As we kick off 2022, there are two F-words that dominate peoples New Year’s goals; Fitness & Finance.
...Well maybe 3, F@%£
Every year, for nearly a decade, I set financial goals.
And every year, for nearly a decade, I made little progress.
As each year passed, my negative self-talk around money started to get worse:
- “At this rate you will never get out of debt”
- “Good luck trying to buy a house, loser!”
- “Why do you give up so easily? You are so weak!”
- “You’re just not determined enough”
I had every intention of making changes to my financial habits, but I just couldn’t seem to stick with them long enough to notice any meaningful change. There were too many temptations, too many fun trips, too many restaurants I wanted to try, and too many nights out with friends.
Looking back, my approach towards financial goals always started from the logical side of my brain
"I am going to put £250-£500 towards my debt each month. I will cut back on x, y, z and that will free up the funds I need to repay my debt. Sorted!"
It all made perfect logical sense.
My biggest mistake was that I ignored the most powerful part of the money equation, psychology.
Through a lot of trial and error, there were 3 tweaks I made to my approach that changed everything.
These small changes have without a doubt increased my success rate when it comes to my financial goals, and allowed me to use money psychology to my advantage, as opposed to it sabotaging my progress.
1. Find your WHY
This phrase was made famous by the author Simon Sinek, who initially applied this to marketing, however we can also apply it to our finances.
I knew WHAT I wanted to achieve: Pay off my debt
I knew HOW I was going to do it: £250-£500 a month from my salary.
But I spent almost no time thinking about WHY I wanted to achieve this particular goal.
Most of the time it was something vague like, “Because debt is bad. I know I shouldn’t have it”.
By starting with the WHY, you are going to give yourself a far better chance of staying the course.
When I challenged myself to think deeply about my WHY, I came up with this:
“I want to pay off my debt to eliminate the crippling anxiety I feel on a daily basis, prove to my partner that I am someone she can rely on financially, and sleep better every night.”
Wow! Far more powerful than, ***“*Because debt Is bad”...
The reason a strong emotional connection to your goal is so important, is that you are going to face a lot of daily, weekly and monthly financial temptations, and it can be very easy to drift off course.
By having a deep connection to your WHY, it suddenly makes you far more resilient to these frequent temptations that can frequently be at odds with your financial goals.
2. Rewire your brain
By finding your WHY, there is a beautiful knock on effect that can happen. You can start to rewire your brain.
Almost every decision we make in life can be boiled down to two primal actions; seek pleasure and avoid pain.
For years, my financial goal, of paying off my debt, was extremely painful for me. In order to achieve this goal I needed to find the money to do it. For me that meant cutting back, and missing out on fun things. Overall, it meant having to reduce something I enjoyed from of my life, which I found painful, so I avoided doing it.
Over the years, this type of self talk created extremely powerful links in my brain between paying off my debt and pain.
Once I was able to find my WHY and I began paying down my debt, I started noticing something change in my brain. My anxiety started to decrease, I developed a more trusting relationship with my partner, and I was sleeping better. For the first time ever, I began to find paying off debt, pleasurable.
During my previous failed attempts to pay off debt, I was always focused on what I was loosing out on, instead of what I was gaining.
With this new approach, suddenly I started creating powerful links between paying down my debt and pleasure.
As I began to rewire my brain, it became much easier to stick to this financial goal that had previous eluded me for so many years.
3. Create A Finish Line
In the world of academics, there is a fancy word for this. It’s called the Goal Gradient Effect. It essentially means the closer we get to the finish line, the more likely it is that our effort will increase.
Studies have shown that the Goal Gradient Effect has a powerful impact on our motivation and our ability to stick with our goals, especially as we get closer to them.
Here are some common ways the Goal Gradient Effect manifests itself in our lives:
Speed up at the end of a run/workout
Cramming late night for a test or working late on a deadline
Accelerate your coffee purchases as you inch closer to a free one
If we bring it back to the world of personal finance, it’s very difficult to stick to our goals if we don’t know where the finish line is, or how we are progressing along the way.
Imagine for a second we asked long distances runners to start a race, without telling them how long the race would be. It would be psychological torture!
So in order to keep ourselves motivated (and sane!), we need to know exactly when we are going to complete our financial goal (the finish line) and how we are doing along the way (our progress).
Once I understood this, I created a tool that helped me break down this large goal into clear steps and even smaller micro actions. It showed me a clear road map to success, when I would be debt free, and my progress along the way. This allowed me to keep my motivation high during the process.
I calculated that if I consistently put £500 towards my debt, I would debt free in exactly 16.5 months. The more I paid towards my debt, the closer I got to finish line, and in turn, the more effort I exerted to achieve it.
My Goal Setting Tool
Using these secrets individually can help you achieve your financial goals. However, if you use all 3 simultaneously, it can compound your efforts and propel you towards your financial goals even faster!
As a New Year’s gift, I wanted to share my very own Financial Goal Setting Tool with you.
It will help you to Find Your Why, Rewire Your Brain and Create A Finish Line.
You can download it HERE.
❤️ Patrick & TOMII Tribe
What We're Watching 🍿
Borrowed Future - How Student Loans Are Killing The American Dream
You can find the epic trailer HERE
A riveting documentary that shows student debt as the single most overlooked financial crisis in America. Fascinating not only for Americans, but for anyone who is curious how large debts (or any kind!) can own your future. Highly recommend!
What We're Doing 🤩
Setting Financial Goals (of course!) - Download our Goal Setting Tool
What We’re Testing 📝
No Spend Week (or two!)
Every January, after 3 weeks of gluttonous behaviour, and overindulgence during the holidays, I always like to reset with a no spend week (or two). During a no spend week, you make sure your basic essentials are covered, and don't spend any extra money. No booze, no takeaways and no retail shopping. Back to basics. Warm cup of tea, a good book or a movie. Always good for the soul (and my wallet!).