We’ve talked before about setting and achieving goals, and one of the simplest (though not easy) techniques to accomplish your financial dreams is developing the habit of mindfulness. Although it’s become a secular buzzword, mindfulness practice is thousands of years old and originated in the Buddhist tradition, combining Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan meditation techniques. It has recently become a secular practice you can apply to many areas of your life, including your finances.
Using mindfulness, or any kind of prayer, contemplation, or mental discipline that allows you to see things as they are, without the emotions that arise in the heat of the moment pushing you to act against your best interests, can help you keep your goals in perspective and provide clarity when fear and anxiety start to take over.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast about building habits and continue reading for ways to incorporate mindfulness into your financial life.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, or paying attention to the present moment, can help you keep your big financial goals in front of you while ignoring distractions that come along and derail your plans. When applied to your finances, mindfulness allows you to create a realistic road map for your future you can return to, even as the markets start to slide or the latest gadget or distraction comes along.
As you think about incorporating mindfulness into your life, consider the following to help you on your financial journey.
Building a mindfulness practice starts with awareness of yourself and your environment. Seeing your actions without judgment or shame can help you discover your patterns and bring clarity to the things you do on auto-pilot. As you build a mindfulness habit around your finances, you might become increasingly aware of the money you spend daily and how it is keeping you from achieving your long-term strategy.
If you tend to reach for your debit card without thinking, for example, you might wrap the card in a post-it note or sleeve that has one of your goals written on it, like your planned retirement date or a photo that represents your next big trip. Seeing that date, or a picture of the luxury vacation you’re saving for might have you questioning whether the purchase you’re about to make is getting you closer to your financial dreams and help you curb your spending habit.
Because you listen to the rich & REGULAR podcast, you likely care about your financial future, but you may not have always been so financially focused and have some regrets. Mindfully accepting that the person you were in the past made mistakes and learning to appreciate yourself, flaws and all, can help you gain some financial traction.
If past-you ran up credit cards that you’re still paying for, or you’re only just starting to invest and thinking about all of the compound interest you missed, it can be easy to beat yourself up and believe that you should have known better. Instead, try to find some appreciation for the person you were and think about the context of the situation you were in, so that you can move forward with your intentions, without constantly beating yourself up for the things that happened in the past.
Accept yourself for who you are, in the past and now, and embrace the knowledge you’ve gained so that you can do better. Acceptance doesn’t mean forgetting the past problems, but it does mean forgiving ourselves so that we can begin to move on.
Mindfulness can also help you focus on your financial goals by blocking out the noise that can distract you and helping you find a balance between the short term and the long term.
It can be hard to juggle everything we want to accomplish in life, and deciding what to do with an unexpected bonus or your tax return can leave you with analysis paralysis. If you use mindfulness in this situation, you’ll remember that you have a list of two to three short-term and long-term aims that you’re working toward, and then can intentionally develop a plan to split the unexpected windfall among your existing objectives.
Developing a list of priorities to focus on when you’re clear-headed, and thinking of your values and beliefs, can help you keep your focus when a distraction arises and the fear of missing out, or FOMO, shows up and tries to take over.
Mindfulness practice is all about keeping things in perspective and thinking about the future before it arrives, but not getting stuck in an endless loop of what-ifs.
Mindfully creating and focusing on your financial goals can help you block out the noise and pay attention to the work in front of you. It’s important to learn that when a problematic situation or choice arises, you don’t have to panic and instead choose to become aware, accept, and focus on what’s in front of you. Mindfulness can be an invaluable tool that helps you create the financial future you’ve always wanted.