Piles of cash that you receive when you get better with money!

Public domain photo, Wikimedia Commons

When we set a new money goal, it’s easy to feel the initial surge of excitement that starts us off strong.

It’s the same reason that the parking lot is full when you go to the gym on January 2 or 3.  At that point, so many people are still enthusiastic about their New Year’s resolution to shed pounds.

But by January 9 or 10, things die down. Competing demands arise. Hopelessness and discouragement set in, or the pull of the “status quo” becomes too strong to resist.

And so begins the hardest part of change: Propelling yourself forward despite all of the forces that push you back. How do you keep yourself moving forward? Here are some ideas:

(1) Begin your journey with the expectation that the “middle” will be hard. Psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck suggests that if we learn and truly understand that everything is hard before it is easy, we will be better equipped to handle setbacks and obstacles that arise.

(2) Develop an identity as a “doer” or a “changer. Researchers Linda Houser-Marko and Kennon Sheldon have started a line of research on the “self-as-doer” construct. There is good evidence that if you think of yourself as the “doer” of an action, you are more likely to persist at that action, even when obstacles emerge. In other words, if your goal becomes part of your identity, you are more likely to stick to it. (For example, think “I am an investor,” “I am a checkbook-balancer,” or “I am a money-saver!”)

(3) Keep taking small steps. When you experience success at the small steps, you build up a sense of mastery, a sense of self confidence, and an “I can do it” attitude that helps you tackle the larger steps.

(4) Make things automatic. David Bach, author of the Automatic Millionaire series of books, capitalizes on this principle. Make as many of your financial decisions as possible “automatic” so you do not have to fight the willpower battle. For example, if you set it up so that a percentage of your paycheck gets deposited into your retirement account every month, you only have to make the decision once, and there is no room for the monthly temptation to use the money for something else.

(5) Look backwards occasionally. So many adages urge us to look forward, like “Keep your eyes on the prize.” However, there is some value in looking back occasionally at what you have conquered. Turn around, look at all of the gold stars you have already earned, feel a sense of pride in what you have accomplished, and then look forward with renewed energy and vigor.

What do you do to keep yourself moving toward your financial goals? Send your comments!