What you need to succeed against the odds

It's the end of summer and some of us are going back to school, trying to learn more, become more. Others are already established in their professions, working to build the life of their dreams. Maybe you're someone that got knocked down and have to build your dreams over again. Maybe you started out the year with a resolution, a goal, or a purpose to achieve. Where are you in your pursuit? Have you reached it yet? Is there more ground to cover?

It doesn't matter what you set out to accomplish. There's one thing you'll need if you are to succeed, and that is discipline.

What is discipline?

According to Dictionary.com, “Discipline” is “behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control.”

What do you have to discipline?

Any behavior that doesn't support reaching your goal needs to be brought under control.

You're going to run into challenges. Expect that you're going to experience emotions because of your challenges. We are emotional, but you want to begin to discipline your emotion. If you don't begin to contain and harness your emotions, they can take you seriously off track from reaching your goals and leave you further away from what you set out to achieve. And for what?

It's easy to accomplish things when your circumstances are favorable. Anybody can achieve when their bills are paid, they have good health and their relationships are happy. But it takes courage to achieve when your circumstances are difficult or you've had a setback. It takes strength to get up and start anew, when all your emotions would tell you to take it easy.

You don't feel like getting up and going to the gym? Who does? But every day that you give in to that feeling of not wanting to get up early, you push achieving your goals and dreams back. You trade getting closer to your dreams by giving in to your feelings — but here's the thing: Your time is limited.

Something is going to be sacrificed. Either you'll experience your nice, warm bed with the cozy covers or you'll sacrifice that and carry on making your dreams come to fruition.

You have to realize that, because your time is limited, you have a choice to make.

Dealing with fear

Sometimes we make decisions out of fear. But fear is the kind of emotion that kills dreams. It can strip you of hope, and paralyze you in self-defeat. It can hold you back from reaching a goal that you know you're capable of achieving.

But again, just like with other emotions, fear can be beaten into submission. You don't have to give up. You can take control and come back from pain, from loss, from defeat and despair — and you can become stronger because of the decision to ignore crippling fear. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. But if you're serious about reaching your goals, you'll put everything you have into reaching them — just as an athlete does.

The promise of principles

Clinging to emotions won't give you the same payoff as clinging to principles. Take the principle of compound interest as an example. At first, there's not much emotional payoff to putting some money into a savings account every month, particularly if all you have to begin with is a small amount. You may have the experience where you have to force yourself to live off a small remainder after you pay yourself first month after month.

But just like an athlete that is faithful to swim every day, you'll find that it doesn't take long for your mind to find ways to enjoy getting better at what you're doing, whether it's shaving time off your laps or finding a way to increase your income. If you set out to save money, for example, at some point you need to ask yourself the question: What will giving in to my spending habit provide and what will sacrificing my spending habit provide? If you cling to the principle over your emotions, you'll find yourself making progress toward your goals.

Training can change your emotions

Some emotions are compatible with your goals, and you should revel in those and encourage them. But you can make a choice to ignore emotions that don't serve your goals. So what happens when you make sacrifices routinely?

You begin to experience new emotions, the kind of emotions that bring confidence and empower you. You feel the subtle changes that come with taking control of your emotions, and soon you begin to feel less ruled by your emotions and more in control of them. And coupled with the knowledge that you are becoming more capable with each step, you start to push yourself to achieve even more. Suddenly, you realize that what happened yesterday doesn't matter anymore; it's all about what you're going to do with today.

Train like an athlete to achieve financial goals

Start looking at your financial situation as if it were your new sport. You may be ridiculously uncoordinated at it when you get started. You may feel the pain of pinching pennies and doing without your comforts. But every time you make a decision based on a financial principle, it will get easier to make the next step. Find ways to train to become a better investor, a better budgeter, a savvy shopper. Track your progress like an athlete does. Make assessments and revise your plan, change your program.

The power of the human spirit

Most people give up on their dreams easily; but in those moments we all have a choice, and discipline can help us make a good choice. This is the reality that athletes experience when they get up early every day and hit the road or go to the gym, the pool, or the ring. And it can be your reality, too, if you embrace discipline.

This year, you can make your goals a reality. You can achieve your dreams. You can stand up and take responsibility for your future. Accept where you are today and make a plan to take yourself where you want to go. Then make a commitment to be faithful to that choice every day with discipline.

You may not see the larger picture while you're on the journey. You may only see how every step worked in concert when you look back. But today gives you another chance to take a step forward. Have the courage to follow your heart and reach for it.

How do you develop discipline with your finances? Are you facing challenges that affect your financial situation or have you experienced success against the odds? Tell us about it in the comments!

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lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago

I think engagement is a biggie. Hate going to the gym? Unless you’re training for something specific, try other types of exercise that you’re more likely to stick with (like group exercise, hiking, sports, swimming). I would say I’m always in the state of reaching towards a goal. The day I run out of goals would be a very sad day for me. Right now I’m working towards transitioning into a new career and investing in my community. Eventually I’d like to go back to school, but that got moved back further. I struggle with the discipline part because I’m… Read more »

Ali @ Anything You Want
Ali @ Anything You Want
5 years ago

I have struggled with disciplining my finances in the past and I find that the most useful tool is to have a goal in mind and share that goal with those around you. Most of my temptations to spend money I should be saving come from social situations, and letting friends and family know that I am working towards a goal and can’t spend a lot of money helps.

Dave
Dave
5 years ago

Hey Linda – how about a post on finance, please?

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago
Reply to  Dave

I disagree. There aren’t ENOUGH articles like this. Discipline is what undermines success in finance, and in-depth articles about it are sorely lacking.

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

P.S. Sorry, I meant “underscores”, not “undermines”. Yikes!

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Mysticaltyger

I agree! It’s one thing to say “spend less than you earn”, it’s another thing to resist an opportunity to spend when it hits you in the face.

Dave
Dave
5 years ago
Reply to  Linda Vergon

Hi Linda,
Thanks for reaching out. I appreciate it. What I find most helpful on GRS is specific, technical advice about personal finance (tax tips, investment strategies, assessing your personal risk, mortgage advice, weathering market fluctuations, etc.)

I agree that discipline is important for achieving one’s financial goals. But this post seems like more of a pep talk. Personally, I am beyond that, and thus my preference for posts on financial-related topics.

Thanks again for reaching out. Please let me know if you have more questions.

marie
marie
5 years ago

Very nice article ! Thank you for reminding us to stick to our resolutions and dreams !

Jon
Jon
5 years ago

Having discipline is so important not only in finances but in all that we do.

The one thing I would add to this is to be ready to fail. Life will happen and you will fall of the tracks from time to time. The key though is to not accept this as the end and give up.

Take some time to figure out what went wrong and make changes so that the mistake doesn’t happen again.

Laura
Laura
5 years ago

I think what gets in the way of most people in terms of financial discipline is that they set a goal, but they don’t really buy into it, so when something comes up that would require them to use discipline to stick to the goal, they ignore the goal and do what feels good at the time. I’m teaching Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University right now, and one young man claimed that his number one priority was to get his and his wife’s student loans paid off. But he just spent $1,000 on a new, top of the line, 55… Read more »

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger
5 years ago
Reply to  Linda Vergon

Good for you! Discipline in one area of life tends to spill over into other areas. You’ll notice, for example, that people who are financially disciplined are less likely to be overweight and take better care of their health. Obviously, not in every case, but often. I don’t think the correlation between the two things is a coincidence.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Blog posts like this say what I’d love to be able to say but can’t! I try not to judge other people’s spending, but it frustrates me when friends and family complain about their consumer debts yet can’t stop spending on luxuries. I try to bite my tongue — they have to discover the way out for themselves, and I’m certainly not perfect either!

Glorified Plumber
Glorified Plumber
5 years ago

Great question! Borrowing from my engineering background, it is incredibly important to have a “Basis of Design” for anything you do. How else will you measure change or evaluate risk? Anyways, to help you succeed against an ever changing field, I would suggest you sit down and map out a “Basis of Design for your Financial Life.” Actually map out: – Your tolerance for risk for yourself? – Your tolerance for risk for others? – Your partners’ tolerance for risk? – What kind of socioeconomic status can you tolerate, what kind of socioeconomic status would you LIKE? – What what… Read more »

Bryan@Just One More Year
[email protected] One More Year
5 years ago

Excellent post.

I enjoy articles about other topics from time to time, besides only personal finance….even though that is my passion. It gives me the opportunity to become or attempt to live a more balanced life. That is something I really struggle with and work on for balance.

Next article…back to the regularly scheduled program! 🙂

BobJ
BobJ
5 years ago

I enjoyed the article. This is a lesson in life as well as a lesson in money.

Mike Lenz
Mike Lenz
5 years ago

This article is spot on!

It speaks to the realities of behavior change. Creating new habits is damn hard! So many personal finance advice talks causally about goals and “keys to success” without addressing the true day to day emotions that affect our ability to truly change.

Have you be exposed to BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habit method? He’s the founder of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab and a big influence on what we are building with Tip Yourself.

Cheers!

Mike
Tip Yourself
co-founder

Mika M
Mika M
5 years ago

How motivating! I might have to bookmark this entry and re-read it at least once a week lol. Thanks!

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