Hello! Happy Halloween! Today I have a post written by a blog friend. Sara has been wanting to write an article on motivation for some time, but she didn't think it would fit well on her debt-focused website. I swooped up the opportunity and her motivating post is below.
I'm sure most of you have some sort of goal right now, and you probably need a little motivation boost. This post can help you out with that.
I love the Zig Ziglar quote “People say that motivation doesn’t last. Well neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Most people reading this will have some clearly defined money ambitions – clear all your debts, save for a house deposit, retire at 50, afford to be at home with the kids for a few years… The first few weeks or months after setting your goal can be exciting as you make plans and get them under way.
But after that things seem to go so slowly and those temptations to stray can seem to talk much louder in your head than the sensible voices in your head saying you can’t afford that…
So I’ve been thinking about all the different ways to get that motivation to resist temptation and keep on track.
This is why we all read personal finance blogs and frugal forums, isn’t it? It’s great when there is a money-saving tip that works for you or a new recipe that only uses things that are already in your store cupboard or an idea about getting some extra cash.
But even when there isn’t anything you can directly use, it’s good to know that you have some company along the way. It can feel lonely sometimes, having ambitious money goals that you don’t want to discuss with work colleagues or family. Reading blogs lets you connect across the country with other people facing the same sorts of issues and share their triumphs and disasters
It’s even quite nice when other people are wrestling with problems that you don’t have, not in a nasty, schadenfreude, sort of way, but because it puts your own issues into perspective – “at least my boiler is working and the in-laws haven’t moved in for a three month stay!” And finding out how people get through their setbacks can give you the determination to get through your own.
Eyes on the prize
Perhaps you like to mentally escape from your short-term ambitions and exploring possible futures:
- Follow someone’s adventures as they cycle across China, buy a small-holding or build their own house;
- Fantasise about how good it will feel in a few years to have to make difficult choices about investments;
- Contemplate whether paying off the mortgage faster or putting more into your pension will seem more important when you are debt free.
This doesn’t have to be serious – when my husband and I were planning early retirement, we got into the habit of watching Peak Practice once a week. It was a run-of-the-mill British soap, but it happened to be set in exactly the part of England we were thinking of moving to, so watching it together was a gentle re-affirmation of our shared ambition.
Updating the numbers
Some people get a buzz from knowing their budget is completely up-to-date, that sense of satisfaction that comes from neatness and precision.
The bigger your financial difficulty, the more crucial control over your money is. As a debt advisor, I know drawing up and using a realistic budget is the single biggest step anyone can take to improve their situation.
But with a long-term ambition such as early retirement, not a lot changes in your lifetime spreadsheet from week to week. As a friend said to me “There is budgeting in extremis, and there is budgeting for the average man. You don't need to get tied up in knots about every single penny being correctly pivot-tabled to the right sub-category to know whether you are on track or not.”
It may be a wild cultural generalisation, but I get the feeling that Americans like motivational sayings a lot more than most Brits. If that’s right, I’m an honorary American, because I love them I often set one up as my PC’s wallpaper – this is my current one:
“Anyone can do something when they want to do it. Really successful people do things when they don’t want to do it.”
So every time I switch on, there it is. A small but perfectly directed kick to get me to not wallow in the soothing bath of social media but tackle something less fun.
Dave Ramsey is the king of killer debt quotes, and Oscar Wilde managed to say important things in a way that wasn’t just witty but word-perfect:
“To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.”
But it’s fun when a gem from a “non-regular” pops up on my twitter feed, which is where I saw this Julia Child quote yesterday:
“Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”
Which leads onto my last suggestion of ways to keep motivated…
Enjoy doing something non-commercial
If you are singing in a choir, playing bridge online or campaigning for better cycle-paths, then you are too busy to read yet another review of the new iPhone or long for a winter break you really can’t afford.
Even though it’s free, routine TV watching for many hours a day is the leisure equivalent of junk food – easy, addictive but not good for you. Even if you can tune-out the adverts, the endless procession of well-dressed, beautifully-groomed people on the box gives a warped impression of the real world and what you should aspire to. And it’s so passive.
It often seems an effort to make time for hobbies such as gardening, reading or cooking, but if you do, you may decide you should do it more often. As Michelle said in her recent post “We are more frugal and saving more money than ever, and it’s actually been a lot of fun.”
Author bio: Sara Williams runs the Debt Camel website. She is a debt advisor who lives in London with her two student children and a spaniel.
What works for you? Do pictures or music help keep you focused? Does your motivation level need topping-up every day or two, or is a once a month “check we are on track” enough for you?
What are you trying to stay motivated for?
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