A few weeks ago, the heat and humidity that we, as Houstonians, have grown accustom to relented and allowed my wife and I to comfortably take our young daughters to the park. Our little ones are really little, I’m talking both under two years old, little. As a result, going to the park is less ‘see-saws and jumping off the moving swing’ and more ‘following a toddler around to make sure she doesn’t discover TOO MUCH of her adventurous side while also making sure her infant sister doesn’t get too hot in her stroller’.
At one point in the trip, my oldest daughter watched while one of the older kids tried to make his way across the monkey bars. If you’re curious, he failed! I felt bad for the little guy…
But because I know my little one so well, I knew that one of two things was going to follow. Option I: She was going to ask “Daddy, climb?” To which I would be able to reason (well, as much as you can with a toddler) that it was dangerous and she would likely hurt herself. Easy enough. Option II, not so much!
Option II: is where she says “Daddy, climb!” Both options sound very similar but it was her voice inflection that made the difference. Option II led with the assumption that her ‘Invincible Dad’ could make it across those monkey bars with no problem, and in the event he couldn’t, she would at least get a good laugh out of it. I’m sure you can guess what happens next. Those big eyes looked at me and she pointed while excitedly shouting, “DADDY, CLIMB!”
I did what any one else in my position would have done, I caved and reluctantly did it. Surprisingly, these noodle arms carried me across (in good time, I might add). This might not seem like an accomplishment to you, but I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in years and it shows!
On the way back home, beaming with pride from ‘CRUSHING IT’ on the monkey bars and considering a tryout for American Ninja Warrior; I started to think about a concept I heard in the past but never gave much consideration, muscle memory.
Muscle memory is what’s used to describe the way that your body seems to remember certain muscle related tasks, even if the task has not been performed in a while. For instance, snapping your fingers or riding a bicycle. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that this same phenomenon would translate well into our finances.
Our brain is not a muscle, but it can operate like one. Just as lifting weights causes your muscles to become stronger, the more you learn and ‘workout’ your brain, the stronger it becomes.
I doubt that anyone is born a financial whiz that can easily create budgets while also having the discipline to avoid all financial missteps. It just doesn’t happen that way. Even if you were raised in a household that emphasized prudent financial management, you still needed time to mentally grasp the concepts and apply them to your life. It takes many ‘mental reps’ to obtain the muscle memory to be successful on your financial journey but it can will happen if you’re committed.
Let me be clear, I don’t have all of the answers. I just know what has changed my outlook on my personal finances and hope that it may be of value to someone else. Here are a few quick tips that have helped me on my financial fitness journey.
BUDGET, BUDGET and then BUDGET again
Don’t get discouraged if the first budget that you put together doesn’t work. It’s normal. Experts will tell you that, on average, it takes around 90 days to perfect a budget. So with that, go out and create ‘Draft One’ of your budget. And when you realize that you under-budgeted in a category, make the adjustment for ‘Draft Two’. The key is to start and not beat yourself up when you make a mistake – because you’ll make plenty.
Get An Accountability Partner
For those of you that go to the gym, I’m sure you will agree that working out alone is just not the same as when you have a workout partner. When you have someone in there with you, your workouts feel more effective, you have someone who can help lift you up when you’re exhausted and above that, it’s just more fun.
The same can be said for strengthening your financial muscles. In some cases this is your significant other or maybe a parent or sibling. It really doesn’t matter who, what’s more important is that you have someone in your corner that you trust to share your successes and hold you accountable when you fall off track.
Start Where You Are
Whenever there is something that I know I NEED to do, but don’t really want to; I find a way to put it off until “Monday”. I don’t know, maybe it’s psychological but it just seems like Monday is the appropriate day to start a big, life altering task. The flaw in this thinking, at least in my case, is that something always comes up between the time I decide I want to make a change and the start date.
I have been planning to start eating right pretty much every Monday this year. How many days have I been successful, you ask? Maybe four – and even those were sporadic. The key point to all of this is: don’t wait for the perfect time, place or scenario. Start now! Face the reality of your situation IMMEDIATELY and don’t just decide that you want to change, start implementing the plan TODAY.
Where are you in your financial fitness journey? Do you have some tips that have helped with your muscle memory? Join the conversation!