I regularly use the term financial fitness because of the similarities between our financial and physical wellness. Particularly, how small steps lead to big changes in each area of our lives. Often when a goal feels unattainable, it’s helpful to focus on the smaller tasks or activities needed to get you where you want to be. By identifying and celebrating realistic milestones along the way, the path to success will inevitably feel more attainable and approachable, and will give you the confidence you need to never give up.
Some may say I was a “late bloomer.” I spent my childhood nearly half the size of my friends and peers. I had resigned to the fact that I was built small and hardly spent any time working out. Senior year of high school, before football season started, the team did weight testing. I was able to bench press 135 lbs, four times. I might have weighed 150 lbs with my Timberlands on. Tiny and weak.
Fortunately, when I went to Providence College, I roomed with Pat, who became one of my closest friends.
Pat spends a lot of time in the weight room. Wanting his respect, I would tag along with him to the gym. When you first start lifting weights, you see little improvement. The gains are frustrating. You have the initial surge of motivation where you can time travel ahead and see yourself tone and fit, but then reality sinks in. Pushing myself for my four measly reps of 135 lbs, I’d look over and see Pat bench pressing 185 lbs like it was baby weight, thinking to myself, “I’ll never be able to do that. What’s the point?” I almost gave up dozens of times.
Thankfully, I didn’t quit. Just about every weekday for four years I was in the gym. I started developing good habits that benefited me in the process. For example, having a protein shake after a workout, using proper form and incrementally increasing the amount of weight I would lift. There wasn’t anything earth shattering about the process, or any “tricks” to it, just simple actions taken repeatedly that compounded over time.
When I reflect on why I didn’t quit, I realize it had a lot to do with accountability.
The reality is that Pat would have been going to the gym with or without me, but in my head, I was accountable to him and had to be there. It became hard to make an excuse to skip out.
While nobody is going to mistake me for Mr. Universe, I can proudly say that I am more than capable of lifting 185 lbs. I now feel comfortable and confident in the gym.
I tell this story because I think there are powerful similarities to our financial fitness, behaviors and habits.
We time travel ahead and see ourselves in the house of our dreams, perhaps sitting on our boat fishing, or driving up the California coastline in a sports car. Then, reality sinks in. We have a lot of work to do if we want to get there. “I’ll never be able to do that. What’s the point?”
Shake this nonsense. You can get there! Repeating small, positive actions leads to significant financial fitness over time. Similar to working out, the process isn’t earth shattering. I’ve shared many of the good habits I encourage our members to develop – avoiding credit card debt, investing early, and incrementally increasing our savings rate.
The initial growth can feel sluggish and insignificant. I’ve heard people say, “I can only save $25/month, what’s the point?” Sounds all too familiar to me in the gym. Avoid the early discouragement I found in the weight room by acknowledging the seemingly small milestones on the way to your larger goals. Take pride in the growth. Celebrate each new digit associated with your investments. Pat yourself on the back for paying off your first credit card. Throw a party for fully funding your emergency savings account. Acknowledge these wins along the way and the road to big change and true wealth won’t feel so strenuous.
Find your Pat.
There is someone you know whose opinion matters to you. Inevitably there are times we fall off track. Having someone that holds you accountable, directly or indirectly, is priceless. You won’t be the person that buys the year-long gym membership on January 1st only to stop showing up in February. Confidence and comfort isn’t an overnight path, it is attained through a series of positive actions repeated and built upon over time.
If you are ready for big change with your finances and need someone to hold you accountable, please give us a call. We would love to help.