August 2018 Update
Just before you slam your nose into the grindstone that September often brings – regardless of whether you have kids in school or work full time, it can still be a thing – let’s stop and consider:
What is it you want to achieve in the back half of this year?
What is important and – even more key: what isn’t important?
The pressures of the standard work day, the standard school year, and all those other standards that permeate your life can make it really difficult to pay attention to what your personal version of success looks like.
It can be like starting a diet and then trying to avoid all those cakes at the office and social events featuring your favourite dessert. You give in once, and then twice, and then three times, because it’s just this once or a very special occasion. Eventually, you realize that there are all kinds of special occasions, nearly every day, and those last five or 10 lbs that were going to be simple to lose seem to be gathering new friends.
Similar obligations and opportunities can wreak havoc on your finances. Whether it’s spending more on supplies and clothes for the school year because you really love those kids, or buying more dinners out because you forgot how to cook a 30 minute meal over the summer, or just being so entirely daunted by the pressures of the season that you skip over your savings commitment and book a holiday you hadn’t factored into your plan … suddenly, you can be off course.
Then you beat yourself up. You experience shame. You tell yourself you lack strength, willpower, and a good moral compass. You give yourself restrictions or even (gasp!) a budget. You feel awful, you stay there and you end up in a cycle of financial binging and purging that leads you further and further away from your goals.
That sucks and we don’t want it for you.
The truth is that relying on willpower and self-control can lead to a cycle of failure. Instead, we want you to rely on a collection of other, more valuable things:
- A clear definition of what success looks like for you (see last month’s article: You Don’t Have to Be Normal)
- Regularly revisiting and tweaking that definition – because it will absolutely change
- A guiding philosophy with strategies for achieving that definition of success (that’s your financial plan)
- Daily and monthly habits that will keep you on course
That’s the kicker. It’s the daily and monthly habits that change everything. Just like it’s the minutes in the hours of our days that create happiness, it’s small things like rolling meal prep into your week and having savings deducted automatically from your pay that create seismic personal change.
It’s monthly money days, where you review what happened last month and what will happen next month so you can adjust accordingly. It’s rewards like your favourite dessert every once in a while and a planned holiday that is built around both your energy levels and your finances. It’s knowing where you’re going and why you’re going there.
The why is key. It’s hard to choose to skip that weekend in wine country with a pile of your friends or a silent retreat in the woods when you don’t know what your money is really for.
But when you’ve decided that while you like those things, there’s this other thing you like so much more, the decisions become easy. Every time you see that thing you like so much more in your vision of your future, your other options pale in comparison. The stress departs. You know what you’re going to do, and you have unlimited energy to do it.
Just before you re-enter the potentially stressful, action-packed month of September, we invite you to pause. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself what is at the top of your personal success list. What will you do – or not do – throughout the busy fall and winter season to keep your focus steady?
If you’re not sure, or need a refresher, please reach out. That’s kind of what we’re here for.
We’re also here to give you many many things to read. Sandi’s got another batch of great reads for you as well as a review of John Robertson’s book, The Value of Simple. Kathryn, Sandi and Julia got together to give you a primer on Having a Baby (just the financial stuff), and Julia took notes about an entire week in her life, in case you might be curious about how she spends her days. Of course, there’s tons more in the archives, so feel free to stay a while and have a look ‘round.
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