by Brittany Vacura DDS
As an ex-college athlete who has played sports for the majority of my life, I have found myself navigating other aspects of my life in the same ways I competed.
My lifestyle has always been structured around practice and then putting my skills to the test.
If I had a math test coming up, I studied 3 times a week for 1 hour to get a B+. If I had to write a 10-page paper, it took 2 sessions in the library.
My current workday follows a very similar structure. My job as a dentist and medical director are intellectually and physically challenging. I strategically plan my day. I take breaks, eat food, and drink water to maintain my energy levels and not burn out. My staff is my “team,” and we work together to achieve a common goal.
The concepts of practice and application I learned through sports rolled over into academics, work, and eventually into my personal life.
And, when I started to become more interested in money management, I saw that so much of personal finance paralleled physical fitness and nutrition.
Tracking is key.
In fitness and nutrition, you determine your success or improvements by tracking certain markers. Whether you’re focused on the strength gained, the weight you’ve lost, or your overall blood work improving (hello, adult problems like cholesterol), you have to first establish where you’re starting. Without establishing your benchmark, you have no reference to compare your progress.
From your benchmark, you start tracking your progress.
It’s impossible to know if you’re eating too much or too little if you aren’t tracking what you eat. The same is true for money.
I realized early on that in order to be successful with my finances, I would need to track every single penny I made and every single penny I spent. While your student loans might initially motivate you to start expense tracking, budgeting your money can also help you do a few other things. It prevents any “surprises,” like accidentally over-drafting or not having sufficient funds to pay off a credit card.
Your Emotions Can Affect Your Actions
Whenever I was pitching against an “easy” team, I would often find myself having a bad game. I would psyche myself out thinking things like “You should be able to strike all of these girls out” though I would give up a game-winning home run.
Just like feelings impacted my performance back then, they continue to impact how I spend and save money now.
In fact, emotional spending is extremely common. In a recent study, 3 of 4 Americans admitted emotionally spend in some form. To be clear, I believe it is okay to spend money on things that we value. I don’t think we owe anyone an explanation for what we choose to spend our money on. But when we lack awareness and lose that control, that can lead to negative financial outcomes. This is where money mindfulness comes in. It’s important to take a step back and determine the source or trigger that leads to the unwanted behavior.
Reflecting on your feelings can help you stay mindful.
How you approach finances can also mirror how you approach nutrition. We can celebrate with a good meal just as often as we celebrate with an emotional purchase.
For pro-tips on saving more: check out this article.
Practice money mindfulness: pause before you purchase!
Take a moment to check-in and reflect on your feelings. If you haven’t planned for the purchase or the sudden influx of calories, pause. Take a deep breath and wait until next week or month.
Determine What Motivates You
A lot of the emotional battles we fight with ourselves can be mitigated and overpowered by focusing on our motivations. As a dentist, I prioritize fitness to prevent injury and prolong my career. In finances, I prioritize living a minimalist lifestyle now to have the freedom later. Being mindful by focusing on your motivators can help you reach your fitness goals, similarly, motivation-focused money mindfulness can help you achieve your financial goals.
It’s not always easy.
Muhammad Ali once said “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
Sometimes you need to dig deep down and determine why you want to achieve what it is you’re working towards. When things get challenging, tap into this reasoning to push through.
Often, that means sacrificing being comfortable now for future outcomes.
Consistency Yields Results
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”Bruce Lee
Practice any skill enough times, and you’ll master it. This might take weeks or months, and some days might be better than others. The most important thing is that you are consistent and do not give up.
The same concept applies to creating a budget, creating your first savings, or setting up your first retirement account. Money mindfulness isn’t something you achieve in one day. We are not going to be perfect at everything the first time, but consistency and resilience will always lead us in the right direction.
Like weight loss or strength training, results are never perfectly linear. Instead, results over time will indicate your progress.
Find an Accountability Partner
Whether it’s fitness or finances, setting a goal is only half of the battle. For some people, it’s the follow-through that poses the greatest challenge.
Having someone check in on you and give you positive reinforcement might be the extra push you need to achieve that goal. In fact, having an accountability partner increases your odds of achieving your goal to 95%.
That’s why the Nav.it money app is so powerful. It has money coaching and accountability built-in.
Maintain A Positive Attitude and Never Give Up
So many aspects of sports, fitness, and nutrition can be applied to personal finance. It’s important to track your progress, be aware of your feelings, and be consistent in your quest for achieving financial independence. Most importantly, maintain a positive attitude when things get difficult and never give up!