Three weeks into the New Year, and how’s everyone’s resolutions holding up? Often, even with the best of intentions, we fall back on old ways. It happens to the best of us. Habits are difficult to break. We get stuck in routines that are clearly not working for us. And after years of repeating the same behaviours, over and over, it becomes an automated response (and as we get older, become even tougher to crack).
So how do you kick those habits? Well wanting to change is definitely a big part of that. But sometimes even when we want to change, we don’t. Sometimes we encounter obstacles, big or small, that hold us back from even starting anything at all. Whether that’s paying off your debt, starting to save, starting to invest, cook, lose weight, or simply getting to the gym. It’s not only about not having the will to want to do something about it, but it’s important to dig down and figure out what’s stopping you, what’s getting in your way?
What’s stopping me?
I hate going to the gym. There I said it. For years, I did go to the gym, I’d go for 2 or 3 days a week for 5 months straight, then fall off the wagon. Some experts say it takes an average of 28 days to create a habit. Maybe longer. Maybe they meant continuous. Who knows? All I know is that habits are less likely to be eliminated, and more often are just controlled (or replaced with other habits). Regardless, for some reason the 5-month mark always plagues me – I get a cold, I go on vacation, a family member turns ill, whatever the reason, it’s reason enough to knock me off my routine. And now it’s been over a year and a half since I’ve been back.
Notice, how I never said I hate the gym. It took me years to discover this. I actually don’t mind being at the gym at all, I just hate ‘going’ to the gym. It’s not that I don’t want to get healthier, I just really hate the gym prep, to and fro, and dread the drive. Mind you, it’s not that far, and there are slightly closer ones, but my gym happens to be incredibly cheap. Those are my mental obstacles. My head’s saying if I can’t work out past the 5 months and for a whole year straight, then I may as well not try at all. But really that’s just an excuse.
So I’m trying to eliminate the obstacles that are preventing me from getting to the gym. I’ve tried working out at home, but now especially with kids, it’s nearly impossible, and there are too many distractions. The thing I liked about being at the gym, is you’re at a place where you have no other choice other than to work out (well, others may have other ideas – yes, you, lady, walking 1 mph for 20 minutes on the treadmill next to me while reading a book!).
Now, if I had a friend close by, to go to the gym with, it may be a whole lot easier. I figure I can cut out at least the drive-by carpooling. Problem is, most of my friends now live, at the very least, half an hour away, which would add significant time to my trip. And I used to go to the gym together with my wife before, but with two small kids now, one of us has to watch the kids. Now, the other option is just to throw on a pair of running shoes and run and/or hop on my bike and ride. And that might very well be my ticket!
What’s stopping you?
Finding the underlying problems as to why you’re avoiding opening those bills, squandering your money in debts or keeping you from reaching your financial goals is essential if you want to get out of those bad habits.
Feel like you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck? Ask yourself why? Are you in a low-paying job? What can you do today, to improve your skills or situation? Have you sought out other jobs? Are you spending more than you earn? You’ll never really know until you draft up a budget. “But I don’t like budgets”, you say, “they’re too hard”. Well, try this: tally up all your income (after taxes) and look at all your accounts and run a quick tally of all your expenses for the month. Yes, congratulations, you’ve just created a budget!
Can’t save? Well, what did your budget tell you? Were you over? If not, then you definitely have room for savings. If so, what are the big numbers in your account that stand out? Is there anything you can do today to change that? Are you paying too much for bank fees or insurance that you can fix with a 5-minute phone call?
Bad at math? Well, I’m no number genius either. Get a calculator or software program to help you.
Don’t know how to manage your investments? Take out some books at the library or seek the advice of a professional advisor, that can help you get on the right track.
Are you failing to pay your bills on time? Or not saving/investing enough? Automate it! Have all your bills pre-authorize deductions directly out of your account and set aside a certain amount to be automatically deducted from your paycheck towards savings/investments to work towards your future goals. Stop worrying about things you don’t have to when there are tools out there that can make it easier for you.
Are past emotions or your family’s past history getting in the way of your financial progress?Do you and your partner have differing views about money and how to use it? Open up a dialogue with your spouse and have those important money conversations. Discuss the difficult situations with your closest family members and friends, or join a local money group for peer support to keep you motivated.
I know I’ve kind of dumbed it down and made it sound really easy. And although most of the examples I provided are, I’m not trying to imply that it’s ALL easy. Especially the last points can prove to be difficult. But there’s some credence to the old adage, ‘nothing worth doing is ever easy’. Take control of your financial life by finding and taking down those obstacles, that are preventing you from being your very best. What obstacles are deterring you from reaching your goals (and signing up to my email list)?