Photo by Ildar Sagdejev; Wikimedia Commons
“When it comes to money, I know what I am supposed to do; I just can’t make myself do it.” Have you ever uttered these words in desperation after yet another failed attempt to rescue your finances?
We know that short-term change is typically easy. You are able to save more, spend less, or be more financially savvy for at least a few days in a row.
But what happens when you pursue better money management for the long term? For many people, that’s when negative emotions such as discouragement, frustration, and hopelessness enter the picture. Eventually, then, the old, unhealthy habits return.
How can you give your persistence a much-needed boost? Like all good stories, the story of persistence has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Different strategies are warranted at different phases of the story. Here is the beginning of the story:
In the beginning, your hopefulness and optimism run high. You have newfound enthusiasm for the financial journey you are about to launch. Two strategies are helpful to you at this phase.
First, you need to make your change effort a bigger part of your identity or self-image. Research shows that if you make your change effort a bigger part of your identity, you will be more likely to make the kinds of decisions that support your end goal. At the same time, any change effort that violates your identity will be doomed to failure.
Second, to stay motivated when you are working on better money management, you have to know in advance that there will be setbacks along the way, and you have to be careful how you think about those setbacks. The easiest way to understand this is to think about the two “mindsets” that are described by psychologist Carol Dweck: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are unchanging and simply reflect the way they are wired. For instance, they are born with a certain amount of intelligence, athletic ability, and financial savvy, and there is nothing they can do to change this. From this perspective, if you fail at something, failure simply confirms that you lack an ability.
People with a growth mindset believe that their abilities are like muscles, and they can build them up with practice. From this perspective, it is worth it to accept and embrace challenges, because you have the potential to improve yourself and improve your life.
If you want to reach a goal, you need to adopt a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset take risks, accept feedback, and take the long-term perspective. They know that defeat in the present does not necessarily mean failure in the long-term. Instead, a setback is an opportunity to learn and grow and improve. Take a chance, then, and be receptive to the feedback that you receive. You will be more resilient, and you will have more energy for the road ahead.
Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for the “middle” and “end” of the story!