Photo by Markus Schweiss, Wikimedia Commons

What would a sports game be without the coach’s inspirational pep talk to get things started?

The pep talk is designed to raise enthusiasm and to inspire confidence. It is often intended to enhance players’ determination to persist even when confronted with obstacles such as the hulking linemen in a football game.

For sure, our financial change efforts typically require more persistence than a two-hour sports match does. So why wouldn’t we begin with a pep talk?

To be effective, the talk we give ourselves will be a bit different from the typical locker room rally. We can help ourselves the most if we focus on adjusting our expectations, our identity, and our mindset. Let’s take a look at each of these areas in turn.

(1)    Enter the change journey with reasonable expectations. Remember that at the beginning of your change efforts, energy and enthusiasm will flow easily. But soon after, you may encounter frustration, discouragement, doubt, and sometimes even helplessness or hopelessness. If you remind yourself that these feelings are a natural part of the change journey, then you can walk alongside those feelings, stay task-focused, and forge ahead. Eventually, you will develop the insight that will take you to a place of renewed confidence.

(2)    Adopt the identity of a changer. If we make our change efforts a larger part of our identity or self-concept, we will be more likely to make the kinds of decisions that support our end goal. At the same time, any change effort that violates our identity will be doomed to failure.

(3)    Embrace a growth mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck has conducted extensive research on the concept of a “growth mindset.” When you adopt a growth mindset, you understand that your abilities are like muscles and can be built up with practice. You gladly stretch yourself and accept challenges, because you know that if you make mistakes, they will teach you something important that will help you succeed in the end.

Here’s an example of a pep-talk I put together for myself:

“All right, Heidi, now is the time to be a power-saver! Now is the time to prove that you are worthy of something, like that luxurious trip around the world that you are going to take during your retirement. Show them what you got! And when the world tempts you to spend money that you should be saving, just shout ‘No, world, you can’t trick me into that!’ And when you falter, just say to yourself, ‘Good failure, my friend!! This just proves that you have taken on a goal that is worth your time, attention, and effort. And this proves that you are making progress. Embrace the doubts and the discouragement and the frustration and walk with them to the finish line!’”

Now it’s your turn! If you were to write a pep-talk for yourself to support your financial goal, what is one line you would be sure to include?