Building Better Habits

Here’s a really fun topic about building better habits. Doesn’t sound like fun, but trust me you grind through it for three weeks and it becomes easy, and the results will be profound. So here’s a quick blog that’s not meant to be about me (it’s for you) to learn from what I have done wrong, and to learn for what has worked for me. I always ask my clients “to do as I do” unlike the majority in this industry that asks their clients to do what they say. I share these stories because it’s worked for me and if you’re reading my blogs, will probably work for you too.

Real wealth, financial freedom, it all begins with how you think and what you DO.

In The Engineer of Finance Podcast Episodes 22 & 23, I discussed the importance of goals and even more importantly, systems and your daily activities (habits). You might not hit your goals, but you better create them (write it down), and then you need to break it down to daily habits. How are you going to get there? What can you do now to hit that goal? And what can you do to make it fun too?

I will share a story about me – and again, it’s not about me, it’s just what I have personally done and how you can duplicate (or act like you’re in a grocery store: buy what you like and leave what you don’t like) for what you want to accomplish.

Several years ago I wanted to be invited to compete at the USTA NorCal Grand Prix event in Northern California. It’s a really fun event. You have to be one of the top eight players in your USTA rating level, and it’s very competitive tennis tournament where you get a chair empire and free swag at a nice tennis club. I just thought it would be a fun experience to be invited to the Grand Prix event. And what I enjoy about tennis is you learn a lot about someone’s character and your own by watching how they and you behave while competing.

So my goal was to be invited. I learned the rules, figured out how many tournaments I had to compete in and how high I needed to place. The more matches you win, or the higher you place in each tournament, the more points you earn. Plus, I had to create a budget to accommodate for the travel expenses and entry fees which add up. So I decided to set a goal to play in the minimum required amount of tournaments, and win or at least make it to the finals in each tournament. I then focused on my daily/weekly/monthly habits which involved the following:

  • Blocked the dates in my calendar for all the tournaments for the year that I wanted to compete in.
  • Set the registration deadlines in my calendar.
  • Set in my calendar the recurring days I was going to practice each week and how much time I would commit. Then I DID what was on my calendar.
  • Asked a friend and good tennis player to mentor me and practice with me.
    • I learned to focus and practice on my strengths: forehand and serve.
    • Practiced and competed to manipulate my matches so the tennis ball would most likely come back to my strength: my forehand

Creating the goal was the 1st step, but then it was all about daily/weekly/monthly habits. I did not know if I would hit the goal, but I knew what my habits had to be. Then I didn’t think about the goal that often just focused on my daily habits. Did I do what I was supposed to do that day? Did I do what I was supposed to do for the week?

By focusing on my habits, I placed fifth and achieved my goal. I was invited to the NorCal Grand Prix tournament! I was so elated! And by focusing on my habits – not the goal, I did it. Quick tangent: A goal can be defined as a dream with a deadline. What are your dreams with deadlines?

Back to my story, I was so elated that I was invited. I was bragging to my wife and then realized, “Oh, now I need to set a new goal, I want to win the whole thing!”

So I fine-tuned what my new daily habits had to be to prepare for the tournament to beat my nemesis who prevented me from a couple of tournament wins. I continued to focus on my strength, but then also knew I had to improve my game at the net. I was very uncomfortable there, and I had to make it very comfortable to win. Another quick tangent: imagine what you can accomplish if you keep pushing yourself and making yourself uncomfortable.

By resetting the goal and then just focusing on my habits and DOING IT, for the first time in my life, I actually surpassed my original goal and won the whole thing.

It’s a fun story. I’m proud of it. And it’s a great example of how you can apply goals, systems, and habits to your life, including your financial world. So let me help you create some goals for 2019 and then focus on the habits (your daily/weekly/monthly activities), so you will have a much greater chance of hitting or surpassing your goals for next year.

Step 1: Write it down on a piece of paper. What do you want to accomplish? Why? Is there a burning desire to do something different? How can you make it fun as well?

  • Are you tired of all the interest you’re paying to banks that don’t care about you?
    • Credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgages, …
      • There’s a joke I heard years ago asking, “Why do banks have a drive-thru?” The answer was to see how their car looked every month. Funny, not so funny. Kind of like the new Monopoly game that just came out for millennials.
    • Is the stock market scaring the hell out of you? Do you want more certainty for your financial future?
    • Are you tired of most of your money being locked up forever in these potential money traps known as 401(k)s and IRAs?
    • Do you want to be financially free? Do you want to live the life you deserve? Trust me; it’s a simple switch of replacing one bad habit with a new good habit.

Step 2: What do you have to do each day, week, month to get there. Break it down. Make a list, check it twice. It doesn’t have to be complicated, keep it simple.

Step 3: Who can help you? Who can you trust to be on your team to keep you accountable? Your spouse? A new financial advisor, maybe me, that can help keep you on the path? It’s amazing how we miss the weaknesses and strengths in ourselves, but we ask someone from the outside looking in, and they can immediately spot it. That’s why I asked my friend for help competing in the USTA NorCal Grand Prix. He immediately saw my strengths and weaknesses and helped create a game plan that was simple and easy. A test is easy once you know the answers.

Step 4: Now DO IT! Take action! The hardest and simplest thing could be picking up the phone, calling my office, and asking for a little help. The first day is the hardest, and you must focus on the ‘why.’ What’s your burning desire to improve your situation? A month later, it’s routine. It’s effortless. Six months later you will be so proud of what you accomplished.

Step 5: Track your progress. Write down your emotions. What’s working what’s not working. Troubleshoot. Make a few changes and DO IT.

I hope this blog has a huge impact for you next year! It starts this December 2018 for next year’s goals for health and wealth! If you’d like a little help or a nudge, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.