Real, meaningful change is scary - and that's what makes it worth it


It's one of the most complicated, confusing, difficult and terrifying elements of life.

Yet it can also be the most amazing, liberating and empowering opportunity of a lifetime.

No one said change is easy -- in fact, it's typically a pretty messy process -- but where the journey takes you will make all the blood, sweat and tears absolutely worth it.

I've been through it -- and while everyone's experience is vastly different -- there are a few common themes of successful change.

As a kid, whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I typically just responded with something ridiculous just to catch people off guard. That's just what I did.

I spent most of my youth terrorizing my parents and anyone else who dared to challenge me. I think strong-willed sums it up nicely.

I have to admit, though, I was a sharp kid. I didn't care about my grades but somehow excelled in school. Along with determination, competitiveness was (and still is) simply part of my DNA. If I was presented with a challenge, I was going to win come hell or high water.

When I was really young, the best part about my potentially-overboard competitive nature was that my techniques were typically pretty genius, so I never got in trouble, because my parents and teachers couldn't help but laugh.

Take my sixth grade class project -- everyone had to do a presentation etc. and then create a game for a school carnival. My group didn't just set up a pyramid of cans people knocked over with a tennis ball -- we filled those cans full of cement. Suckers. I was 11.

That sixth grade stunt certainly wasn't my last. But somewhere between vacuuming up paper clips during middle school detention to give my advisor know choice but to let me leave -- and realizing that my strong sense of perseverance could lead me to do more than just piss off my teachers -- I decided it was time to change my tune.

I have always been full of determination -- something I am, and always have been, proud of -- but, as I got older and in to high school, I realized that if I didn't change the way I used that gift, I would end up wasting the opportunities that were waiting for me.

I used my competitiveness as a challenge against myself -- to be in the best classes and to achieve at the highest level possible in sports and academics. I did it all.

I began working my ass off in school, in soccer and in my community -- and it paid off.

I didn't know where my determination would ultimately lead me, but I knew it had to be somewhere good. I was a given a gift, and I decided that it was time I started using it to have a positive impact -- on my own life and future, and on the lives of others

And even without a clue of what I was going to do or be when I grew up, I did know one thing: no matter what it took, I would somehow find a way to change the world -- make a real impact -- one that would change people's lives.

I had no idea how I was going to do it, but in my heart, I knew I would find a way to help people. And through every chapter of my life, I've never lost sight of what I truly believe is my ultimate purpose in life.

One change at a very young age is what allowed me to establish a lifelong mindset that I could get through, and accomplish, anything -- I just have to decide to make it happen.

I spend most of my time writing and talking about financial change -- it's what I do for a living -- I teach people about money so they can be empowered to take control of their own life and their own future. Because the reality is, everything in life revolves around money. Sure, money can't buy us happiness, but it pays for all the things that allow us to be happy.

Most importantly, money buys us freedom -- the ability to make our own choices and decisions when we want to make them. The power of this one concept is why I am so passionate about what I do. I have lived it, and I want others to know they can, too.

There's a lot of talk out there about financial freedom -- seems like everywhere you look these days there's someone preaching their secret to success. And the fact that people are willing to listen is a sign that they may also be willing to actually apply what they're learning.

But when it comes to making real, meaningful change in your financial life, there's an obstacle most people face that's often overlooked in all the empowering and motivational talk about how to reach success.

In order to change the way you think about money, you have to change the way you think about yourself.

You've heard some form of the phrase treat others how you want to be treated -- but have you applied this golden rule to the way you treat yourself?

We tell others all the time to "believe" in themselves, that they "can do it" if they just put their "mind to it" -- but how often do we tell ourselves the same thing?!

Someone once told me something that I will never forget.

“Be brave. Growing, and most everything else in life worth having, is painful and scary.”

The journey that’s gotten me to where I am today has not been an easy one – but it’s full of moments, lessons and mistakes that I hope will inspire and empower others to be brave – and to take control of their own life.

Frankly, for a while there, I did exactly what millennials get a bad rap for – I didn’t take adulthood seriously (at least not financially), and I didn’t take the time to understand what really mattered when I finally started making money.

Whenever I hit a roadblock, I would just find a way around it, rather than face the situation and find a way to get myself through it.

I had maxed out my credit cards, put off paying my student loans and never really took the time to pay attention to where my money was going. I checked my bank account to make sure I could cover rent or going out that night, but I never evaluated any of it.

I understood the basic concepts of money, and even studied them in-depth while earning my master’s degree in business journalism from Northwestern University. But I didn’t start applying everything I knew until I reached the point when I realized it was holding me back – and would continue to do so until I did something about it.

Eventually, I decided to learn from my own mistakes and experiences – and pay attention to all of the lessons that others had put right in front of my face. I made the decision to finally wrap my head around – and apply – all the knowledge I had gained throughout my life.

I finally took control of my own money, my own life and my own future.

I didn’t necessarily have one single ah-ha moment, but there was a short period of time when I did realize that at some point, I wasn’t going to be able to do the things I wanted to do if I didn’t start paying attention and actually giving a $#*!.

I had to, because no one was going to do it for me. And that realization changed my life.

This idea – that no one is going to do it for you – can be difficult to really grasp until you reach the point when your past mistakes catch up with you – when they prevent you from doing something that really matters to you.

If I had just taken the time to understand the implications of my own decisions, rather than ignore it and assume it’d turn out fine, I could have gotten on the right track sooner than I did. And that’s my responsibility. I couldn’t be a bigger believer in the idea that you are 99.9% responsible for your own life – because for 99.9% of people, that’s a fact.

It doesn’t mean you’re alone, it just means it’s up to you to decide to change.

So I started paying attention. I didn’t eat on $1 a month or never buy a fancy coffee, but I stopped wasting my money on things I didn’t need – I reevaluated where my money was going based on my priorities. I stopped buying clothes I didn’t need, I reduced my grocery bills and other monthly costs – and began paying down my debt.

After a couple of years, I paid off my credit cards and was stashing away a good amount of savings – and just last year, I paid off my student loan.

It was a combination of my own life experiences and various influences in my life that allowed me to reach the point where I am today.

It may seem impossible, but it’s not, regardless of where you came from or where you are now. You just need the right information and tools to help you get there.

This journey has empowered me to not only continue improving my own life, but also empower others to do the same. Once you have the right information and tools to make it happen, it’s up to you to change your own life – and I promise, you’ll thank yourself later.

Having a confident relationship with money requires confidence in yourself. And the best part about it is that anyone is capable of being financially successful -- all it takes is believing in yourself and believing the fact that despite where you are or where you've been, you deserve success as much as anyone else in this world.

Having the right mindset is key to reaching any type of success -- whether it's with money, in your career or simply allowing yourself to be happy and grateful for all that you have in this life.

Change is scary, and it's not easy. But if you decide that you're willing to face the fear of overcoming what's holding you back in life, you'll be one step closer to living a life you never even imagined possible.

I spent a long time knowing in the back of my mind that I needed to change, but I was too afraid of actually changing. When I finally realized that the life I was living was never going to be enough, I had to face the truth -- and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was the only person who could make it happen -- and believing in myself is what allowed me to bite the bullet -- and to face life head on with the confidence that nothing would hold me back.

If you want to change your life, be brave.

I'll tell you right now that it's not easy, but I promise you, it's worth it.

Alex Thomas