Personal Finance

Who’s sabotaging your financial goals?

“Once you realize that you’re the only person holding yourself back, you’ll stop making excuses and start making changes.” – Sonya Parker

It seems that there’s a huge difference between knowing and doing. In so many areas of life, we make choices that we know don’t really serve us because they desire to have is greater than our willpower to resist. Food, exercise, money, career, relationships; in every one of these areas we sabotage our pursuit of success and happiness by making choices that we know aren’t the best, often because they’re more enjoyable than doing what we know makes the most sense in the long term.

The trouble is poor choices are easy to justify and nothing is guaranteed. We know that, as much as we’d like to think that we’ll live a long, healthy life there’s also the chance that won’t happen. When we stick to our game plan we’re thinking about the long term but when we take the pleasure instead of the pain we justify it with a “life is short” mindset that gives us a free pass. Where’s the balance between having fun and having the resources to ensure the fun lasts into retirement? Can we have our cake and eat it too?

The fun factor

Anyone who’s ever set a goal knows that there are three key factors when it comes to success: a clear, achievable goal, a solid plan and a strong motivator for success. When you set a goal you don’t achieve, the reason for not succeeding is usually connected to one of these three factors. We decide that the price required in order to reach the goal is higher than we’re prepared to pay or we find that our desire for the goal just isn’t strong enough to keep us committed to the plan.

Related article: Setting goals and financial priorities

Often we get derailed simply because the action plan we create to take us to our goal doesn’t have a “fun factor”. Humans are hard-wired for pleasure; if we don’t build opportunities for fun and relaxation into our goals then we make the path to achieving them much more challenging. This is especially true when it comes to financial goals because there are so many things that we can do with our money that gives more immediate pleasure than purposing it towards a goal. Making sure that you allocate some money just for fun may mean that it takes you a little longer to achieve your goal but it will make it much more likely that you’ll reach it without getting derailed along the way.

The friend factor

It’s said that we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Whether these people are positive or negative can have a dramatic impact on what we are able to achieve in all areas of our lives. When we’re on a path to creating something better it’s important to be surrounded by people who not only support and believe in our goals but who are also committed to making positive changes in their own lives. One part of supporting our friends in their goals is to hold them accountable, even when they’d rather that we just kept quiet. I’ve noticed recently that we tend to look to our friends for validation when we make a decision that’s not strictly in line with our goals. Giving (and receiving) that validation isn’t necessarily in a person’s best interests, especially when it comes to helping them justify a purchase or an expense that really isn’t taking them closer to their goals. We use phrases like “you need to treat yourself once in a while” or “you’ve been working really hard, you deserve a treat” or “that’s such a great deal, it doesn’t make sense not to take advantage of it” which make our friends feel better but don’t hold them accountable to their bigger goals. Essentially what we’re doing is supporting their self-sabotage, which, when it comes to financial goals, can have a big impact on their happiness and future success. Friends are a big part of our lives and this is why it’s important that we surround ourselves with people who not only support our goals but who will also hold us accountable for achieving them.

Related article: You are the sum of five people

With time for fun and good friends who won’t let us take that fun to a point where it compromises our dreams we dramatically increase our chances of reaching our goals and creating the life, we want for ourselves and those who are important to us. I’m on a mission this month to figure out which of the habits I’ve created are helping me reach my goals and which ones are holding me back from success. If you’re having trouble setting goals or staying on track then perhaps taking a step back and looking for any evidence of self-sabotage might be a powerful tool in helping you too. If you have any tips or success stories, I’d love to hear them!


  1. IanB

    Interesting! It is true, habits only develop when there is a personal reward. I just did a post on my take on habits. Perhaps you might be interested.

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