Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.
~ Orison Swett Marden
Do you have financial goals that you just haven’t been able to achieve? Maybe you’ve always wanted to set up a budget, but you just haven’t found the time. Maybe you want to learn more about investing or economics, but you just don’t know where to start. Before you know it years pass by, you’re no closer to your goals and you’re left wondering why.
All of us face different financial obstacles. Some of us have a hard time figuring out how to earn more income. Others have plenty of income, but struggle to save it for the future. No matter what financial obstacles I’ve ever faced, I usually find the causes for them – and the keys to hurdling them – in the mirror.
Mirror, Mirror . . .
If you’re anything like me, you have a few nagging concerns that flare up once in a while. You acknowledge that something has to be done about them, but somehow nothing ever happens. Why?
Financial concerns can sometimes take a back seat to the everyday problems that crop up. I need to plan and prepare meals for my family every day, but there’s no immediate pressure to figure out the best investment or retirement strategy for the future. After all, retirement is decades away, and dinner is hours away. And by the time dinner has been planned, prepared and put away, there are plenty of other tasks to occupy my time. So it’s easy to put off financial planning.
It’s even easier to repeat the pattern above over and over until years pass without any progress toward my financial goals. I can see that the problem here is me. If I want these patterns of behaviour to change, I have to change them.
I’m no expert at listening to the mirror on the wall, but I’ve gotten a little better at it over the years and I’ve found that facing obstacles head-on is the only way to overcome them. Half-hearted efforts always yield half-hearted results. An honest, realistic appraisal of your goals and your efforts to achieve them is critical to your success.
5 Steps to Hurdling Financial Obstacles
The follow 5 steps can provide a framework for how to overcome the financial inertia that besets all of us from time to time. But it’s important to realize that, like any good athlete, we need to make sure that we’ve got the basics covered first: You can’t jump all those hurdles and win the race if you haven’t taken care of your basic health needs first.
It’s the same with your financial health. Take a look at Your Financial Hierarchy of Needs and figure out which part of the pyramid you need to focus on before you try to clear all of your financial hurdles. You can follow these 5 steps for each hurdle and hopefully they will eventually become second nature.
1. Name It
This may sound too simple or obvious, but I’ve often found that I’m a lot less successful when I skip the most fundamental aspects of problem solving. When you name your obstacle, you provide a focal point for your efforts. Try to be specific, yet fairly general with your name. You may want to name your obstacle “budgeting”, but it may help you focus better if you call it “designing a useful budget spreadsheet” or “sticking to my budget.”
2. Source It
The next step is to identify the source of your obstacle. Do you need more information to clear your obstacle, or is it more a matter of motivation and consistency? Maybe it’s a little of both. Either way, identifying the root of your problem allows you to focus your actions where they’ll be most effective.
3. Size It Up
This is where you can go into a little more detail on your obstacle analysis. You’ve named it and estimated some of its sources and now you need to decide just how big that hurdle is. Do you need to break it down into smaller pieces in order to clear it effectively, or can you get over it in one big jump? If you’ve never designed a budget before, you definitely want to break the process into smaller steps like researching different types of budgets, tracking your spending, and monitoring your progress.
4. Face It
This is where the running shoe meets the track. It’s time to come up with a concrete plan of action for hurdling your obstacle. Staying with our budgeting example, you may want to set aside a specific time on a weekend to do some research or go through your bills and financial statements. Give yourself a firm but flexible deadline like the end of a month or week. Set your own pace, but make sure you have a clear end in sight.
5. Jump It
This is the best part. Once you follow through with your plan of action, you can take a long drink of water (or another beverage of your choice ;)) and savour your victory. It’s important to realize, however, that we don’t get over every hurdle on the first try. Don’t quit. Go back to the starting gate and go at it again. You may need to modify your preparation and approach, but you’ll get over that obstacle eventually.
Do you have any financial obstacles you just can’t seem to clear? How do you approach them?