I read an article recently by a well known financial blogger in which she candidly detailed the dichotomy between her health and financial successes.
In it, she explains that, while she’s always felt fully in control of and able to reach her financial goals, her health and fitness goals have eluded her. While her bank account has gotten larger, so has her waistline, and she’s sick of people blaming it on “willpower” alone.
She acknowledges that there are parallels between health and money goals, but wonders whether willpower is different between those who prioritize financial health versus physical health.
So it got me thinking about my own fitness and finance journeys. I completely agree that it definitely isn’t all about “willpower”. I too find it easy to control my finances, but much more difficult to fight against genetics. However, when looking back on times that I was able to achieve my fitness goals, I believe that sticking to many of the same ‘Ps’ I apply to my financial life aided in my success:
1 – Purpose
When it comes to financial and health goals, having a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) purpose is key. Saying “I want to lose weight” is just as vague as “I want to save for retirement”. How much and why do you want to lose/save? By what date? How can you measure your progress? The more specific your goal, the easier it’ll be to construct a plan of action to achieve it.
2 – Plan
You’ve got to have a strategic plan to start with. Many people who want to lose weight just jump on the elliptical and go all out for as long as they possibly can. Those that want to save for retirement simply start putting away a little money every month. Meanwhile, neither have done the calculations to know whether those efforts will actually help them reach their goal or not. Having a plan, whether it’s a meal/exercise or savings plan, serves as an initial framework that can be tweaked over time as your body or financial circumstances change.
3 – Palate
This is one that often gets neglected but absolutely must be taken into account when constructing any sort of health or money plan. What can you palate? Do you dislike specific foods or exercises? You probably shouldn’t include them in your plan, then! Forcing yourself to do or eat something you don’t enjoy in the name of #goals is a recipe for disaster. I hate running for example, so I do alternative forms of cardio. Same goes for your money, particularly your investments. If the idea of your account dropping 50% scares the living daylights out of you, then you should take your more conservative risk tolerance into account and diversify your portfolio accordingly (with a larger percentage of bonds or money market funds, perhaps).
4 – Participation
A plan won’t work if you don’t put it into action! You’ve got to actively participate in your plan if you want to see results. Find a way to track your participation – write your workouts, debt payments, retirement contributions, etc on a calendar and put a checkmark or star next to it when it’s completed. No matter how old we get, a gold star can still make you feel accomplished.
5 – Partner
Having a partner to rely on in your health or money journey has been proven to increase chances of success. Whether it’s a gym buddy or a financial planner, a partner can hold you accountable to your plan and your goals.
6 – Priority
With how much we all have on our plates these days, it’s easy to say we’re “too busy” to focus on our money and health goals. But what we’re really saying to those goals is “you’re not a high enough priority”. Just like anything else in life, if you want something to happen, you have to prioritize it. That may involve making some sacrifices: spending less on clothing or vacations to meet your retirement savings goals, or waking up earlier to hit the gym. Don’t just talk the talk. If it’s as important to you as you say it is, prove it by allocating your time and resources accordingly.
7 – Positivity
Staying positive and trusting the process is critical. When it comes to your health, negativity and stress can increase cortisol levels which counteracts the hard work you’re doing in the gym and kitchen. Likewise, financial stress can wreak havoc on your thoughts and relationships. Keep a positive outlook, remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and the rest will fall into place.
8 – Perseverance
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” There will undoubtedly be setbacks and struggles along your journey. What matters is that you push through. Visualize your goal, stick to the plan, make it a priority, and stay positive. You’ll get there.
9 – Patience
Progress takes time. Pounds don’t melt away in an instant. Strength and speed doesn’t increase overnight. Debt doesn’t disappear immediately. And savings accounts don’t grow to a million dollars in the blink of an eye. Take it day by day, and make every day and dollar count. Know that every effort you make now gets you one step closer to your dream.
10 – Potential
Never, ever doubt what you are capable of. When you think you can’t make or stick to certain lifestyle changes, tell yourself you can. When that doubtful, nagging voice creeps in, find some way to drown it out. You know you have or can acquire the tools you need to reach your goals. Trust in your abilities and never lose faith that you can make it happen.
These 10 Ps have been instrumental in my successes to date. I hope that keeping them in mind will help you make your money and fitness goals a reality.
Tara Falcone is a former Wall Street analyst and the Founder of ReisUP LLC. ReisUP is an early-stage financial literacy company that focuses on increasing investing education and access for everyday investors. Her mission is to educate and thereby empower people – especially her fellow millennials – to “rise up” and play a more active role in achieving their financial goals.