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If you needed to change a money habit and were only allowed to pack three things in your “personal change suitcase,” what would you pack?

M. J. Ryan, author of the book This Year I Will: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True (2006, Broadway Books) claims that the three things we need to make any change are desire, intent, and persistence.

In her view, first we have to know what we really want.  Then, we make specific, behavioral goals that help focus our intention.  Finally, we try to avoid the pitfalls that can drain our desire or our intent.

Her perspective is quite similar to that of Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard (2010, Broadway Books).

These authors describe the emotional, instinctual side of ourselves that goes after what it truly wants as the “elephant.”  The rational, logical, systematic side of ourselves that calculates how to get to the goal is the “rider” that sits atop the elephant.

In this model, to get to your final change destination, the elephant has to be motivated (desire).  The rider has to be able to chart the course and plan the critical turns (intention).  And the pathway that the elephant and rider are traveling upon has to be shaped and cleared of all obstacles (persistence).

Think about your specific financial goals.  What happens if you have one or two of the change tools in your suitcase, but not all three?  Which one of the three tools is the most challenging for you to find?  Send your ideas!