When people look to change something in their lives, many tend to go the "all or nothing" route. If they want to lose weight, they want it to happen as quickly as possible but rarely take the time to think about their journey to get where they are.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I know that I didn’t wake up one morning to find that the "fat fairy" had made a deposit to my mid-section! I saw the numbers creeping up on the scales, I felt my pants get tighter but I chose to ignore it until I couldn’t.
It’s the same with debt. There’s no "debt fairy" popping in during the night, screwing with your finances and leaving you with a pile of debt. Chances are, there were signs along the way that you didn’t see or chose to ignore. You knew it was happening but you didn't know how to react to it or how to fix it, and that’s OK…"No Judgment Zone" here…
True, life happens…relationships break down, jobs are lost, health issues or maternity leave mean reduced incomes. But there are ways to create a financial safety net to protect you, just in case…however, many people choose not to do anything until they are forced to.
So how do you start creating your financial safety net?
Well, after you figure out how you "got here" and what’s "keeping you here"…it’s time to make some changes. Yes, that’s right, changes….
C-H-A-N-G-E-S. Think about it, do you really think that you can continue doing the same thing but get different results? It doesn’t work that way.
Change can be a pain and it can be slow. Face it, you will probably screw up and you might want to give up…but don’t; think about why you need to make these changes. What do you want to achieve, what’s in it for you?
You can choose to live a fulfilling life by taking control of your money and spending money in a way that reflects your values. If it doesn’t make you happy, why do it?
Make the changes gradually. Don’t do a money crash-diet, it takes time to build a habit and if you truly want to make more successful changes in your life, don’t overwhelm yourself. Trying to change too much, too quickly is a recipe for failure.
Let’s use the ever relatable weight loss scenario as an example:
You have followed the program of choice, it’s been a long slow process but you’ve learned lots and lost some weight. Woohoo, you go girl!
But what happens next?
You’ve learned and implemented new and healthier habits and "maintenance" techniques. You have also made other healthy changes in your life…. instead of munching on chips and chocolate at work because you are stressed or bored…..you get up and take a quick walk or even a five-minute meditation (or nap) while sitting in the ladies' room.
Chances are that you will continue to keep off the weight and live a healthier lifestyle because you’ve learned how to deal with the situations that send you into the "bad habit zone". No, this did not all happen overnight, but by making small changes gradually, you are able to keep up this lifestyle without feeling deprived and overwhelmed.
Alternately, you followed the latest weight-loss craze, yes it was a bit drastic and you restricted the foods you ate and may have even stopped eating certain food groups, but you did it!! You no longer have to ask "Does this dress make my butt look big?" because you know it doesn’t.
Whew! Success, finally!
Hmm.... OK, well, you can continue restricting the foods you eat....however….
…. a little treat here and there surely wouldn't hurt anything. Right? I mean, you have lost the excess weight and you know that you can always follow the program anytime you want.
So how about a few chips and maybe some chocolate? …. No harm done.
Then it happens, what a blowout at work (or home)! You are fit to be tied. Where is that ice cream?? You are going to teach your boss (or your spouse) not to treat you like that. That’s right, you are going to teach them one heck of a lesson, you are going to sit there and you are going to eat whatever you want, because you can and they will be so friggin’ sorry that they messed with you!
Time passes, the ice cream (treats) are gone and everything is calm again, but ever so slowly you slip back into your old eating habits and before you know it, not only have you regained the weight you lost and more, but your muffin top now looks like it belongs on a shelf in Costco!!
Money problems can work the same way, there are short term (band-aid) solutions that will take care of the immediate issues or you can go gung-ho with the all-or-nothing approach…but realistically, it’s not sustainable. When you start depriving yourself…it won’t be long before the rebel in you breaks out and goes mad-ass crazy!
I mean seriously, do you want to live a life of deprivation? I think not.
Slow and steady wins the race! You are more likely to reach your financial goals by taking baby steps.
None of us are perfect and if you slip up, so what?
It’s OK…you can get back on track and continue the journey!