Building the foundation for change; original photo

In the last two posts, I’ve explained how people who feel “stuck” on a particular financial goal are often not quite ready to take action. They have some work to do at an earlier stage, called the contemplation stage of change (stage two), in order to shift the balance in the direction of change.

One of the most powerful ways we can shift the balance is by getting our emotions involved in our change efforts.

It helps to be able to see a problem in ways that influence our emotions, not just our thoughts. Very often, if we can’t find an aspect of the problem that impacts us at the emotional level, we can’t find the drive or the energy for change.

Consider this example:

If your goal is to increase your contributions to your retirement account, what makes this goal seem more urgent? Crunching numbers in a retirement savings calculator to come up with an estimate of how much money you will need? Or imagining yourself in the future, watching your same-aged coworkers retiring to Florida when the date of your own retirement remains distant and uncertain? Oh, and while you’re at it, you might as well picture yourself walking to your mailbox during a snowstorm. Inside your mailbox is a “Wish you were here” postcard from Florida…. You get the idea.

The homework, then, is to imagine what the future will be like if you do NOT succeed at personal change. Attempt to paint a grim picture of the future that will shift the balance in the direction of change.

Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • What will happen if I continue along my current path?
  • What will my future look like if I do NOT make progress in this area?
  • What aspects of my problem generate feelings of disappointment, disgust, or distress inside of me?
  • How much power and control does my problem behavior have over me, and what positive things am I missing in my life because of it?
  • What positive things might I miss out on in the future because I am refusing to work toward this goal in the present?
  • How do I fail myself by refusing to work toward this goal?

After you’ve painted a detailed picture of the future that focuses on the negative aspects of the problem, now design a forward-looking appraisal of how much healthier and happier life will be when you have completed a change. Imagine how you will think and feel about yourself after you change. Picture yourself feeling good about yourself because your behavior is now aligned with your deepest values.

You’ll know you have completed this stage when you have developed a personal conviction about the value of change and the need for change.

Most importantly, at this point, you have made a decision to pursue change. You have done something to resolve your former ambivalence and to forever make the “pros” of change outweigh the “cons.”

Think of a time in the past when it has been helpful to get your emotions involved in your change efforts. When has this worked for you? Share your ideas!