The year is fast coming to a close. Soon your attention will turn toward resolutions for 2011. I bet one of those resolutions will be taking control of your finances.
To reach that goal next year, I want to help you get started today. This is the first column in a four-part series designed to give you the tools to achieve financial well-being in 2011.
Why start now? Because change can be difficult. Making real change, especially when it comes to your finances, takes time, effort and focus. You need to learn and practice new patterns of behavior.
Changing behavior can be so hard because our minds are controlled by two different systems: the emotional and the rational. The rational side wants to retire wealthy and secure, and the emotional side wants to go out to dinner tonight!
In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt compares these two aspects of our minds to an elephant (emotional) and a rider (rational). Picture a rider atop an elephant. The tiny rider can exert control over the elephant only occasionally and only for a short time. Like the elephant, our emotions can be powerful, sometimes uncontrollable, forces.
Many of the changes we aspire to involve giving up instant gratification (emotional desire) and pursuing long-term goals (rational desire). To achieve those goals, we need to work with the strengths and weaknesses of both the emotional and rational aspects of ourselves. When they work in harmony, rather than in opposition, we can achieve the change we seek.
Authors Dan and Chip Heath, in their book Switch, describe how we can direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape a path. This month, well give the rider direction. In November, well focus on motivation; in December well shape the path; and in January well put it all together.
So today lets set a direction by identifying one dream. I prefer vacations or adventures because they are achievable and inspiring. By the end of November I want you, and your partner if you have one, to have picked a dream and created a dream board.
A dream board provides a goal to focus your actions. Its the incentive to change. Using pictures is effective because they tap into the emotional side of our minds and can be strong motivators.
Creating a dream board is a powerful and fun process. Heres how:
b Get a large piece of paper or poster board.
b Gather magazines with images of your dream vacation destination or adventure.
b Find your perfect picture and glue it in the center of your paper.
b Glue supporting pictures around the central image.
b Hang your dream board where you can see it every day.
With your destination in sight, the journey can begin. Next month: Finding the motivation to make change stick.
www.DebtFreeTribe.com. Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance.