I recently started a new way of eating in hopes of gaining some much-needed energy (because I’m literally tired ALL of the time!) and to hopefully drop a few pounds (because, hey, who doesn’t want to look a little better in a bathing suit??).
I’ve attempted new eating and exercise programs before and have found that my success, or lack of success, has almost always depended on my discipline – being able to actually stick with my plan vs. caving and eating that pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
I’m practically brilliant during the planning and kick-off phase of a new health plan, but sticking to it for any great length of time is not my greatest strength. I have learned that my best results have always been when I was truly committed and motivated. While it may seem like a bit of a stretch, some of the same concepts that have helped me be successful in enjoying better health can also help you gain financial fitness.
Discipline is the key to success
Regardless of what you are trying to achieve (financial freedom, improved health or even business success) you must have the discipline to stay on track in order to successfully reach your goals. Having discipline keeps you from being distracted or making impulsive decisions which will quickly derail us from achieving our goal.
The biggest obstacle to overcome when trying to practice discipline is the desire for instant gratification. The “I gotta have it now” syndrome. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, we are brainwashed into believing that not only should I have whatever it is I want RIGHT NOW, but that I also DESERVE it. This popular mentality is what has gotten so many individuals and families into series debt and sometimes that debt has ended in bankruptcy and sadly even divorce.
So how do we learn discipline? How do we get ourselves out of the instant gratification mindset in order to achieve strong and healthy financial fitness? I believe following the key principles below will set you up for greater success and help you flex your discipline muscles.
Three Steps to creating stronger discipline
Step #1 – Have a financial plan (and a budget)
You cannot achieve any goal without knowing where you are going. Having a good, workable budget will help you get to where you are trying to end up. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get out of debt or build wealth; in order to achieve either of these financial goals, it is imperative to have a plan.
Having a budget in place will aid you in all of your spending decisions. With a budget, you know how much you can or cannot spend in any given category. If you do not have any money left in your dining out category, well then you know you will be eating at home. If however, you have money left in that category and a bunch of your friends are headed out to dinner or happy hour then you can say yes with the knowledge that eating out will not derail your goals.
Having a plan in place will help keep you from making poor impulsive decisions that will either slow down your wealth building or hinder your ability to get out of debt. Not sure where to begin on creating a budget? Check out an earlier blog post on budgeting here.
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Step #2 – Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses
For so many people this is the hardest step. It is so easy to get caught up in what other people are buying and doing, and social media makes it that much harder. While we are digging in and working hard to pay off debt, sticking to our budget, we see pictures on Instagram and Facebook of friends buying new cars or taking an elaborate vacation. Seeing others seemingly enjoy extravagant lifestyles on a daily basis can easily threaten ones’ discipline to stay on track to achieve their financial goals.
But many people don’t understand that most people who buy new expensive cars or take high-end vacations are not rich. As a matter of fact, they are typically the ones with the most amount of debt. Don’t believe me? Here is a great blog post with further details.
In order for you to achieve YOUR goals you need to let go of today’s popular myth of who is rich and who is not, and you need to let go of trying to keep up with your neighbors. Remember, if you are paying off debt then you are probably in a temporary situation. You develop your discipline accepting some short-term sacrifices knowing that down the road you’ll have a long-term payoff.
Step #3 Get accountability
Accountability simply means answering or accounting for your actions and results. And the best way to be held accountable to your spending and saving is someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth – someone who will hold you accountable to your end goals. This person can be your spouse (in this case you are accountability partners – you can hold one another accountable), a close friend or even a parent.
It can also be a financial coach like myself. Regardless of who it is, they need to love you enough to tell you what you NEED to hear vs. what you may WANT to hear. It is someone you can reach out to BEFORE making a large purchase or when you veer off track. Meeting on a regular consistent basis with your accountability partner will help you stay true to your goals and help you stay disciplined.
Let’s wrap it up
Going back to my goal of healthier living – I am achieving my goals and staying disciplined because I have a plan. I track my food and my exercise – no guesswork. I don’t worry about the great food pictures all of my friends love to post all over social media because I’m worried about MY health and I’m the one that has to live in this body so I’m the one that needs to stay disciplined to achieve optimal health for ME – not my neighbors or anyone else.
As far as an accountability partner? My husband. He doesn’t knock food out of my hands when I reach for something not on my eating plan and he doesn’t berate me when I skip the gym – what he does do is encourage me and reminds me of all of my successes. Have I messed up? Oh yeah. But I didn’t give up. I have developed a higher level of discipline through practice. Consistently practicing discipline is paramount to achieving overall greater financial fitness.