Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution? Or maybe two? Or twelve? And right now is about the time where you take stock and think, welp, the year didn’t go exactly the way I hoped, so maybe I just say the heck with it until January. I get that feeling.
For a lot of people I know, whenever they get the bug to make a change in their lives, they dive in head first and want to do everything just right. Want to lose weight? Well then we have to stick to a perfect 1,200 calorie diet and exercise for an hour every day. Want to cut debt? Better cut out all unnecessary spending and track every penny that comes in and out.
But creating change in our lives is one of the most difficult things we attempt as human beings, especially in the area of money. Whether it is practical change, such as paying off debt, or internal change, like altering our thought patterns, it’s hardly ever as simple as adding a new behavior to our daily routine. What I’ve discovered is that unless I connect the change to my self identity or values–and make it a singular priority–my change does not last.
Expect to suck at it
I have pretty good success at my current streak with exercise, but there was a time when some chronic conditions prevented me from doing it regularly. At the time, it seemed easier to stop than to scale down. My bad.
I knew that getting up to speed AGAIN was going to take extra energy at first—energy that I might normally need to clean my place, grocery shop, whatever. So I decided that for six weeks, I was going to be okay with spending more on takeout, letting dishes pile up a little bit more and vacuuming a little bit less. And by the way, I would also be sucking at the actual exercise because I was essentially starting over.
I’m calling this “sucking in service to my self-identity” because getting into this new exercise routine is part of a bigger vision for me–so I am willing to “suck” at other areas of my life to achieve that and to create change that will support this value.
I want to get back to my self-identity of “a regular exerciser” with this change. If that means I have to let some other areas of my life suck in the short term, I am okay with that. As long as I am being clear behind the “why” of sucking, and it’s helping me get in alignment with my values and long-term vision, then short-term failure in other areas is acceptable.Connect change to your self identity or values–and make it a singular priority–to make it last. Click To Tweet
Five thoughts to support change
For most people, this would be a radical mindset shift. We have this misconception that if we’re already doing some things well, we have to keep doing everything well and just add on another task, responsibility, etc. But who said we have to have so many things going perfectly all at once? Heck, who said we have to be perfect at all?
At the time, my desire was about bringing my everyday, real-life fitness into alignment with my vision and values. For you, it may be aligning your everyday reality of money and your values. You might be looking to pay off debt, start saving for a specific goal, or get clarity around your spending. Whatever new initiative or project you may be taking on to create change, remind yourself of these five things:
- Be Curious, Not Critical. I could become really annoyed with myself for slacking on parts of my life, but because I’ve made a conscious decision to allow myself to suck, I instead focus on creativity. Instead of beating yourself up for spending too much on takeout, say to yourself, “Huh. I wonder what made me feel like a carton of General Tso was the answer to all my problems this week.”
- Choose Responsibility Over Victimhood. I have a choice: I can either feel like the victim, forced to juggle more than I can handle, forced into making poor choices; or I can decide to be responsible for my choices and say, “Today I’m choosing to spend my energy tracking my spending instead of folding the laundry. Tomorrow is another day.”
- This is Temporary, Not A Trend. The reason it’s okay for me to forget to load my dishwasher or overspend on takeout while I got the hang of regular exercise is that I knew it was temporary. I had an end date in mind to assess my energy, my spending and my overall health. And I knew what to do to get back on track. If I wasn’t aware of those changes, that might be cause for greater concern. The same is true with your money. If you need to dedicate a little extra money to paying down debt, you might have to say no to a coffee date with a friend — but you can understand that the choice is temporary, and someday you can drink coffee with abandon.
- Expect To Miscalculate. Even though I’m going easy on myself while I create change, I still might need to do less. That might be frustrating when I want my entire life to run perfectly and look like one of those “getting things done” movie montages, but it’s realistic. For someone who wants to save for a specific goal, they might find that one month they can’t save as much because they decide to splurge on a birthday gift or go out to eat a bit more. And that’s OK. It doesn’t make sense to give ourselves permission to let things slide, and then get upset because we things slide more than we previously thought we would.
- Give Yourself Credit. In spite of the dirty dishes, clean laundry in the dryer, cat hair accumulation, and empty takeout boxes, I am making progress. Physical progress and stamina. None of it is revolutionary, but if I just become a little more efficient with every workout, I’ll be that much closer to my vision.
Even if you only write down your spending and don’t analyze it, that’s progress towards gaining clarity. By changing your mindset, you are changing your approach to change! And I truly believe that a healthier, more sustainable attitude towards change is one of the most important indicators of whether or not you will succeed.
So what do you think? Can you give yourself permission to suck at something while you’re learning to get better at something else? I hope you can.