As humans, we are reason making machines. We have reasons for everything! There’s a reason for why we ran out of gas, overdrew our checking account, missed a mortgage payment, ate too much ice cream… and the list goes on. When it comes down to it though, the reasons don’t matter. Focusing on what I’ll call the “what’s so” can dramatically change your life.
As a financial planner, I hear all sorts of reasons about why people’s finances are the way they are. Do any of these sound familiar?
We have $10,000 in credit card debt because my wife lost her job.
My credit score is terrible because I couldn’t make my monthly student loan payments for 5 years.
I lost a lot of money in my 401(k) because I didn’t know my investments were too aggressive.
I robbed a bank because I really wanted to go to Hawaii.
These are all valid reason. (Well, except for the last one of course. I’ve never actually heard that one, nor do I hope to in the future. I just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention.) Sure, certain actions could have been taken that could have potentially changed the way things are, but so what? The circumstances are the way they are. What’s important is that we acknowledge them as such and take action to change them.
Many times, when we actually deal with our circumstance, our initial reaction is to get frustrated and say something like “that’s not fair… I haven’t been given an opportunity to ______ (fill in the blank).” At this point, it is our job to realize how much that reaction is simply our own “machinery” acting up. This is what we’ve been programmed to do our entire lives. It’s a protection mechanism. When something isn’t ideal, there is ALWAYS a reason why. As I mentioned above, the reason could be valid, yet it doesn’t change the fact that what’s so is so.
Whether the topic is finances, weight loss, lack of time with family or any other circumstances you can think of, I invite you to take a real look at that area. Be honest with yourself about what’s so and forget about the reasons why it’s the way it is. Reasons serve to make us feel justified about why something is the way it is. That’s all they are good for… so drop them.
Once you actually acknowledge that a particular area isn’t working, you immediately have access to what’s possible in that area. If I continually got caught up in my clients’ circumstances, I would have no access to help them transform their financial lives. And then what good would I be?
It doesn’t take much to put this process into practice. All you have to do is follow these simple steps:
1) Identify an area that doesn’t work for you (i.e. your finances).
2) State what it is that doesn’t work.
3) Acknowledge that it is the way it is (this step may sound unimportant, but it’s imperative, as it grounds you in the “what’s so”). Don’t let those valid reasons creep in here!
4) Brainstorm actions you can take to alter the circumstances. (Don’t limit yourself to what you think is possible. Writing down actions that sound ridiculous might actually expand your thinking and open up new pathways to get results.)
5) Choose the most appropriate actions and get to work! (Appropriate actions are the ones that will alter the circumstances the quickest. Be direct and don’t avoid certain actions because they make you feel uncomfortable. Those are typically the most effective actions to take.)
The above action plan is simple, yet we don’t always follow this process when it comes to areas that may seem overwhelming. Most times, we would rather just ignore them, which causes more stress. Our finances tend to fall into this category. In these instances, it is useful to create a structure that holds you accountable to work on specific areas. (Take a look at my previous blog post, Creating a structure to hold you accountable – a secret to financial success, for a simple way to create such an accountability structure.)
Please feel free to continue to reach out to me to discuss this or any other topic about which I’ve written. I enjoy these conversations and would be happy to speak with you.