After diving head first into changing our financial future I found myself still unsatisfied with other areas of my life. At one point I was Google-ing happiness.
How to be more happy? What do happy people do? What will make me happier?
Then I ran across a term that I felt in my bones, a term that resonated with everything I wanted in my life.
It is a noun to describe a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.
I quickly looked up hygge in my local library, which led me to the self help section. This was my gateway into striving to become the best version of myself.
My initial search led me to the self help section of books in my library. I remember going into that section and thinking that everyone who saw me was judging me for being there. I found my book about hygge and was ready to book it out of there, when I looked around I found books about happiness. It might have just been the spine of the book that caught my eye but I ended up grabbing one of those too.
Not the first time I’ve gotten a book about happiness. When I was 20 my mom sent me a Happiness for Dummies book, I still haven’t cracked that one. I guess it didn’t resonate with me.
But, this was the first time I was willing to learn about how to make changes in my life that could make me a happier person. I did it with my finances, why couldn’t I do it with other areas of my life?
Through all this reading I was becoming more aware of my choices in life. I was becoming aware that I held the key to my own happiness. My mind was the only thing holding me back. Once I unlocked that I was free to think about things the way I wanted.
Recently, I have been introduced to the work of Brooke Castillo. Her work aligns with how I think about life. Circumstances trigger thoughts that produce feelings which generate actions which cause results. I never defined my way of thinking like she did but I felt like I had control over the way that I thought about things that happen. This was powerful. I was able to let go of little things that didn’t benefit me or the people around me. I am still a work in progress but it is nice to have found a coach that has similar beliefs.
There have been other things I have learned on my self-help journey. I learned about contentment and gratitude from Rachel Cruze. I learned about my tendencies and happiness from Gretchin Rubin. And more including self-motivation, organization, improving my health, setting boundaries, getting out of my comfort zone, being more accountable from many sources.
I have learned to be absolutely content with whatever life brings my way. I can handle it and if it strains me I lean on my people.
Try this process to focus on your most important new habit:
1. Where are You Feeling the Most Pain in Your Financial Life?
- What keeps you up late at night? Is it the lack of savings? A non-existent emergency fund? Too little income to pay your bills each month? High amounts of debt you don’t feel like you can get ahead of? A bleak retirement future?
- Addressing the most stressful financial challenge in your life can be an effective place to start.
Let’s create an example: Lacey is an nurse who wants to pay off the last of her student loans she is a full-time floor nurse at her local hospital and has student loans, a car loan and credit cards. Her debts are keeping her up at night. She is so tired of living in debt and wants to be able to save for traveling and her retirement instead of paying debt payments.
2. Which New Habit Would Have the Biggest Impact on Your Finances?
Knowing that you need to work on your savings doesn’t necessarily highlight the optimal habit to adopt. Consider the impact each potential new habit would bring to your life.
- Make a list of all the potential habits you could build that are related to your target financial concern.
- Prioritize your list based on the likely outcome from incorporating that habit into your life. Eliminate the bottom 80%.
- Reexamine the 20% that remain. Visualize the impact each of the remaining possibilities will have down the road 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, and 5 years down the road. How will the habit impact your life 25 years from now?
Choose the habit that makes the most sense after carefully considering the future.
If you’re torn between 2 or more habits, consider which would be the easiest to implement. Never underestimate the power of momentum. You can swing back around and pick up the other habits in the near future.
Example: Lacey’s list of habits that would have the biggest impact on her finances.
Taking inventory of her income and expenses. (This is the one she choses to implement)
- Making a monthly budget.
- Picking up 2 extra shifts per month.
- Taking inventory of what she has.
- Setting goals.
- Determining her values in life.
3. Seek to Be Average at First
Bring all the parts of your personal finances up to an average level before attempting to be a high achiever. The worst aspects of your financial life are causing your greatest financial discomfort.
- In other words, eliminate consumer debt, have an emergency fund, save at least 10% of your income, have adequate insurance, and be consistently saving for retirement before worrying about the purchase of a vacation home or the installation of a swimming pool.
- If your habit doesn’t address a fundamental, personal finance issue, be certain your target habit is in your best interest.
- On a 1 to 10 scale, bring each part of your finances up to a “5” before attempting anything on a grander scale.
Example: Lacey has an emergency fund and savings for things she enjoys to do, but wants to focus on becoming consumer debt free so she can accelerate her other financial goals.
4. Do You Have What You Need to Put the Habit Into Place?
If not, can you get what you need or start small enough that the habit is viable? If you’re 75lbs overweight and spend every evening on the couch, you’d have to start small if your desired habit was to run 10 miles each day. You’d need running shoes, too.
- Some financial habits might require you to gain a significant amount of knowledge or have a starting point that is currently beyond your reach.
- Determine if the habit is possible with your available resources and expertise. It’s possible another goal might be more appropriate.
Example: Lacey plans to make spreadsheet of her income and expenses by category by going through her past bank statements in order to clearly see where her money is going and re-prioritize her money to achieve her most important goal right now.
Time is a limiting factor for everyone, and there are only so many hours that can be applied to building and performing a new financial habit. Ensure you’re spending your time wisely and effectively. The most important habits are often the least appealing. Focus on positive habits to best enhance your finances.
If this all seems too much for you to complete on your own, we can work on this together. Schedule your FREE Clarity Session with me to dive deeper into this.