Health, wealth, and happiness. These are goals that many—in their own way—shoot for in life. All three goals could mean different things to different people, but the themes would be the same.
The way to create meaningful change that leads to the goals you would like to reach in life is by creating a habit of making good decisions. It is the secret to being healthy and wealthy. The harder the decision is to make, the greater the effect it has on your goal. For instance, sticking to a balanced diet and budgeting can be hard decisions to adhere to, but they are also the choices that have the greatest impact on health, wealth and happiness in the long run. Making one decision is easy, and it only affects your life in a small way. Turning one good decision into a habit today can change the story of your life. In the end, health in your body and health in your life are about a steady stream of good decisions in one direction.
The first decision requires clarity. You must know what’s important to you, what your goals and priorities are. Everyone is different, and therefore, their goals are different. One person may think that feeling good in the morning is what being healthy is all about. The next could want to be able to run a marathon. Some people want to be millionaires and others just want to be comfortable in their lifestyle. Take the time to determine what is truly important for your specific situation in both health and wealth. That will help immensely when deciding which habits are the right ones for you to change.
The big long-term goals of being a certain weight, keeping a certain amount energy in your step, or having a certain balance in your retirement account can’t be achieved overnight or simply by setting the goal out there and hoping for results. Once you know what is important and you know where you want to end up, set a short-term goal that gets you closer to the end goal. Setting goals in 3-month, 6-month or 12-month increments will help you clarify what behaviors you need to focus on and make the big goal more tangible.
When you’ve crossed that short-term hurdle celebrate your victory! And then set another goal that gets you a bit closer to your end goal and continue to repeat this process. Keep in mind that you do not have to be married to the end goal for all of time. If your priorities change, change the goal and keep making progress. Life happens, and you are allowed to change your mind. It’s much easier to change your mind about your financial endgame when you’ve built up some good habits, then constantly switching your goal with nothing built up to give you momentum.
There are a few key concepts to keep in mind while building a habit out of good decisions. The first is allow yourself to “cheat” from time to time. Cheating is nearly always a necessary evil when creating a new habit. Every week have a cheat meal that you allow yourself, so you don’t go crazy avoiding the foods you love all the time. Perhaps once a quarter or so, splurge on yourself and go to a nice dinner or buy yourself a nice outfit that doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly in your budget.
It is also important to determine which everyday behaviors will need to change and which need to remain for your overall happiness. For instance, if your daily coffee stop on your way to work is extremely important to you, don’t change it. If you need that 5-10 minute caffeine break to get the day started, take it and change something else! The same is true in finance. Don’t try to cut everything back to bare bones. Pick a few key places to start exhibiting new habits and then celebrate small wins.
Not keeping track could literally stop you in your track of achieving your goals! For diet and fitness, it is very important to keep track of what you eat and your exercise routines so you can see your progress. Keeping a daily food and exercise journal will give you reference to what you are putting in your body every day and how you are getting stronger. While some people love writing in a journal every day, others find it daunting. Keep in mind that the hardest habits to create make the biggest impact. Luckily, with technology today, keeping track can be as simple as downloading an app on your smartphone, Many of these apps will track your steps, count the calories you burn, and calculate the calorie, fat, carbohydrate and protein content of the foods you eat. This can actually be a fun way to stay motivated. When it comes to wealth, the important numbers to track are your personal financial reports such as a balance sheet, net worth statement, and cash flow/budget. There are lots of good tools for tracking these things and your financial advisor can help you aggregate the data.
The last piece of the puzzle that can truly help someone reach their preferred future is accountability. Having someone who knows you personally, knows your goals, and has knowledge of the steps it will take to reach those goals can supercharge your results. If you have someone in your corner who is rooting for you to succeed, it can make you want to make better decisions. If you are coming off the rails, the professional will know what you need to get back on track. Also, when life changes and goals change, a fitness or wealth professional can help you make your next great decision.
If you are willing to put in a small amount of work up front to make a few good decisions into new habits, the result will be a new lifestyle. The way you see the world will change. Cravings for unhealthy food will decrease while your bank account increases!
As we stated in the beginning, financial and physical health are built on the same chassis of ideals. By starting with goals and then continuing to put one good decision after another, you may find that a potentially healthier and wealthier you is not so far away.