If you’re like most Americans, you’re living paycheck to paycheck, with very little cushion to fall back on. Now, imagine checking your bank account and finding a seven-figure sum. How amazing would that financial freedom feel?

Going from broke to millionaire is possible if you only believe in yourself and persist in your goals. No, I’m not talking about a get-rich-quick scheme. You will have to work for it. But anything is possible if you break down your mental barriers, tap into your creativity and big ideas and back it all up with a plan of action.

Start with these 15 steps and watch your fortune grow. You may find yourself retiring long before your hair turns gray.

1. Desire wealth and dream big.

To become wealthy and successful, you have to think big and dream big. However, more than anything else, you will need a deep hunger and desire to make those dreams a reality. Desiring wealth is the first step. But don’t stop there. As Napoleon Hill wrote in his 1937 bestseller Think and Grow Rich, wishing alone will not bring you riches. You must come up with a plan to achieve your dreams, and back those plans up with persistence.

2. Do what you love.

The fastest route to building wealth is focusing on an area you enjoy, because that way you will naturally work hard and excel at it. Anybody can work a job and earn a paycheck, but accruing substantial wealth requires passion. Do what you love, and work will no longer be work but your obsession.

In addition, if you’re passionate about your goal, you’ll feel compelled to see it through. At the very least, your excitement and dedication will show and you’ll be in a better position for promotions and pay increases.

3. Be known for your work ethic.

Self-made millionaires don’t become successful by lying low or being content to work a 9-to-5 job. They put in hard work every day. Successful people think strategically about how to stand out from the rest. How hard is your competition working and how smart are you working by comparison? In other words, how are you differentiating yourself in the marketplace? Are you simply trying to show off, or are you showing up with everything you have and kicking butt? These are the tough questions you need to ask yourself every day if you want to become wealthy.

4. Be decisive.

Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and Charles M. Schwab are among the hundreds of millionaires Hill studied. He found that they all shared one trait: decisiveness. Hill wrote that those who successfully grew their fortunes had the habit of reaching decisions promptly.

But if they changed their decisions, they did so slowly or incrementally. Meanwhile, those who failed to accumulate wealth were slow to make decisions but changed their mind—or changed course—quickly. Hill also found that decisiveness is fundamental to defeating procrastination.

5. Use autosuggestion to build your wealth.

Turn a dream into an obsession and that obsession into reality by harnessing the power of autosuggestion. This ability allows you to turn your desire for wealth into a mantra that you’re compelled to follow. Hill wrote about this principle, explaining that it begins with repeating out loud what you want and how you plan to get it. Say this affirmation to yourself as many times as you can every day, so that it seeps into your subconscious.

Try something as simple as: “I will set aside money every week so I have one million dollars by the time I retire.” Or, “I will avoid impulse purchases and save more money for a down payment on a house.”

6. Set a budget.

Few of us relish the idea of setting a budget. After all, who wants to set constraints on spending or add up splurges on clothes, gadgets or dinners out? But if you want to increase the cash in your wallet—and, more important, in your bank account—you’ve got to get up close and personal with your spending. And one way to do that is to create good money habits.

If you truly feel incapable of setting and sticking to a budget, get help. Find a friend, mentor, significant other or financial guru to help you. Without a budget, you’ll always be at risk for overspending. Worse, you’ll overspend without realizing it. Get your financial house in order and you will find your hidden wealth.

7. Cultivate a wealthy state of mind.

Financial freedom starts with a mindset. Cultivate a state of mind in which you constantly visualize your desire for wealth and the plan through which you can attain it. Believing in yourself, your abilities and your fortitude is the cornerstone to this mindset. It may feel scary to put yourself on an unknown path, but having faith in your own person will remove self-inflicted boundaries. A wealthy mindset will set you free to achieve your goals.

8. Focus on needs over wants.

Don’t blow your accumulated wealth on fancy cars and gadgets. Remember that, while wealth offers you financial freedom, it’s not the linchpin to happiness. To amass wealth and keep it, you must focus on what you need and avoid impulse purchases. Resist the urge for instant gratification. It will do you no good in the long run.

That luxury watch isn’t a necessity, especially when your car needs new tires and your office printer is broken. And even if you have extra cash, investing it wisely will increase your wealth and bring you closer to your financial goals.

9. Start with small but consistent investments.

Investing wisely will grow your money faster than any savings account ever will. Start small by investing what you can. The sooner you start, the faster you will accumulate for the long term. The key is to invest consistently and automatically. You won’t miss money that you never see, so set your contributions to come out of your accounts on a recurring basis.

Investments should be kept separate from an emergency fund, and be put into untouchable accounts that you won’t use for anything else. Take advantage of your employer’s 401(k) plan. Contribute to an IRA (either Roth or traditional). And always be on the lookout for other opportunities to invest.

10. Become an idea machine.

The greatest fortunes all began with an idea. Your ability to achieve success and become wealthy is only limited by your imagination. If you can dream it, you can create it. Ideas are the product of an open, creative, limitless mind. Therefore, be open to all possibilities, and be willing to put in the hard work to develop those ideas. Begin by clearly visualizing your idea and goals, and then develop a plan of action.

11. Execute.

Once you have visualized your goal, you need to take action to make it a reality. You have to get organized and move forward quickly. Persistence and enthusiasm are key. If you give up at the first sign of failure, you have been defeated before you’ve even started. Dig deep and find your grit; you’ll need it. If you’re looking to build wealth, start by forming a financial plan to map out where you want your money to go.

12. Practice people skills.

To accrue a fortune, you’re going to need the help of others. You’ll need people to hire you, work for you and be loyal to you through good times and bad. This is why people skills can either make or break your financial success. Don’t underestimate the importance of developing charisma along with your financial strategy.

Practice being assertive as well as cooperative. Know when to stand up and be heard, and when to sit back and listen. Have a no-jerk policy: don’t be one, and don’t put up with those who act like one.

13. Associate with smart people.

The people we interact with naturally influence who we are. Their ideas will seep into our own minds and affect us. So make sure the people you associate with are also those you want to emulate and learn from.

The more you spend time with creative, intelligent and thought-provoking minds, the more your own mind will pick up on those vibrations. Think of this as developing your “A-Team.” These are the people you’ll tap when brainstorming ideas and searching for solutions.

14. Expand your horizons.

Knowledge gives you the foundation on which to build your success and wealth, and fuels your ability to dream big. It’s no wonder that self-made millionaires spend a great deal of time reading and educating themselves. They know they’re never done learning.

Those who have accumulated wealth understand that they must stay one step ahead of everyone else. They recognize that wealth comes from power and power comes from wisdom. Wisdom, then, must be continually sought after. Take Warren Buffett. He estimates that 80% of his working day is dedicated to reading.

15. Hone your sixth sense.

Once you have mastered the principles above, you’ll begin to develop a gut instinct you can rely on. Think of it as developing a sixth sense for impending dangers or a nose for opportunities. You’ll develop an intuition for what works and what doesn’t. These instincts will change over time. Listen to them, believe in yourself and watch your fortunes grow.


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