Routine – a sequence of actions followed consistently. Studies show that highly successful people all swear by their morning routines that help them start the day with greater focus, clarity, and productivity. Key word here is ‘consistency’. But how big a difference can a consistent morning routine make on your life, and how is it leading to their success? Is it really correlated, or is it simply a coincidence?
A couple of months I found out that I had injured my Achilles tendon due to overuse and improper strength training. I started going to a personal trainer and he designed a training routine for me to follow twice per week and gave me exercises to do every day at home. The daily exercises would take around two to five minutes to complete and it was important that I did them every day. The task seemed simple: I had a small set of actions to do consistently over ten weeks and I would achieve my goal of running again. I followed the schedule consistently and when the ten weeks were up my trainer told me that I could finally start running. What an achievement! I was so excited… until he told me that I could run for no more than 2km and had to run for one minute then walk for one minute. Somehow, I thought that once the ten weeks were over, I would be able to achieve my big goal of running 10km immediately. A friend of mine pointed out that I was able to run 2km without feeling any pain – he said that this was a small win that deserved celebrating. He encouraged me to carry on with my consistent training and to remember that it takes many small wins to reach a large end goal.
A goal is something that we wish to achieve in the future. Goals can be small such as reading one book a month or keeping a journal, or big, such as learning to drive a car or buying a house. We can set goals in any aspect of our lives, be it personal fitness, health, career, or finances. By setting goals you can control your habits and foster healthier ones, improve your focus and motivation, and ultimately achieve better performance in the area of your life in which you set your goal. Goal setting can also reduce your stress as it allows you to visualise a path that will you lead you to your success.
Stress is our body’s natural response to situations that put high demands or pressure on us. It can be caused by any situation in which we either do not feel confident in what we are doing or feel threatened. A study carried out by the American Psychological Association found that over 60% of adults aged 18 and over identify work and money to be significant sources of stress. There are many ways to reduce financial stress. An effective and often underrated method of doing this is the setting of financial goals. A financial goal is simply a plan for your money. This goal may be big and long-term, such as saving for retirement, paying off a mortgage, or saving for your children’s education fees, or more short-term such as building cash reserves, paying off student loans, or starting a business. Once you have an end goal in mind, you can create a plan on how you will achieve it.
A plan will be made up of multiple steps or pieces that will lead you to the finish line. Suppose your goal is to retire before the standard pension age. The first important considerations to make are the time horizon until your desired retirement age and your spending needs in retirement. Once you determine these, you can estimate how much you need to have saved up by your target retirement and start thinking about how you are going to achieve this target. This will typically comprise multiple steps that will lead to the achievement of smaller targets that will ultimately lead to the achievement of your larger financial goal. Having a plan in mind will keep you motivated to make better financial decisions, and this will bring you peace of mind and reduce your stress. In order to keep your motivation up, however, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the small wins. A small win can be anything like cooking a meal at home instead of ordering take-out or finding a good deal on a dress. Or running my first 2km pain free.
Charles Duhigg puts it nicely – he said, ‘Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach’. There will be no singular event that leads to your big win. In the same way, there will be no singular event that leads you to your downfall. As long as you are committed to your plan and follow through, you will still meet your goals, even if you spend one month’s savings on a holiday. Missing one training session or a day or two of my daily exercises was not going to stop me from recovering. On the other hand, doing my daily exercises in an ad-hoc manner would. The key to reaching any goal in life is committing to be consistent, and not perfect. As I explained in my previous article, striving for perfection will impair your chances of reaching your end goal. Instead, aim for consistency and commitment, and eventually, you will see your savings grow and achieving your end goal will become more and more realistic.
Our two cents: Sit down and think about your goals and formulate a plan on how you are going to achieve them. Break your plan up into smaller goals and milestones and celebrate your small wins. Remember that it is the accumulation of a lot of things done consistently over a long stretch of time that will bring you to your end goal. Once you’ve set your goals, don’t be afraid to speak to an advisor to help you create your plan, that’s what Black Swan Capital is there for.