If you want to be financially successful, there may be no better skill to build than the ability to avoid distractions.
Distractions are everywhere on the road to what you really want — and you won’t just need to learn to manage them once or twice. Financial goals take a long time to get to, which means learning to manage distractions time and time again.
And you also have to learn what distraction looks like, because there are countless reasons and ways why people lose focus and put their attention on things that aren’t relevant to what they say they want most.
The Many Things That Can Pull You Away from the Right Money Moves
It’s easier to buy something today rather than save for a year (or more!) to buy something later. It’s easier to keep doing what you’re doing than to change habits. It’s easier to let your attention wander to what seems more fun in the moment than to focus on what’s best for the future.
It’s also easy to get distracted by what other people are doing.
The comparison game is a death trap when it comes to financial success. Your life is your life, and your values are your values.
But it you get caught up in what someone else is doing (or buying), or what society says is important… you can wave goodbye to the kind of financial success you actually want.
And a lot of financial distraction just comes down to wearing out and losing energy. Why? Because:
It takes a lot of time to save and invest to grow wealth.
Slogging away for years to save for a house, to be able to retire early, to take a year off and travel, and so on — it’s all hard work. It gets tiring.
As we work hard and feel tired, it’s easier to start justifying things like treating ourselves, or changing course and doing something that doesn’t require so much effort.
To avoid distraction here, it helps to really know and understand your long-term vision. You’ll need clarity on why you’re working hard to motivate you to keep going.
The more decisions we make, the worse we get at making (good) decisions.
Humans suffer from something called decision fatigue, which means the more decisions you need to make, the less likely you are to continue making good ones. And staying on the road to financial success requires you to make good decisions over and over and over and over again.
Decision fatigue isn’t the distraction to avoid… but it makes it harder to keep your focus, so it becomes harder to avoid distraction when it pops up.
It’s really difficult for human beings to envision their future selves.
That’s why instant gratification is so tempting: we tend to put more value on what we can get right now because we are experiencing right now!
We have to use our imaginations to “experience” our future selves and think about happiness for that version of ourselves that doesn’t even exist yet.
That’s exhausting for your brain and it’s just easier to choose to spend on a nice vacation now rather than bank that money, even for a bigger reward, for the future.
Clearly, distraction is something real we all need to deal with. If we don’t, it can cost us our shot at financial success.
If You Want to Be Financially Successful, You Have to Focus
Constantly acting as a good steward of your cash flow, your investments, and your total wealth is a full-time job in itself.
But financially successful people spend 20 to 30 hours per month thinking about, studying, or planning out their financial lives. The average person spends about 3 hours on their finances per month.
Here’s what that means: you must learn to manage, eliminate, or avoid distraction from your financial priorities if you want to be wealthy — because being wealthy requires you to focus on your finances for huge amounts of time each month.
How to Keep Financial Success in Mind and Avoid Distraction
The life you want to create is unique to you and what you truly value probably isn’t something you can make or get or build in a day.
There are so many decisions we need to make daily about how we use our money and there’s no doubt it’s hard to avoid the distractions and keep the focus on your dreams instead.
But it’s critical that you develop that skill to stay on the long-term track to big-time success.
Again, I know it’s hard. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to do it alone and there are specific strategies you can use to help stay on track.
2. Write things down. Write down those values once you identify them — along with your goals, dreams, priorities.
Put down on paper anything that will remind you why you’re doing all this hard work of saving, investing, and spending wisely. Then, make sure it lives in a place where you can see it every day.
3. Track your progress and find ways to stay motivated. Just stashing away money month after month with no end in sight sounds… well, awful. Not fun.
But it doesn’t need to be this way if you track your progress.
That’s part of the reason I like and use CapitalOne360 for my cash savings accounts. You can set a goal for each account and the online banking portal provides a progress bar for each goal.
Then, you get a visual representation of how far you’ve come every time you go to make a new contribution, which can really motivate you to keep going when you’re struggling to avoid distraction that seems a lot more fun than “just keep slogging along.”
4. Visualize. If that’s not enough to keep you motivated, picture your future self.
Remember, part of the reason we have a hard time making decisions today that benefit us in the future is because we don’t naturally imagine our future selves.
So do it intentionally. Picture what your life will be like once you achieve your goal or make progress. Use your imagination to give that vision as much detail as possible.
5. Build in small rewards along the way. Working hard with no end in sight = not fun, not enjoyable, and not sustainable. Make sure your financial plan includes wiggle room for small rewards to enjoy along the way so you still get to live now while inching toward the financial success you really want.
These actions will all help you stay on the right track over time… but there’s a final strategy that, I think, above all else, will help you reach the height of success:
Don’t try and do it alone.
The Best Way to Reach Financial Success: Together
People who perform at the highest levels in all areas of life don’t try to do everything on their own.
Elite athletes have coaches. The world’s best entrepreneurs have mentors. People who are serious about health and fitness hire trainers and nutritionists.
Why should it be different with your finances?
Find someone who can show you the right choices to make, keep you accountable to your goals, and remind you of what’s truly important when you inevitably get a little distracted along the way.
Not sure where to start? You have a couple options, and you could simply start by getting support from friends or family you trust.
If you have a partner or spouse, their buy-in will be critical to your success! You can help hold each other accountable to the goals you want to achieve most.
Once you’re ready to take things to the next level, you might want to consider talking to a fee-only financial planner with a CFP who will work as your fiduciary 100% of the time.
It is that person’s full-time job to help you identify your goals, create a strategy to make progress to them, show you the best decisions to make with every part of your financial life, and act as the objective third-party accountability partner who can remind you of your values when those distractions pop up in your path.
You can try to go it alone and manage the distractions (along with all the financial decisions you make every single day). There’s no doubt that many people can do well on their own.
But if you want to really optimize every move you make and ensure you’re not missing anything along the way, get the right expert on your side — just like an elite athlete would, or a powerful entrepreneur does, or anyone looking to really dial it in and take their lives to the next level.