The bulk of what contributes to financial success, given sufficient opportunity, consists of personal choices. We make choices every day at varying levels of consciousness. I subconsciously choose to wake up every morning, but I consciously choose to get out of bed and drive to work. Each day that I leave work without walking into my boss’s office and offering my resignation is the result of a choice not to quit. That is an easier choice than leaving the corporate world; in fact, it’s almost a non-choice in comparison. If I don’t make a choice, I am waiting for something to happen to me rather because of me, allowing someone else or the situation to make the choice for me.
So it’s one of my personal missions to make more active, conscious decisions in my life. This can be a difficult life change, particularly when I am comfortable. I am comfortable now, and reviewing my history I find there were only a few situations in which I was uncomfortable enough to take action to change my situation.
I only chose to abide by a budget when I had no other choice. The situation made that decision for me. But since then, in the financial aspects of my life, I’ve been able to shift towards active, conscious decisions rather than letting my life be guided externally. And this is the key to helping me to achieve modest stability right now, and perhaps full financial independence in the future.
If you are struggling with money, don’t let things happen to you. Make the choices you can make for yourself or for your family.
Make a conscious decision to spend less money. Start developing a budget. The hardest part is starting, but a budget doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It also doesn’t have to be set in stone. The best budgets are flexible. If you can predict your income, like what you may receive from a steady paycheck, just start by writing your take-home pay at the top of a blank piece of paper. Even if you don’t get past this stage, hanging this number on your refrigerator will remind you that you need to think about the money you spend rather than trust your autopilot.
Make a conscious decision to eliminate expensive habits. Habits are subconscious decisions. You find yourself stopping by the gourmet coffee shop every day because you’ve built that into your routine. Continuing the process is easier than disrupting the status quo. I wasn’t always a fan of The ECRD Factor (sometimes known as The Latte Factor®) because it works only when in complement with smart financial decisions about large purchases, but I do recognize the power of small adjustments when repeated.
Make a conscious decision to exit a bad situation. It’s comfortable working for a bad boss or for a corporation you don’t like. When you are paid decently but steadily, and when you are offered benefits that would be difficult to find elsewhere, it’s easy to feel trapped in an employment relationship. The job market is tough right now, but there might be opportunities out there.
Make a conscious decision to get more education. There are always excuses for not enrolling in a class, and most focus on time, money, and the lack thereof. The choice that needs to be made here is about prioritization. Increase your level of certification, work towards another degree, or just take a class to learn more about something you enjoy. All of these options could help you exit a bad employment situation, as well.
I’ve missed out on so many opportunities just by not taking action. Each time I did, I made a inactive choice to let someone else have more control over my situation than I had myself. I still do this. When I stay in and watch television, I’m making an inactive decision not to go to the gym and sign up for a membership. I’m making the inactive decision not to put on my running shoes and get some exercise outside.
What harmful decisions are you making (or not making) by not taking action?
Published or updated September 14, 2009.