ve heard about long hours as the key to success
In 2021, find a way to cut your work hours by 10 percent. Cook insists the most successful people work less, often make more, and love their life. Their business complements instead of competes with their personal life. They experience freedom and independence with their time, finances, and choices.
“Years of conditioning have us believing that hard work means working a lot,” he reflects. “The truth is, short periods of efficient hard work are much more productive than ‘overdrive’ 60-hour work weeks. Maybe you need a new career, or maybe you just need to learn to focus so you can do your best work in a shorter time frame. Regardless, this is the year to make the change.”
If you don’t love your job, start preparing to quit right now
“I’m not saying quit your job today,” Cook asserts. “I am saying start preparing today. Part of it is about soul searching. The other part is revamping how you think about money.”
Call a family meeting and revamp your finances. Together, set some long-term goals and figure out how you’re going to get from here to there. If everyone isn’t on board and committed, it won’t work.
Talk about what truly brings you joy – it’s okay to spend some of your money on these things! Making a lifestyle change this drastic can’t be all austerity and strict rules.
Blow up your budget and start over with a focus on saving
When they’re trying to get a handle on their money, many people start with budgeting. They look at their current bills and figure out how to handle what’s left over. Cook says rather than saving around the edges, recalibrate around the goal of saving.
Figure out what you can live without
2020 showed many of us that we can live much more simply. We don’t have to spend a lot of money on restaurants, gym memberships, and fancy vacations. Staying home more allows us to cut extras out of our life. Later, we’ll have excess cash to spend on travel or other experiences that make us happy, but only if we choose to.
“What at first sounds like extreme changes, like downsizing to a smaller house or getting rid of a car, can make a lot of sense,” notes Cook. “Now that more of us are working virtually, we’re realizing we can live anywhere – like in a less expensive part of the country. Since you’re not travelling to work every day, trade in the pricey car for a no-frills version.”
Get intentional about paying down debt
“I don’t say people should never incur debt,” Cook says. “I’m saying there are consequences to all debt and we should carefully weigh this truth against our desire to possess something. When making decisions based on freedom and prosperity it’s always better to own something outright. At the very least, don’t take on any more debt in 2021. Better yet, commit to paying it off.”
Shift your focus: family now, work later
“This is precisely why we need to keep our needs low,” he says. “The less you need, the less you have to work. If you don’t have a big mortgage and two car payments you will be able to put in a lot fewer hours and spend a lot more time with your children now. Your business can grow slowly and organically over time.”
Get rid of relationships that aren’t working
You know who these people are. They’re the toxic “friends” or business partners or family members who drag you down with negativity, controlling behavior, one-upmanship, etc. Over time we end up feeling stuck with people who drain us and sabotage our efforts to build a better life.
We’re not really stuck except in our minds, asserts Cook – and we can make 2021 the year we break up with them for good.
Go on an information-and-media diet
Most of us spend too much time surfing the Internet, watching upsetting news stories, and scrolling through social media. Overconsumption of information makes us anxious and unhappy, and it creeps up on us slowly and insidiously.
“Make this the year you get mindful about the knowledge you want to pursue and purposely cut out the rest,” suggests Cook. “Not only will you be happier and more focused, you may get physically healthier when you stop sitting in front of screens all the time.”
When you think about the changes Cook is suggesting you make in 2021 it may seem overwhelming; maybe even impossible. But Cook says once we get focused and intentional, solutions have a way of presenting themselves to us.
“I’ve seen this truth play out many times,” he says. “Once we reset our values, we become incredibly creative. We see the world in different way. New opportunities rise to the surface.
If you do these things, or even just some of them, by the end of 2021 you’ll look back amazed at the difference a year has made.”