Why Fixing Your Finances Isn’t a Matter of Will Power

Women's Financial Learning Centre

“You have to buckle down.”

“You can’t get distracted, you just have to keep going until you reach your goal.”

“Use all your willpower and you’ll get there.”

This common advice gets applied to everything from weight loss to quitting smoking to – yes, of course – saving or paying down debt.

There’s just one problem:

Willpower isn’t the reason you’re struggling with your financial situation.

You don’t need willpower to fix your finances at all.

The Problem with Willpower

People only talk about willpower when it comes to doing tasks they don’t really want to do.

You’ve never heard of anyone who suggested to find the willpower to treat yourself to a day at the spa, or eat that slice of cake, or call a good friend to get together for a drink.

You want to do those things. They don’t require willpower.

You also don’t need willpower to do many other tasks that are so ordinary that you practically forget you’re doing them at all. You don’t need willpower to close the door when you walk into your house, or to take off your shoes, or to brush your teeth.

These are habits. They don’t need willpower.

Willpower is forcing yourself to do something you really, really don’t want to do, and it’s difficult to maintain over time. We only have a finite amount of willpower to use in a given day. If you’ve already used up yours resisting the urge to sleep in, you’re going to have a hard time finding enough willpower to use elsewhere in the day.

By the time the day is over and you’ve persuaded yourself to do 20 things you didn’t really want to do, you’re pretty likely to give in to the temptation to order take-out for dinner.

Unless, of course, you really want to save that money.

Then you don’t need to resist temptation or rely on willpower. Then it isn’t hard at all.

Changing Your Motivation

You’ll see a common thread among people who’ve successfully changed their habits in areas where other people struggle for years. If you ever read a success story of someone who’s gotten into great shape after 15 years of a sedentary life, or a smoker who gave up a pack-a-day habit, you might have noticed one thing:

They usually have a profound reason why they wanted to achieve their goal.

Not because “I really should.” Not because “I’ve been meaning to.” Certainly not because they woke up one morning and found a jar of magical willpower.

It’s because they found a good reason why they wanted to make the change.

Maybe it was a wake-up call from their doctor. Maybe it was the desire to be a different sort of person. Maybe it was so they could participate in marathons with their partner – who knows? But they all had a reason why they wanted to make this change.

Guilt didn’t get them anywhere. Shame didn’t get them anywhere. Facts, stats, and logic didn’t get them anywhere.

But a true desire for the kind of life they believed they could live if they made the change?

That finally did the trick.

You can do this with your money habits, too. All you need to do is start thinking about what saving and paying down debt will get you – instead of what it will require you to give up.

What You’re Giving Up  

Lots of people look at changing their financial habits as an enormous burden.

It seems painful to them to start paying attention to their spending where before (they believe) they’d been free to do what they liked. It seems painful to give up on the dining out, the shopping, or the vacations they’d enjoyed in the past.

These people often forget that there’s a flip side to that “freedom” and “enjoyment”.

Eventually, the bill comes due.

Those people don’t like that part at all. They don’t like the stress of the huge credit card bill, the mountain of debt, the lack of a savings for when a true emergency happens.

But for some reason they think of this stress as entirely separate from the “fun” of spending. Even though the “fun” of spending is the reason they’re experiencing the stress of … well, spending!

We’re not suggesting that you’ll never again be able to enjoy spending money on things that truly delight you. This should be an unmitigated pleasure – and if you haven’t planned ahead for that spending, you’re going to experience a lot of pain when it comes back to bite you in the back end.

That’s what you’re giving up.

You’re not giving up freedom or fun. You’re giving up being bitten later on. You’re giving up feeling sad, guilty, and upset about spending.

What You’re Gaining

The sky’s the limit.

When you really think about what you want out of your life, what comes to mind?

It’s probably different for you than it is for your best friend. They might love to travel. You might love spending quality time with your family. They might want adventure. You might want security.

Odds are good that neither of you put at the top of your list “eat out tonight”.

So why is it so easy to spend money on eating out and so hard to put the money aside for the things you really get enjoyment out of?

Because you haven’t set that goal in the front of your mind.

You aren’t thinking about what you’ll gain in the long term. You’re thinking of what you’re giving up here and now. Right now, you feel like you’re giving up dinner out.

What would happen if you shifted your thinking just a bit?  What would happen if you thought to yourself, “You know what? I’m going to put that money toward a weekend getaway. I can’t wait!”

Would you need willpower to give yourself that getaway vacation? Or would it become the easiest thing in the world to drive past the restaurant and onward to your family and a home-cooked meal?

We know the answer, and we can help you find more ways to shift your perspective, get on track with your money, and start building the life you truly want to have – one with more confidence, more happiness, and far more balance.

Take a look at the Money Map Coaching Program, one of our most innovative programs yet. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s interactive, so you get support from women who understand, who care about you, and who’ll help you go from where you are now to where you want to be.

Learn more about the Program here