In a recent unscripted new year’s message, Tony Robbins explained his theory of personal change. He believes that the actions we take flow from our sense of who we are and the standards we use to judge our experiences.
So Robbins invites his mentees to “raise their standards,” to challenge themselves to expect more from themselves, their relationships, their work life, their fitness training, their finances, and all of the other life areas that people often resolve to address at this time of year.
I’ve been learning about personal finance for about three years, ever since I started my business. One of the most important changes I made two years ago was to set up a line in my budget that I labelled “Future Self.”
The Future Self line eventually became a category, and that category includes items like cash savings, life insurance, and tax-deferred and taxable investments. This is the kind of structure that honors Future Me.
I’m a person who has watched two generations ahead of me struggle, and I don’t want to imitate them. That’s my identity.
Future Self will love me because of the decisions I’ve made during this phase of my life—that’s my standard and expectation.
I have automated the payments that go to Future Self so that I’m less tempted to divert them to surprise expenses; I also check accounts more than the professionals say I should. Those are two of my rituals for now, the first so I can relax, the second until I actually do.
Finally, compound interest is my friend. That’s my win.
Robbins’ voice isn’t my favorite and so I won’t inflict his message on you. But he’s right when he notes that this is the perfect time of year to reassess the practices you repeat, practices that slowly shape your life because they recur and build momentum as they do.
Momentum is a neutral force, but it’s additive. If you’ve ever opened a tall bag of snacks and not devoted your full attention to that moment, momentum can easily take you from a handful of Cheetos or two cookies to orange-dusted fingertips, crumbs around your mouth, and an empty snack bag. Momentum makes quick work of you before you’ve time to catch yourself.
Momentum can also have employees spending 10 hours each day getting to work, working at work, and coming home from work, and doing it again and again for decades until they notice they’re a calendar turn from their retirement decade and they can’t account for the intervening time. That can be us too unless we take the time today to establish better rituals.
Rituals are simply the things we do repeatedly: our habits. They are the bricks of our lives, and it’s worth laying them with care.