There is no failure in financial wellness

Learning how to manage your money better will take time, just like any new skill. Because of this, there is no such thing as failure.

I received a very interesting question from a potential client on a recent consult.

Now, everyone has their own personal experiences, and therefore the questions people ask before signing up for my personal financial coaching vary, although there are themes. Common questions include:

“What apps do you recommend?” (My response.)
“Do you want people to stop eating in restaurants?” (My response.)
“How do you justify charging money to people who are struggling with money?” (My response.)

But I got a new one the other day that kind of stopped me in my tracks:

“What if I fail?”

What is failure?

I wasn’t even sure what she meant. So I asked for clarification. Fail at what?

She explained that, while making plans to do better with money sound good, and while it’s possible to be totally on board initially, life happens. What happens when you decide to spend the money and break your plan after all?

To her, this was “failure”.

To me, though, this was nothing of the sort.

Behavioral change (and skiing) is a process

I’ve long said that knowledge isn’t the most important part of financial wellness. It might be no more than 10% of it.

That’s because if you want to know what to do, you can find it. One person put the rules on an index card.

So the answers are out there. But answers are not what you want. What you want is behavioral change.

And behavioral change is a process, just like learning a language, or learning to ski.

Let’s go with skiing as an example here. Let’s say that you’ve gotten into your outfit and figured out your form, and were told by your instructor to slide down the bunny slope.

And you did this, and promptly fell over. Garage sale, anyone?

Did you fail?

Of course not. You practiced. You learned. Perhaps you now know what to do differently the next time you go down the hill. You try again.

And you would (hopefully) think it laughable the idea that someone who fell down while learning to ski would have “failed”. Everyone’s going to fall down.

Getting better with your money is no different.

You’re going to make plans and fully intend to execute them. And then when the time comes, you may hit a (metaphorical) tree.

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That’s not failure. That’s learning.

Learning is a skill

Everyone will struggle with new behaviors. It’s just how learning a new skill works.

What’s more important then, is what you do when those “learning moments” happen.

With my clients, I make sure we step back and discuss what happened. It’s never truly simple. There are always internal conflicts, possibly some rather deep emotional ones, often stemming from one’s Money Attachment Style.

So that’s where we stay, unpacking the challenges, until we both gain a better understanding of what the client really wants.

Sometimes, what this will point out was that there needed to be an adjustment made to a plan we came up with, perhaps a spending plan or a saving plan. After all, a “really great” plan that no one adheres to is a worthless one. What we need are plans that can work.

Sometimes, the client learns a little more about their self and their needs.

Sometimes, all that’s needed is to get up and try again.

As I never grow tired of saying, every new month—and every new day—is a new chance to get things right.

And none of this is failure.

Fear of failure

Some people fear failure enough that they don’t try anything new. I understand that.

It’s why I make sure to tell all my clients that we exist in what a call a “Judgement-Free Zone”. I don’t care at all what you want to spend money on (or not spend money on). I just want you to care, and to act with intention, fully being aware of what’s important to you.

This isn’t easy. But it will get easier over time. And the results will be amazing.

You simply cannot fail.

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