When we’re trying to change a difficult financial behavior, the obvious question we ask ourselves is: “What is getting in the way of doing the right thing?” This helps us to identify barriers and obstacles and to design ways of getting around them.
What we often forget, though, is another important question: “What is allowing the wrong behavior to continue?” This question allows us to identify the excuses or facilitating factors that make our bad habits seem reasonable.
These excuses are a setup for failure, because they allow the habit to continue unchecked.
For example, consider a woman who is tempted to stray outside of her monthly budget. Here is a list of potential facilitating thoughts (or permission-giving thoughts):
It’s not really a violation of my budget because it is extra money that fell into my hands.
I’ve had a busy day at work and I’m entitled to some extra pampering.
I’ll do it just this one time, and then I’ll get back on track.
If I do it just this one time, I won’t need to do it ever again.
I’ll stray a little outside my budget, and that won’t hurt anything.
Everyone else can spend whatever they want to, so I can, too.
I deserve to treat myself.
It can be helpful to make a list of your facilitating thoughts. Then, for each facilitating thought you identify, challenge yourself to develop a more reasonable response.
Facilitating thought: I deserve to treat myself.
Reasonable response: I do deserve to treat myself, but I have a problem sticking to my budget and getting my bills paid. So it is healthier for me to treat myself with the free activities that I love. Once I am engaged in a fun activity, I won’t be thinking about my temptation to spend money I don’t have.
Consider the list of permission-giving thoughts (above). Have you heard any others that you could add to the list?