Have you always wanted to be wealthier and healthier but never seems to be able to achieve both together? Some of us may even set yearly resolutions to achieve them. However, as the years pass, these goals seems to be getting further and further away. Why is this so?
From my personal experience, just setting new year resolutions do not work for me. This usually happen after setting those resolutions. The moment I set my resolutions, my motivation to achieve them are exceedingly high. I will immediate head out to exercise or save money in the first few weeks.
However, after the initial few weeks, my initial motivation will start to dwindle. I start giving myself good reasons for missing a workout or saving money. Some unexpected expenses crop up or the work week has become particularly hectic for me to head out for a run. So, I decided to take a break from savings/ exercising thinking that I can always make up for it the next day or the next round. Gradually missing a training or spending all my money becomes the norm again. By the time I wanted to restart those goals, it is already the end of the year. I am still not saving money or exercising! I always wonder, despite all my best intentions to do them, why is it that I cannot achieve them?
After years of experimentation, or I should say disappointments, I discovered that just having resolutions is not enough. This is because our focus and discipline can fluctuate. It can go up and it can go down. It is almost impossible for me to be 100% discipline 100% of the time. There are times where I will be off focus. Or there will be days that I run out of will power.
Here is where I discover that to be successful at anything, I will have built up habits that supports my resolutions. For example, I have the habit of brushing my teeth in the morning. It is almost automatic. I am successful at it as it is already an automatic process to me. The process consumes almost zero of my Will power. With habits from, what I do becomes a subconscious process and the action becomes much easier. Therefore, if we can develop a habit that supports our resolutions, the chances of having success in our resolutions will be greatly enhanced.
So how can we build up a successful habit?
- Know your reason first
If you are trying to save money just because you think it is a good idea, you may not be very successful at it. This is because there is no driving force behind it. Yes, it a good idea to save money, but not an absolute need. Without a clear reason, every time you tried to save money, your mind will be telling you that you are sacrificing something now to save. Your mind receives the signal that saving money is unpleasant and saving money is taking away your current enjoyment of spending the money today. Since the saving process is not enjoyable, you will tend not to save.
Knowing your real reason behind saving money can help your mind see things around. For example, if your reason of saving money is it to secure your children future education, you now will have a noticeably clear reason on why you need to save. Every time you save, you will feel good as you have taken another step towards securing your children’s future. Instead of thinking that you are sacrificing current enjoyment, you will start to see the fulfillment of your future desired goal. This will send a signal to your brain, telling you that this activity is gratifying, and you would like to do more of it.
The same goes to keeping fit.
- Better to have long term small consistent wins rather than a few big wins
I used to believe that to be successful, I must put in maximum effort each time to get the maximum results. Therefore, immediately after setting a goal, I will take big and ambitious steps to achieve it.
For example, if my goal is to run a marathon, I will start to pile up huge mileages training in the first few weeks of training. However, without much running fitness, I will soon find the training difficult to sustain. As my body has yet accustomed to the trainings, I developed fatigue and injuries. Very soon, I start to burn out and then stop training altogether.
Instead, if I can build up my runs progressively, I may get better results. Having built up my runs progressively, I will get fitter. With the increased fitness, my body can adapt to the higher training load, thus better prepared for higher training intensity.
Having consistency is better than making having just a few huge initial efforts. If I can head out to run every day, no matter the distance (even if it is just a short 2km run), I can build up the habit of running. The important thing here is not how much progress I am making in the beginning but building up the consistency of running. In addition, with each successful run, my brain received the signal that I can achieve what I set out to do. It will reinforce my “habit muscle” and makes me more confident of achieving my goals.
- Make it fun
I observe some people can play online games for hours, yet they have problem doing 30 minutes of exercise. Why? The simple fact is, playing the game can derive more fun that doing the exercises. Thus, building a successful habit involves making the activity fun.
So, how can we make our goals fun to pursue? One example is that I can play my favorite music while I run, or I can run together with a good buddy and enjoy the companionship.
However, there might be situations that are not possible to make the process fun at all. One way to get around this is to automate the process. For example, if I do not want to go through the hassle of transferring money to a separate account to build up my savings, I can set up an auto bank transfer from my salary account to a destined savings account so I can save consistently. Once this chore is taken care of, I can build up my savings without the hassle.
- Patience and intermediate goals
Building a habit takes patience. People can run out of patience while waiting to reach their goal. For example, saving for retirement. It is a long process with distractions along the way (immediate gratification of buying a new car, a new watch etc.). Furthermore, the initial progress towards saving for retirement seems so daunting and the progress seems so slow. You will not see immediate results.
What I have discover that in building towards a big goal, expect to spend a lot of time seeing tiny bit of increase. I used to run out of patience while seeing how far I am away from my goal and how slow my progress was. So how do I manage this?
One way is to set small intermediate goals. If my goal is to save $100,000 dollars, I can set an intermediate goal of saving $100 this month. When I achieve these small goals, I feel good and allow my brain to see that I am well on track towards my big goals. I believe that all big success begins with having successes in all these small intermediate goals.
- Getting back immediately
The truth is, in building these habits, there are numerous times where I failed. Days where I just could not muster enough Will power to head out for that run. The most important thing to do after missing a workout is not beating myself up or feel guilty about it. I discover such emotions will not help me in my progress towards my goal.
But think of it, what is the best way to recover from a failure? Just get back to the task immediately. If you know you have missed one day of running, just get back to it the next possible moment. If I missed my training today, just head out for a run immediately tomorrow. Never miss it twice. If you start missing twice or more, you are now forming a habit of not doing it.
- Having someone to be accounted for
Recently, I found myself lagging in my fitness habit. I foresee it may take a lot of Will power for me to get back to this habit. Thus, what I have done is to find a trusted friend to be accountable to. I will tell my friend my goals for the week and he will help me monitor my progress. With someone being accountable for, it has given me an extra push on days where I just want to take a day off.
I wrote this article with the intention of sharing what I have been through in my journey of building up my health and my wealth. Throughout this journey, I have experienced numerous failures. However, every failure has given me insightful lessons. Each failure has taught me to see what the problem was, and how I can do better next time.
I hope you find this article useful and purposeful. The purpose of my blog here is to help everyone to be physically and financially fit, so if you find the pointers here useful, do share it with your friends. In fact, you can even do drop me some of your personal stories, personal thoughts on these areas so that I can continue to learn and pursue this vision.
“All the success begins with daily actions. Consistent right actions form good habits, and good habits leads to personal success”