Addicted to “Solutions”

An interesting question comes from Jonas:

Do you read a personal finance book a week? Seriously? Are you really learning something new each week?

First of all, I don’t read a personal finance book each week to find some overarching theory that will “explain” something to me. I read them for two reasons. One, I look for little ideas that I haven’t heard before so that I can toss them into the stew of personal finance ideas in my mind, a stew from which new posts are often born. Two, I read them to “filter” books for my readers so that they can decide for themselves whether a book is worth reading, much as any book reviewer does.

That being said, there are certainly people who do such things. They’ll constantly read new personal finance books or weight loss books or self-help books, hoping to find some answer that they’re always seeking that they never quite find the answer to. They’ll pay for seminars and programs and presentations, seeking out that “holy grail” of answers that will make them rich or make them thin or turn them into a “better” person, whatever that might mean to them.

I receive emails from them. They’ll offer me long rundowns of different seminars that they’ve attended or different programs that they’ve tried, pointing out the gaping flaws in each one. They’ll ask me for suggestions on what they should try next.

I usually tell them to stop looking for outside solutions.

Here’s the truth: no weight loss plan, no personal finance plan, no investment strategy, no path to self-growth can work without internal commitment from yourself. If you’re not willing to commit to going through the painful process of change – and it is often painful – then there is no book, no seminar, no coach that can help you to change.

Furthermore, if you’ve already familiarized yourself with several plans, you will simply get diminishing returns from reading further plans. You might read three different personal finance books and get three different money approaches, but by the sixth or seventh one, you can’t help but see repeated ideas. The same is true for seminars and speeches, and the pattern repeats itself in other areas such as weight loss, investments, and personal growth. You might find new specific tips, but it’s not the specific tips that will make the difference. It’s commitment to change in your life.

If you find yourself unable to change and also find yourself constantly searching for an answer from some new source, here are a few suggestions.

First, take stock of the core principles you see coming up time and time again. With personal finance, you’d be looking at things like spending less than you earn, being mindful of your spending, and saving for the future. With weight loss, you might see things like burning more calories than you ingest.

Then, take a serious look at what you’re currently doing. Are you actually taking actions that are in line with those repeated core principles? Simply put, if you’re not making personal choices that match up with those core principles you hear over and over again, nothing will change in your life.

I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement, but positive reinforcement is still a reinforcement. It comes coupled with actually taking personal action on the basic principles of whatever change you’re trying to find in your life.

If you want change, you have to act. The things you’ll need to do to bring change into your life aren’t easy. They’re never easy. They usually require you to change some element of your behavior, and human beings are creatures of routine. We don’t like to change our behavior.

Without changing the way you act today, you can never change the life you’ll have tomorrow. Reading another book or attending another seminar won’t change that simple fact, and no new little “tip” you learn will allow you to get around this hard work. It’s up to you and your internal fortitude to make it happen. There is no magic answer around the corner.

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