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Two Easy Ways to Achieve Your Money Goals
In part four of our series with psychologist Heidi Beckman, we'll look at ways to use your environment and early successes to your advantage to achieve your financial goals.
Environmental Influence is Everywhere — Our goals can be reinforced or sabotaged by our surroundings, sometimes without our knowledge. There are financial
messages all around us while we're trying to work toward our goals. Some are obvious, like Black Friday TV advertisements, while others are more subtle, like flyers in your weekly
mail. We are especially vulnerable to environmental factors when we are stressed, distracted or short on time.
Put the Environment to Work — Conduct an environmental inventory, noticing which cues are working for and against you. Then, increase your access to positive
cues and limit your exposure to negative ones. If you're unaware of what is influencing you, get a friend's opinion. You can even use tools in your environment to create a concrete
picture of your goals. For example, if you frequently have your mobile phone with you, use it to access Mobile Banking
or a photo of something you're saving toward. Or, create action triggers, pairing a new behavior with an object in your environment that is already part of your routine. For example, every
time you turn on your computer, check your account balances. Or, every time you turn the calendar to a new month, update your net worth spreadsheet. If you can't stick to or remember your
action triggers, set rules for yourself along with rewards. For example, if your trigger is to check your balances on your computer, your rule could be, “I am not allowing myself to turn
on the computer unless I check my account balances,” and your reward could be browsing time dedicated to your next vacation.
People as Influencers — Even the people around us play an important role—some are bad influences, some are subtle accomplices and others are our cheerleaders.
A bad influence may be a friend who tells you that you look good in every clothing item you try on and encourages you to make purchases while shopping. A subtle accomplice may choose
an expensive restaurant assuming you can afford it and fails to ask for your preference. Cheerleaders are people around you who are supportive of your goals. Ultimately, you want to
limit the time you spend with your bad influences and spend more time with your cheerleaders. Try to convert the subtle accomplices in your life to cheerleaders by having a clear conversation
with them that outlines your specific goals.
Create Early Successes — When you're working toward your money-related goal, it helps to set a small, achievable goal first. You will feel a sense of accomplishment
once you’ve conquered this small step, gaining confidence as you pursue your larger goal. Feelings of dread are replaced with feelings of confidence and hope. For example, if your goal is
to build your emergency fund, a small step may be opening an account designated for this, or setting up an automatic transfer from your paycheck. Use any early failures with your sub-goal
to achieve better perspective of your larger goal.
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Heidi Beckman, Ph.D., is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and author of
Pocket Change, Using the Science of Personal Change to Improve Financial Habits
now available through Effertrux Publishing. Beckman is a licensed clinical psychologist
specializing in helping people with chronic illness make changes in their lives to support
their overall health and well-being.