Remember Your Good Deeds Before Talking to Me

Saints Cyril and Methodius

You don’t have to be a saint. I promise!

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
–Carl Jung

Which would you rather do? Go to the dentist or see a financial planner?

For most people, this would be Sophie’s choice, as both seem equally unpalatable. We know we need to have clean and healthy choppers so that we’re not sucking blended puree through a straw when we’re older. We know that we need to have healthy financial habits so that we’re not diving through dumpsters when we’re older.

Yet, we think that both involve pain.

The reality is that neither one of them involves as much pain as we imagine that they will.

But, in both cases, there will probably be some pain, and that’s why we avoid both at all costs.

I’m not a dentist, so I can’t talk about what truly goes on in the chair besides scrubbing, whirring, and the occasional poke as the dentist says “you’ll just feel a little pinch.”

However, I can reassure you about meeting with me.

I don’t use sharp instruments.

The reality is that even for people who come to me who have been suckered into convinced to pay exorbitant front-loaded commissions or outrageous assets under management fees, it’s not like their lives are burning dumpster fires. At least they’re saving and investing, even if in horrendously improper places.

Usually, they’re 80% of the way there in doing what they need to do. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably 80% of the way there, too.

My job is to show you the other 20% and convince you to move in that direction.

There are two major obstacles in the way between you and 100%:

  1. You have to make the step to discover what the other 20% is.
  2. Monkey Brain doesn’t like change. Change requires effort. It requires admitting that there’s a better way. You have to actually do something different. Monkey Brain’s favorite Latin phrase is status quo. Anything that disrupts the status quo causes him to throw bananas out of the cage.

As we saw in “Monkey Brain Gets Hit by a Plague of Locus(ts),” I am a big believer in having a strong internal locus of control. The more internal your locus of control, the more likely you are to accept responsibility for the outcomes in your life and to do something about it.

After all, there’s no point in reading these articles, enrolling in the course, or engaging my services if you’re not going to change afterwards. Why waste your money?

But, chances are good that you need to change something. Otherwise, you’d be happy, content, and not searching the Internet for personal finance articles (or for a Fort Worth financial planner like me).

How can you prepare yourself to change?


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According to Rutgers’s Dr. Robert Trivers, we are more likely to accept negative feedback, constructive criticism, or suggestions for change if we feel good about ourselves. The stronger our sense of self-worth, the more willing we are to both seek out and to accept uncomfortable truths.

When we’re brimming with self-confidence, then we don’t take suggestions for improvement personally. We don’t feel demeaned, and we don’t think that we’re being personally attacked. Instead, we take what we hear in stride, knowing that incorporating the advice can make us even better, because, after all, we’re pretty darn cool in the first place.

Here are a few ways that you can improve your self-esteem, and, therefore, your willingness to accept suggestions for change that will lead to positive improvements in your life:

  • Self-affirmations. There’s a reason that the Stuart Smalley character in Saturday Night Live was so popular. While he took self-affirmation to a parody extreme, the University of Maryland’s Drs. Mark Reed and Lisa Aspinwall demonstrated that self-affirmation reduces preconceived biases when we receive negative health information.
  • Remember your own good deeds. Not only will serving up these memories remind you that you’re a good person, but it will also, as Stanford’s Dr. Nicholas Davidenko and others showed, cause you to believe you receive more good breaks and perceive the world as more just. When you think the world is just and that you receive good breaks, you’re more likely to have an internal locus of control, and will be ready to take positive steps to changing negative behaviors.
  • Remember what you’re good at. As Virginia Tech’s Dr. Kenneth Bell demonstrated, there is a direct correlation between beliefs in competence at a task and self-esteem. Children who improved their abilities in rock climbing felt a higher self-esteem and were more likely to engage in other athletic activities. So, think of something that you’re really good at and dwell on that for a few minutes.

You need to be in the right mindset to change your behaviors. Personal finance is 20% math and 80% behavior, but you need to be willing to accept change to succeed. Giving yourself a little ego boost will make you more amenable to the recommendations and lessons you’ll learn, which means you’ll actually do something about it.

Your future self will be glad that you took a few minutes to pump yourself up before you start.

Have you ever given yourself a pep talk before getting feedback? Did it work? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

About Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, is the Chief Technology officer of myFinancialAnswers, an online comprehensive financial planning service.

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