If you’ve read our blog, watched our YouTube channel, or listened to our radio show/podcast (thank you, by the way), you know we beat the drum of “goals” and “behavior”. These two items are essential pieces when putting together a solid financial life. What we don’t say as frequently, however, is that they must be used in tandem to achieve their greatest results.
Let’s break this down.
Goals declare your future desired destination. You’re currently “here” and you want that to change. You want to be “there”. You’re in debt but you want to be debt free. You don’t have any money set aside for your child’s education but want to build savings in the next ten years. You’re currently renting but want to buy a house. I’m sure you can think of an example that’s personally applicable. In fact, do it. Think of something that either needs improvement in your financial life, or you just want to be different. I’ll wait.
Your goal may be achievable in the near future or it may take a bit (or a lot) longer. Whatever you’ve chosen, that’s ok. Goals are powerful tools to be used to guide you and your decisions on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis. Remind yourself of those goals regularly. If you have a budget/finance meeting with your significant other (and you should have those meetings) discuss, establish, and review them together. If a goal needs to be changed, change it. Keep setting new goals, too. Sure, you may have to prioritize them a bit, but don’t limit yourself. You’ll find that the more goals you’re actively working towards, the more focused your spending becomes towards accomplishing those goals.
Which leads me to…
Behavior is tricky.
I’m carrying more weight than I should. I know how to fix it. It’s not by taking bites of my kids’ ice cream sandwiches as I unwrap them and telling them it’s the “daddy tax”. Nope. In this case, I need to make consistently better food choices. And, occasionally, I manage to do just that. Before you know it, though, I’m racing the kids to the fridge to see if their grandma brought us any pie while we were gone. One good decision every few days isn’t the type of behavior that’s going to give me the most benefit. What each of us needs to find is a way to make our good behaviors sticky. In other words, find a reason to stick with the positive behavior when you absolutely don’t want to stick with the positive behavior. Personally, I’ve found it easier to make my behavior more consistent when I’m doing something for someone else. Last year my family did the “Whole 30” food philosophy to support a friend who had to make that style of eating her new normal. She was looking for people to come alongside her in support while she made those changes in her life. We did it. While there were struggles, I knew I didn’t want to let her down, so my positive behavior persisted.
What will make your behavior sticky? You probably already know and that’s great. Go do it. Don’t wait.
If you don’t know what you need to focus on to give your behavior that boost, you may need to experiment. Consider being accountable to someone else and encouraging them to ask how you’re doing with that goal. Maybe you will have better success if you hang a list of your goals on the door to the garage so you see them each time you leave the house? Maybe you could change the password to your bank account or Amazon account to your primary goal to make you think twice about the purchase you intend to complete? Maybe you make the lock screen on your cell phone a list of your goals, or a picture of it (if possible)?
I don’t know what the best answer for you is going to be. I do know there is a best answer for you, though.
And what happens if your behavior crumbles and that goal gets postponed? Do your very best to not fail twice in a row. What’s done is done. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on the failure. Accept it and move on. Before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet making progress towards the goal you set.
That’s the beauty of goals and behavior. You’ll never be perfect at achieving what you set out to do. That’s okay. It will be a valuable learning process that will return useful feedback both on yourself and anyone who participates with you.
If you have established goals, make sure your behavior is helping you achieve them. If you haven’t created goals, schedule time to identify them and what it will take to achieve them. If you need help or support in the process I encourage you to check out our private FaceBook group, The RePeters. You’ll find a group of people willing to encourage you as you make your financial goals a reality.
Damian is the lead Financial Concierge on Your Money Line, the financial help line serving all Pete the Planner® Financial Wellness clients. Damian is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and loves answering your money questions. Despite sharing a last name and sense of humor, Damian and Pete are not related.