When I’m writing articles for The Simple Dollar, I’m always scouring my life for positive personal finance stories to share. What things have I done that have worked for me? What principles have I seen show up time and time again in my life? How do I keep myself positively motivated?
Over a long period of time, it all presents a very positive picture. When I read through my old articles, in fact, I keep thinking to myself, “Wow, I wish I was as strong at personal finance as that guy!”
The reality is that I fail at personal finance things, more often than I like.
For example, my biggest temptation and spending failure is books. I still have a strong desire to purchase books, often as fast (or faster) than I can read them. Sure, I’m more efficient at buying them than I used to be as I utilize more used book services, Kindle Daily Deals, and so on, but I still spend more money on books than I should and I often give into book impulse buys.
When I go grocery shopping, I do a good job of sticking to my list when I shop by myself, but when my children are with me, it’s a lot harder. It’s not because they ask for things or put stuff in the cart, but because my focus is diverted. I end up making less-than-perfect shopping choices and I know that I am.
I often forget about leftovers in the fridge. It’s not that I don’t want to eat them, but that when it’s lunchtime and I go downstairs to find lunch, I might not see them or they simply slip my mind.
I could list dozens of things like this. Little failures, sprinkled throughout my life.
I know I fail at these little things, quite often, in fact. What I try very hard not to do, though, is to use them as an excuse to do even worse.
Just because I impulsively bought a book doesn’t mean that my big goals are never going to happen. It just means I made a mis-step, one that I’ll think about for a while and push myself not to repeat any time soon.
At the same time, I try to keep most of my thoughts on the successes. A day without a mistake is more likely to stick in my mind and bring me pride and joy than a day with a mistake or two in it.
I use that great day as inspiration. “I can do this,” I’ll tell myself, and I’ll strive to repeat it.
Yeah, I might stumble and fumble some days. I might buy something I don’t need at the grocery store or forget to take care of something I know I should be handling.
Even then, I know I can do this. I know I can succeed. I’ve witnessed myself do it in the past and I know I have the ability to move forward on anything I want to do. That’s where I keep my focus.
I’m imperfect, but I don’t dwell on my mistakes aside from asking myself how to correct them. Instead, I remember my successes and strive to match or, better yet, top them.
Instead of feeling bad about my imperfections, I focus on feeling good about those moments when I transcend them and achieve something better. I feel great and I have an example for tomorrow.