"All of our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habit - practical, emotional, and intellectual - systematically organised for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be." ~ Williams James
Beginnings are not grand. They are mostly humble, and the subsequent steps, to keep forward momentum consistently applied, become habit forming.
One of the biggest differences between those who do, and those who don't progress their goals or achieve change, is getting so tied up in fear of failure or anticipating unknown outcomes that trip you up before even crossing the starting line.
One of my favourite books recently, Atomic Habits, by James Clear makes the same point over 300 odd pages. I was gifted this book last Christmas by my niece, and it was an unexpectedly riveting read from start to finish.
Clear starts with his own journey of transformation, sharing his improbable recovery from a debilitating brain injury. It is a story of mind over matter, as well as a series of staircase triumphs.
Using compelling case studies, like how the British cycling team pulled itself out of the performance gutter to world-leading, Clear makes the point that big change is not one-time-radical but a series of small but cumulative tweaks over time. Honestly, this book was a page-turner for me.
Like most people these days, I admit to suffering from a bit of attention deficit, given the competing pull of social media snacking. Atomic Habits kept me glued.
Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit, Why we do what we do in life and business" was similarly mesmerisingly. Duhigg doesn't focus as much on the micro but on the macro behind what drives human behaviours and the overlapping insights and connections that lead to great outcomes. The quote above comes from his book.
One of the many stand-outs was Chapter 4 on Keystone Habits or the Ballad of Paul O'Neill.
This chapter describes how O'Neill, a former US bureaucrat, transformed Alcoa, The Aluminium Company of America, from one of the most lethal workplaces in the U.S. to a shining example of workplace health and safety. In doing so, he transformed their balance sheet beyond expectation. It's a cool story and a reminder of what can be achieved when social good is a priority.
The Starbucks chapter was a similar feel-good story that revealed some humanity underlying corporate America.
If these books don't leave you feeling inspired, I'm not sure what will.
They are both must-have additions to your personal finance library or reading list.
Psychology is central to personal finance. Habits are too.
If you understand your mind, as well as your habits, you'll find that sweet spot in personal finance where it becomes less like work and more like a challenge.
Everything in your life reveals a story.
Your weight, your scars, your job, your relationship, where you live and how you live.
If you were conscious of those choices and decisions, chances are they will be a net positive.
If you're looking to improve your finances, you need to understand how you came to be where you are and then map a different journey if you want one.
Most millionaires are not made overnight. They are the product of cumulative choices made over time.
Ask, and you shall receive.
Seek, and you will find.
Firstly though, define what are you looking for?
Map out a timeline and a series of steps you need to do to achieve that goal or destination.
Note the impediments, challenges and resistance you may encounter.
Expect a setback. Expect several. That should be implicitly understood as part of the process.
Find a buddy or mentor to hold you somewhat or fully accountable.
Reward yourself with little victories along the way.
And to quote a now famous fishy, "Just keep swimming."
Oh, and if you need one more little reason to feel hopeful, dig up the incredible back story of Ellen DeGeneres's voice acting job for the role of Dorrie and where that subsequently led her, if you don't already know. Incredible story.
If you can't find it, watch her Netflix interview with David Letterman on his show "My Next Guest Needs no introduction."
Amanda Morrall is a New Zealand based personal finance expert. Her first book Money Matters was published in 2013 by Penguin Random House in NZ.