“Do you want to get well?”
It’s a question that seems to have an obvious answer, especially if you’re sick.
“Of course, I want to get well! What kind of question is that?”
Next comes the follow-up question, and here’s where you separate the curious from the serious.
“Are you willing to do what it takes to get well?”
Silence. Then a tentative, “Well…that depends on what it is…”
If this was a medical conversation with a real doctor, the conversation might turn to an amended diet, a changed lifestyle, stopping bad habits, going to physical or occupational therapy, agreeing to take certain medications or treatments or perhaps even having a risky surgery.
When it comes to financial wellness, I find at least four levels of both willingness-to and likelihood-of getting well…
Avoid. It’s a bad time. You’re too busy. It’s spring and all the kids have spring sports expenses. It’s the summer and we’ve got vacation expenses. It’s the fall and we’ve got back to school expenses. It’s wintertime, and I’m too cold to think about it.
There are innumerable reasons why you can’t get better. Take your pick. They’ll all work, and they’ll all get you the same result…you’ll be no better and likely worse.
A void. Here there is a semblance of willingness, but no plan. Where do I start? The first danger here is getting overwhelmed, then getting discouraged and finally quitting.
The second danger is focusing on an action that makes you feel better but gets no significant results. I call this the “doing something” phenomenon. You just feel better for “doing something,” but you make no real progress. You’ve just dulled the pain and cost you a few more valuable years.
A system. Years ago, I had a friend who struggled with yo-yo weight. He’d lose a few, then gain them back. It was a constant struggle for him until he tried “the boxes.” It was some dietary service he found that sent him every bit of food he was to eat a day, in a box, with instructions on when to eat it. It wasn’t cheap, but it required little thought and less willpower than he’d imagined.
It was a system and it worked. Once he got a week or two under his belt, he said it was so easy he never really thought about it. He lost the weight he wanted to and expended very little effort in doing so.
Think about your 401(k) plan. If you have one, it is likely the place where you have the most money saved. Why? Because you signed up to have a portion of each paycheck automatically transferred into the plan, then you forgot about it. It was a system that worked when you weren’t thinking about it.
Accountability. Young men who enter the armed services typically experience a twelve-week transformation from “Joe Normal” to “GI Joe.” Years later they will usually identify themselves post-boot camp as being in the best physical shape of their lives.
The reason is that not-so-secret weapon used by the military called “the drill instructor.” The DI provides not only the system, but also the accountability to follow through with that system. The DI tells new recruits what to eat, when to sleep, how to march, how to shoot and even what to think!.
You can wish to get better by avoiding the subject or simply by having a void where you ought to have a plan.
Or you can invest in a system and a person to hold you accountable to work that system.
You already know which one will work.
Do you want to get well?
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