Habits and attitudes.

I’ve been thinking about these two a lot lately because I’ve needed to make some changes in my life. I’m not happy with myself for letting some standards slip which I’ll explain below. Similarly, I’ve been thinking about my clients, their habits, attitudes and past behaviour and what it can tell me. Common past behaviour can tell us a lot about what future behaviour will look like. Humans are creatures of habit.

Often humans will take the easy and convenient route. The bad for themselves route. As opposed to the difficult but good for themselves route. Minimising effort is hard wired into us.

Personally, I’ve wanted to eat a healthier diet, consistently, for years now. I don’t eat terribly, and I regularly exercise, but I’ve never eaten well enough to really get into the shape I want to be in. Abs are made in the kitchen apparently, who knew?

I’ve also got behind on my savings due to baby number 3, starting Engage and prior to that a house purchase, renovation and shorter mortgage (therefore larger payments!!). These are all excuses. Yes, they’re all plausible but I’ve been easily swayed to believe my own thoughts. So, I got to thinking about my behaviour and why I haven’t been able to achieve either of these goals in the recent past?

There is no explanation for me not achieving the above, other than it can’t have meant enough for me to really want to make the changes. I really wanted to set up my own business and so I took the difficult route and did it. I really wanted to move home and I made it happen. The inconvenient truth is that, if I was really worried about my health, I’d surely make the necessary changes and stick to them? Likewise if, in the back of my mind, I didn’t think Engage was going to be a success, or wasn’t confident that I’ll be ok financially, I’d have been a little more disciplined in my saving and spending!

But I’ve now decided that enough is enough. I’ve changed my attitude and in turn my habits need to change. Both of the above ARE important to me and so now I’m putting myself back on the right path. I’m taking small steps regularly to build up to where I want to be.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by clearing small stones” – Confucius

I’m hoping that achieving these goals should have a threefold positive effect. Firstly, the end results will be beneficial to my physical and financial health. Secondly, it will prove to myself I can do it, giving me the impetus to implement further positive habits. And finally, showing myself how this change in habits/attitudes reflects in positive results will provide me with experience and understanding for when I’m advising other people to make changes.

So, I have a plan! For the savings, I went back to basics and laid out all of my monthly expenditure on a spreadsheet (old school). My wife and I have an account which all our bills are debited from, so this was pretty straightforward and this is advice I give to clients. I then started tracking my spend every day.  Yes, every single day I note down what I spent and on what. It’s boring but this has the effect of making me much more conscious of what I am spending and where my money is going. After a couple of months of this, I am able to see some patterns and begin to see where savings/efficiencies can be made.

Now, on the first of every month we make deposits directly into ISAs for my wife and I and JISAs for our three girls. My pension is paid into by the business so this is a regular saving that automatically happens in the background as well.

The change in habit of checking my spending and using a forward-looking budget has been refreshing and helpful. I’m saving first, and it feels like I have control. It’s nice. This is what I advise my clients to do, so now I am just making sure I’m practising what I’m preaching.

The change in my lifestyle habits is starting as well. I’m using a programme from a personal trainer. Essentially, I need to restrict complex carbs to between 11 and 2 and then up my protein, fruit and veg. I need to drink 3 litres of water and 3 green teas a day. Along with all the exercise I’ll be getting by going to the loo every 20 minutes (!!!), there is also a circuit to do 5 times a week.  This part shouldn’t be a problem for me as I was exercising regularly already. I’ve only just started this program so it’s early days, but already I’m enjoying the feeling of taking ownership. I’ll report back in due course.

So, I’ve managed to bring some element of control into my life. I have changed my attitude first, then changed to my habits followed. Now I need to keep focused on the targets I have set, to help me stay on track.

The above is an example of one of the ways in which Engage helps clients. We want to support identification of problems/issues or deep-rooted attitudes and negative habits. We want to help shift a mindset, outline goals and provide clarity in people’s financial future. Giving our clients a feeling of being in control, of having focus on what needs to be done and the steps to how to do it. We’re a personal finance trainer!