The most powerful tool you have for accomplishing your financial goals isn’t what you think it is. It’s not your income. It’s something that everyone has equal access to, regardless of job, education, or expenses. And once you harness it, you will be unstoppable.
My preferred method of exercise is running outdoors. The only time I can go running, though, is in the mornings before my husband goes to work. Which means I have to be done by 6am. Living where I do, that means that 9 months out of the year I finish before sunrise.
I have discovered an interesting pattern in my running habits. I run slower when it’s light out. No matter how tired I am, how fit I am, how cold it is or what I’m thinking about, I consistently run faster when it is dark. This had me stumped for awhile until I realized- it’s all about focus. When it’s dark out I can’t see anything, so all I do is run. When it’s light, I get distracted observing my surroundings.
The Age Of Distraction
We live in the Age of Distraction. How many distractions have come up since you just started reading this? Text messages, people walking by, Facebook updates, emails, you name it. Even I get distracted and have to stop writing every time Pandora plays a commercial. (Maybe I should cough up the $4.99 a month to get rid of the commercials…)
Financial distractions constantly bombard us as well. Doesn’t it seem like the minute you decide to save up for a vacation instead of putting it on the credit card so many unexpected expenses pop up? Your son is ready to be tested in karate, which costs an extra $25. A tire blows out on the freeway. Another school fundraiser comes up and your daughter is required to “raise” $50. You get asked to be in a wedding and the dress costs $150. Your buddy invites you to play in a golf tournament with him. Suddenly everyone is inviting you to birthday parties and baby showers and you have to buy gifts for all of them. You go to Target and everything is so cute that you have to buy it. The homeless guy on the side of the freeway… You know how it goes.
The Fallacy of Multitasking
Our culture praises multitasking, but countless studies have shown that focusing on one thing at a time is far superior. When we multitask, we don’t actually do multiple things at once. We just bounce between tasks quickly, which uses up a lot of brain energy. The constant change in our focus actually makes us less productive, we produce poorer quality work, and we remember a lot less.
Too many people think they can financially multitask as well. How many times have you seen articles promoting “how to pay down debt, build your retirement account and save for your dream vacation all at once?” I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. When you try to do too many different things at once, you spread your resources too thin and don’t gain traction in any area. You will only really make a difference if you concentrate all of your focus and resources on one thing at a time.
The Power Of Focus
The same principle that I encountered running applies to achieving your money goals. It’s all about focus. Your most powerful tool in accomplishing your financial goals is your ability to focus and stay focused.
Why has Dave Ramsey been so successful? It’s not because he is smarter or better looking than anyone else. It’s because he teaches people to apply intense focus to their finances. He breaks down finances into baby steps and then teaches people to focus on one at a time.
If you want to achieve your financial goals, you have to do the same. Focus all your attention and resources on one at a time. And don’t let anything distract you until you’ve accomplished it.
I know it’s hard, especially in this day and age. But it is possible. And the more you do it, the easier it will get.
Here’s a challenge for you: For the next three months, March, April, and May, commit to wholly focussing on one single financial goal. Whether it’s a credit card you want paid off, a summer vacation, or opening an IRA, you can only pick one. Set everything else aside for three months and see what happens. You will be amazed at the traction you can gain.