The power of community

I’m on a diet.

Ok, not really a diet, but a diet adjustment.

Ok, not really a diet adjustment, but a whole new freaking philosophy of eating.

(It’s early and I’m still adjusting, so pardon me if I’m a bit… hangry.)

My wife and I have often kicked around the notion of starting a cleaner diet. We talk about the benefits, and how we know how much better we’d feel, and how it would teach the kids better food habits that would pay off for them in the long run. About then, my mother-in-law walks in with a raspberry pie and a tub of Cool-Whip, and I’m suddenly doing mental geometry while deciding to cut the pie into 6ths or 8ths. Diet? Pssh.

But the pie will have to wait for a while. 30 days, to be exact. My family has embarked on a diet plan of impeccably clean eating for 30 days. What made us jump and make the change?

Community.

We have a family friend doing battle with a tumor for the second time. While she’s going through all of the customary medical procedures, the doctors encouraged her to examine her diet and cut a few things back in an effort to reduce some other side-effects of this particular type of tumor. Her family, of course, is in lock-step with her supporting her however they can, diet adjustments included. I’m sure it’s much easier on her and her husband to only need to prepare one dish instead of two each mealtime. However, we wanted to do something to support her and her family other than the expected promise of thoughts and prayers and, “if there’s anything we can do to help…”

So, my wife and I discussed our options. The answer was staring us in the face. I mean, we’d been talking about making a diet change, and here one of our friends was being forced (essentially) to do something we hadn’t been able to do on our own. Why don’t we come alongside her family and take on the diet? We can share recipes, tips, wins, and encourage each other when the going gets hard. We’ll also be able to hold each other accountable.

So far, it’s working out pretty well. After the initial “I hate my life and everyone around me” period, things seem to be settling in… ok.

“What does this have to do with my financial life,” you’re probably asking? Quite a bit, actually. We often set financial goals for ourselves or families, and then someone delivers a raspberry pie and a tub of Cool-Whip, and, well… What I’m going to do is encourage you to use the power of community to help you accomplish your goals.

“What?! How is that going to help me? My finances are personal, Mr., and I don’t share those with just anybody.” Ok, I hear you. But, let’s take a second and look at how this should work to your benefit:

  • You’ll benefit from someone else’s knowledge. When you’re looking for someone (or group of someones) to partner with, you want to find someone who has been where you’ve been or has a deep understanding of your goal. If they can provide tips and tricks that make achieving the goal easier, all the better. But, if you need to ask a question, it’d be nice to expect a good answer.
  • You’ll benefit from someone else’s accountability and encouragement. Things will probably get tough at some point. You’ll either want to bail on the goal, or you’ll slip up and make a mistake. Your partner won’t let you lose focus on the goal and remind you why you started this undertaking in the first place. This will require a bit of transparency from you, though. I’m not saying that you have to share all your personal financial details with this person, but be ready to be open enough to say something like, “hey, I really blew my budget on Cool Whip for pie this week. It was a pretty big (delicious) mistake.” If you’ve chosen the right partner, you’ll be held accountable for the error, but they’ll help you pick up the pieces and jumpstart your progress again.
  • You’ll benefit by being able to use your pride to your advantage. This one comes into play more often than you’d think, especially if you’re part of a bigger group trying to accomplish goals. If you’ve committed to being honest with the partner/group, at some point you’re going to have a moment where you say, “Gah! I can’t do that thing because then I’d have to tell the group.” You feel that? That’s your pride. And it’s working to benefit you.
  • You’ll benefit from someone else’s perspective. Occasionally, we bite off more than we can chew. Or, we start something for a reason that ends up not being as important as something else we discover along the way. Someone else can help open your eyes to those moments. We get so focused on the task at hand that we sometimes need someone else to point out what our focus may need to be and to not discount the other achievements we’ve already accomplished.

There is a reason that people seek out groups when they’re trying to accomplish a difficult goal. Whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, coping with a loss, starting a business… Groups can help encourage. Groups can reinforce developing habits. Groups can even help you ignore the pie and focus on what’s important. Groups can tell you it’s ok when you couldn’t ignore the pie, and then help you refocus on what’s important.

As coincidence would have it, we’ve recently launched a private Facebook group called The RePeters to help with this very thing. If you join you’ll be able to share your thoughts on questions posted to the group, ask questions to the group, and get/give encouragement and support. We’ll talk about things in our financial lives and, also, plenty of things “outside” the financial sandbox. It’s a good place to come hangout with similarly focused people, learn some stuff, and remember that the effort is worth it! Join right here.

With that said, if you’re struggling with something, financial or otherwise, I encourage you to consider finding a partner or joining a group. The benefits are numerous and it just might be the key to your success.

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