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Senior Correspondent

My journey started in a dark place. Mostly because of all the sleepless nights, pacing the house at 3 a.m., wondering how I’d ever get out from under the weight of the debt and demands. I felt just one or two clicks above helpless.

Step by step, following lots of bunny trails and rabbit holes, I reached total financial peace of mind.

I can still go to a place in my head and relive each step I took, as if it were yesterday. Trust me, it’s far better to be living in my shoes today. Especially because I’ve figured out a system that shortcuts the journey for others.

Now, traveling the country, the moment I tell anyone what I do (“I work with women who can’t get their finances in order and don’t know why … ”), so often I see a look that says, “That’s me.” And a frustrated, sometimes painful story follows.

Late last night I drove home from a conference where I saw “the look” again. And again and again. I decided I had to share three little … and very doable … steps that can be your first steps (if that’s you too) on that journey towards financial peace of mind.

It’s what I wish for you. And what you so dearly deserve.

Step One: Kill One Gremlin

We all have memories embedded in our subconscious from childhood that mess with our behaviors. Maybe it’s our weight. Maybe it’s our money. Or maybe it’s our relationships. We know exactly what we have to do to take off a few pounds, for example, yet we just don’t do it. Why, you ask? Because of the same “gremlins” (as I call them) that keep us from different behaviors, including healthy money behaviors.

So, let’s find one and snuff it out.

Look honestly at any one thing you know you do with your money that is not helping you have a balanced financial life.

Maybe you don’t ask for more money from your clients, although you know everyone else charges more. Which parent insinuated that you didn’t deserve to make more than he or she did?

Maybe you give in to your teenager’s every whim although it means you’ll go without something you actually need. Whose actions led you to believe your tight finances today are your fault? Maybe you learned (through your mother or grandmother) that women are expected to just grin and bear it, even if in a destructive marriage to a supposed “good man” that means no safety or healthy boundaries?

Maybe the brand names hanging in your closet outpace your income. Who told you as a kid on the playground that you weren’t part of the popular group because you wore hand-me-downs?

In short: who are you mad at? Who do you resent? Who diminished or disempowered you? Figure that out related to a destructive money behavior, release the anger and let it go. (And watch that behavior change.)

Step Two: Know Your Gap

Someday you’ll have to put together a careful spending plan if you want to really get your finances in order.

But for today, here’s a shortcut. Add up your monthly income. Add up your all your monthly expenses. Look at the difference between the two. That’s your gap. And it may be negative. If it is, it’s hard to embrace the total debt you’re under; it’s usually a really big number. But look at the gap. Is it $500? Is it $300? Is it $1,000? What can you do to close that gap, either by cutting expenses back by that much, or by finding a way to earn that much more. Or a combination of the two.

Knowing your gap and closing it will lower your financial stress markedly. And that success will empower you to start digging further and further until you’re willing to really turn all your finances around.

Step Three: “I Want That”

Usually that phrase would be another pitfall, another line item on your credit card statement.

But here we mean something different. What is important enough to you to give you the incentive to change how you deal with your money?

Take a few minutes in a peaceful place, far from the television and from your home office. Visualize something that you want to do or be, a lifestyle or activity that makes you feel fulfilled. Go into great detail about what that looks like, almost in 3D. Then write it down. Whenever you have a question about an expenditure or any other money-related decision, ask yourself if it will bring you closer to … or further away from … reaching that vision.

The Full Journey

The entire journey from wherever you are today to wherever you want to be financially is not a difficult one. It’s a series of steps. These are just three. But they represent the three areas you’ll eventually need to address on that journey: your emotional triggers, the actual numbers in your life and what motivates you.

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