Getting Unstuck on Your Financial Journey: 4 Tips for Riding Out the Plateaus
Financial journeys can take a long time to come to fruition, and it’s easy to get frustrated when progress doesn’t happen immediately. We work hard today so that our tomorrow will be better, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re moving forward.
Fighting for something that won’t show returns for a long time—financial freedom, retirement or working toward a degree that will allow you to earn more money, to name a few—can feel like a never-ending fight that never declares a winner. We know we need to have faith in ourselves, but when we’re in the middle of the journey, it can feel like hope is gone and we’ll never make headway.
In this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast, we discuss what to expect between financial milestones, and read below for some tips to keep moving forward while you’re in the middle of your journey.
Getting Out of the Murky Middle
Getting to the middle is tough. Your initial enthusiasm for a project or journey has waned, and though you theoretically know you’re headed in the right direction, you’re stuck far enough away from your end goal that you just don’t know how you’re going to hit that achievement. That’s expected. You’re not alone if you hit the middle of your financial journey and start to doubt if it will all be worth it.
What can you do to help you keep moving forward when you feel like you’ll never reach your goal?
Complete the ‘U.’
It can be helpful to think of our goals—financial or personal—as being shaped like a U. When you first start, you’re at the top of the U, feeling bright and hopeful about the things you want to accomplish.
As you follow your path and learn more, you go deeper and deeper until you reach the middle, where, if you don’t push through and make the extra effort, you can stay and stagnate, never reaching the pinnacle (i.e., the other side of the U) because you lost momentum.
Sit with your journal and think about the following to help you gain some new perspective.
Break the problem into small bites.
Think about the ways you have already changed your life. You started with a problem or a desire and took action. When you get stuck in the middle of your journey, remember that a big goal is just a series of smaller goals strung together, and develop a plan to break everything down into small, doable chunks.
Work backward, starting from that happy day you achieve your overall goal—however far in the future it might be—and then think about all the steps required to get there, ending at today.
From there, develop a series of actions to take that will help you get to that final large goal. Having a road map to keep you on track will help you keep your eye on the prize.
One of the best ways to help you get unstuck is to look back at how far you’ve come.
Write down a timeline or draw a flowchart to help you look at the path behind you, as well as where you want to go. Writing things down concretes them in our minds and helps us remember things we would otherwise forget or think of as too insignificant. All the steps you take count toward reaching your goal, no matter how small.
The longer the timeline you have to meet your goal, the more opportunities to become distracted and abandon your path. Ensure that you know where you’ve come from so that you keep going in the right direction.
Evaluate your strategy.
During your reflection time, think about anything you need to do differently. Sometimes we need to change our strategy and make adjustments as we pick up new information or outside events happen along the way. It’s important to have a plan, but make sure you don’t get so locked in that you can’t or won’t make adjustments as you get new information or the context shifts.
Talk about it.
Sometimes, we just can’t see the forest for the trees, but our partners or close friends have seen where we started and cheered for us along our journeys.
If you can’t shake your doubt or fears that you’ve taken a wrong step, find someone who will listen and wont make the situation about them, and talk about any anxiety or confusion you have. A counselor, therapist, or financial professional might be the best person to talk to about what you’re feeling and help you course-correct or assure you that you’re where you’re supposed to be.
The chances are good that you have a lofty goal that you’re working to make a reality. Make sure you keep that vision firmly in your mind so you don’t forget your ultimate end goal. When you get to the bottom of your U and are struggling, pick your head up and look in the direction you want to go.
The truth is that we can’t know what the outcome will be before we get there, but we can make sure we keep our eyes looking forward while evaluating where we are right now.
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