“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult”
Before I took action to take control of my money, I thought about doing it …. a lot.
I read books, I bought courses and completed the learning and listening and I seemingly hoped that things would sort themselves out by osmosis because the one thing I did not do was take action.
We all have countless reasons why we don’t take action, believe me I have said them all at one time or another;
- I’m waiting to earn more;
- I first need to understand everything;
- I’m waiting until I’m older;
- I don’t know where to begin;
- I’m overwhelmed;
- Now isn’t the right time;
- I’m too tired/busy/distracted to think about it
Some of these may sound familiar to you as well.
While these reasons may be 100% true and valid, nothing is going to change while we procrastinate and research what to do.
The only way things change is when we commit to taking action and then follow through on that.
The truth is that action leads to motivation and not the other way around. Action creates our courage and action leads to solutions.
We have the cart before the horse in trying to establish a plan before acting. And although this sounds counter-intuitive, as soon as we act we cause the cogs of change to kick into action resulting in a plan coming together.
The leverage to our willingness to act, is us proving to ourselves that it’s better to take action than to simply contemplate doing so.
And how can do we do this?
Make action a habit
This means taking action no matter what. Ok, within reason, so don’t take action if it is life threatening!
Action is not our normal impulse. We are more inclined to want to “think about it” and hesitate.
We have to train ourselves to default to action. This means practising decisiveness. No more “umming and ahing”.
Set yourself a task to make a decision within 5 seconds every time. And believe me, this is as hard as it sounds. Especially if you are anything like me and find making decisions incredibly challenging.
The solution is to start with easy ones.
The outfit you are going to wear that day. Pick the first item that meets your eye. No questions or debating.
Having to make a simple choice? Decide to go with the first option offered every time.
Create a strategy for eliminating hesitation by practising on the easy decisions.
The more we practise, the more habitual decisiveness becomes and the easier it is to act when faced with the difficult choices.
Make Mistakes acceptable
I don’t know about you but the way I was brought up left me with the inherent belief that mistakes are bad.
I was horrified to discover that my kids have the exact same belief.
We are so fearful of making mistakes that we refuse to step outside of our comfort zones and try new things because we might fail.
Thankfully there are entrepreneurial heroes who are not hamstrung by this debilitating block who have dared to fail and moved humanity onwards and upwards along the evolution chain.
John F Kennedy’s quote says it all “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.
Start to see failure as Edison did. He had apparently failed 10,000 times before he got the lightbulb to work and is alleged to have said, and I am paraphrasing here, “I didn’t fail 10,000 times, I discovered 10,000 ways it wouldn’t work!”
Let’s get curious and start discovering!
Armed with the willingness to act and the bravery to fail, how can we make our money a priority in our busy lives?
Lower the bar
Oftentimes what stops us from acting is the magnitude of the task we have set for ourselves.
Accept that you aren’t going to sort your finances out in a day.
And that is what is so great about it. No matter at which stage we are starting out, we have the time to learn and adjust so long as we continue to take action.
And it doesn’t matter how small that action may be, because it is the small actions consistently applied that move the dial Remember “Small hinges, swing big doors”!
Put the big picture aside for the moment and focus on taking that first action step.
Practise realistic optimism
One of my favourite personal finance authors, Morgan Housel, defines realistic optimism as knowing bad things are going to happen along the way, lots of bad things, but also knowing that ultimately everything will work out in the end if you take those bad things as learning experiences and continue to do the important things that move you forward on your path.
Getting on top of your personal finances is a marathon. And I’m sure no marathon runner is going to tell you it is a walk in the park. It is hard work, continuous redirection of mental focus to the task at hand, adjustments, diversions, sometimes injury but finally, the glory and reward of the finish line.
Accept the path to success is not linear
I saw a post on Instagram a while back. It was two drawings of the path to success.
The first drawing showed our expectation. Point A and a straight line to Point B.
The second drawing showed the reality of a messy squiggle between Point A and B.
This ties into realistic optimism.
If we start out our money journey accepting there will be challenges and obstacles we give ourselves the tools to be mentally, and ultimately financially, prepared for what may come.
Accept where you are now
While this may not be where you want to be, by failing to accept it and act on it, five years from now you will still not be where you want to be.
Accept the now and strive to improve it. Its shortcomings are the motivation for making the change.
Recognise the imperfection, lack and unsuitability of your now only in so far as this serves as a measure for your starting point and the initial benchmark for improvement.
Act before you are ready
You will never be ready to act.
Remember all the reasons I listed before for why we don’t act?
These are not going to go away with time. In fact more will probably be added.
Readiness comes from action.
Identify the smallest action you can do with your finances today that can start a cycle of change.
Take that action.
Commit to continuing taking a small action every day.
Set your goals within your locus of control
One of my financial goals was to win the lottery. I kid you not.
And aside from buying a ticket there was no further real action I could take to make this a reality. Believe me I tried. Meditation, begging the universe and trying to “scientifically” assess which numbers seemed to occur, did not work.
I did waste a bit of time on the hoping part I admit.
The truth was I didn’t really expect to win the lottery but it served as a diversionary tactic from doing the real work and taking realistic actions which would change my financial situation.
When it comes to our financial goals we often let unrealistic expectations stop us taking action.
This is just another excuse for procrastination or giving up altogether.
Set goals that invite action and take the first action step no matter how uncertain you are that it is the guaranteed, fully researched, perfect one!