“Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get perfect.” – Ann McGee
From an early age we have a need to be affirmed and recognized. Any parent of a small child knows that it doesn’t matter whether that attention is positive or negative, children have an innate need for their actions to be noticed. They don’t care whether they’re making you laugh by doing something cute or driving you crazy by throwing their strained peas on the kitchen floor; as long as their actions are generating a response, they feel affirmed. It’s a need that continues through adolescence and into adulthood; often the level of satisfaction we feel in school or in the workplace is directly related to the level of positive recognition we get for our work. Our financial accomplishments are no different. I’ve written posts over the past few weeks on:
One of the challenges when it comes to financial goals is that often they’re very long term. When the final payoff is 20-30 years down the road it might be decades before you start to feel that you’re actually going to achieve what you set out to accomplish. Every S.M.A.R.T. goal needs to have an action plan attached to it and that action plan should have “milestones” that you can celebrate as you walk the path towards your ultimate goal. If your retirement savings plan requires you to put $500/month into your RRSP, then celebrate every time that automatic payment leaves your bank account.
Related article: The Power of Dollar Cost Averaging
If you’re committed to putting your tax refund towards a specific savings goal then celebrate making that deposit when the cheque arrives. If you’re on a mission to pay off your debt or reduce your expenses then celebrate every payment/saving that takes you closer to your goal and every time you get one more pay off your credit card, celebrate how far you’ve come in your journey to becoming debt-free.
If you keep your focus on where you’re going and don’t take the time to recognize how far you’ve come and how much you’ve achieved, the distance that you still have to travel can be discouraging. Celebrating your progress allows you to keep your focus on how much you’ve achieved and that feeling of accomplishment can be a powerful motivator when it comes to reaching your goal. It also encourages you to monitor your progress on a regular basis and reduces the likelihood that you’ll get off track. Share your progress with others and allow them the opportunity to celebrate with you. If you’re working towards achieving a financial goal with your partner then celebrate with them; excitement is contagious and it’s even more powerful when it’s shared.
The way that you celebrate is entirely up to you. It could be something as simple as physically crossing one more payment off your list, putting a big smiley face sticker on your goal tracking sheet , sharing your accomplishment with a friend or just taking a moment to feel really good about the progress you’re making. Choose a way to celebrate that means something to you; if you’re simplifying your spending in order to hit a savings goal then perhaps treating yourself to something small might be a nice way to celebrate a milestone. Whatever you choose, throw yourself into celebrating without hesitation. Feeling really good about an accomplishment is a moment that you can recall when you get discouraged or off track and it will motivate you to keep going. As you’re celebrating your milestone always take a moment to think about how great you will feel when you actually achieve your final goal. Recall your motivator and remind yourself of why you set this goal in the first place and what is driving you to achieve it. Look ahead to your next milestone and feel excited about reaching it. The more you recognize your progress, the more you affirm to yourself that you will achieve this goal, the closer you get to making it a reality. The brain is a powerful tool, both in helping us reaching our goals and in keeping us safely in a rut that doesn’t serve us. Focussing on successes and celebrating them is a great way to harness the power of your brain and making it work for you rather than against you.
This week why not review some of your financial goals and celebrate everything that you’ve accomplished en-route to achieving them. Feel good about your progress and see what feeling good does for your motivation levels. Feel free to share your successes with me; I’d love to celebrate your accomplishments too!