We just passed New Years Day which among other things is famous for New Years Resolutions. There is something about the start of a new year that naturally leads us to reflect on what we would like to change in our life. Lose a few pounds. Start to exercise. Read our Bible more. Get control of our finances. January 1 comes around and we announce we mean it this time. Things really are going to be different this time.
But then February 1st comes and goes and the promises of New Years Day are long forgotten. The thing is we really did mean to change. We know we need to change. We wanted to change. But change is hard. Doing what we always did is easy. And soon we fall back into our same habits.
Does this sound familiar?
And yet the reality is sometimes change does stick. We admire those that make lasting change. We wish we could be like them.
So what is the secret? Why do some succeed where most fail?
The power of why?
I recently became aware of this TED Talk by Simon Sinek. Sinek talks about what he calls the Golden Circle. The middle circle that drives real behavior is the why. We understand and can process information from the parts of our brain that process the what or the how. But it is the part which processes the why that has the ability to affect change. The part of the brain that interprets the why is the part of the brain that makes decisions. Why is a very powerful force. It’s a fascinating video and I encourage you to watch it below.
So how to we make a change that lasts?
The key to making a change that lasts is having a compelling reason why. Without a why, change is just too hard.
I know I should lose some weight. I’d be healthier and feel a little better probably. I resolve on January 1st that I’m going to eat differently. But then I see that banana split and it looks so good. The why of enjoying a great dessert becomes stronger than my vague desire to be healthier, so the diet goes by the wayside and my good intentions are soon forgotten.
Now let’s imagine it a little differently. Let’s say I wake up in the hospital. The doctor tells me I’ve had a very close call with my heart. I see my family looking over his shoulder and can read the fear and concern on their faces. The doctor tells me that if I don’t lose 50 pounds that the next time I won’t be so lucky. Now what happens when I see that banana split? I now have a why that is more motivating than any temporary pleasure that dessert may provide.
Making a lasting financial change
I’ve been talking about diet but this is really the key to making change in any area, including our finances.
The key to making a change and sticking with it is understanding why we want to change.
If you aren’t happy with where you are financially, why do you want to change? Perhaps you wish you could quit your higher paying job and follow your dream of doing some kind of ministry or some other work that typically pays less, but with your current debts it just isn’t feasible. Maybe you dream of traveling the world, but you aren’t sure how you could afford it. Perhaps you have family members that had to work long after they were able, and you are driven to save enough to have a comfortable retirement. Maybe you are just tired of the sleepless nights that come from having too much month left at the end of your money.
My challenge to you
So if you are looking to turn your financial situation around, here is my challenge to you:
- Spend some time dreaming. Why do you really want to change? What is your real goal? Identify the top 2 or 3 things that you’d really like to be able to do if only your financial situation was different.
- Write them down. But Bob, I know what they; are that’s good enough. I repeat. Write your goals down. There is something powerful that gets unleashed when you have written goals.
- Put that list somewhere you will see it everyday. Pin it to the refrigerator. Place it on your bathroom mirror. Maybe you need to put it in your wallet so you see it each time you reach in to pull out your money.
- If you are married you need to do this exercise with your spouse. You will not succeed if you are heading separate directions. If you are single consider sharing these goals with a close friend or family member who will hold you accountable.
When you have a “why” that you want very badly, change becomes easier. When you can look at each financial decision and weigh whether it draws you closer or pulls you farther away from your dreams, you have a standard that will lead you to making the right decisions.