You Are What You Read – Focusing on Financial Goals

Erik Goodge, CFP® | July 12, 2022

When times get tough, it takes a little more focus to stay on track financially. One strategy for focusing on your financial goals is to literally occupy your mind with your goals. This is a great way to motivate yourself into doing what needs to be done; especially when you may not feel like it.

I’ve used this strategy on myself many times, especially when I’m stricken with the odd feeling of wanting to want to do something but not wanting to do something. Yes, you read that sentence correctly; take a minute to think about what it means.

For me, there have been many times where I had goals I wanted to accomplish, but I just didn’t want to do what it took to accomplish the goals. But I really really wanted to want to do what it took. Most people can relate to fitness goals so imagine you have a goal weight in mind. You know exactly what you need to do to get to that goal weight. You want to feel motivated to do those things, except…you just don’t want to do those things.

I hate that feeling because it makes me feel like I’m incapable of being deliberate with my time and intentions; like I’m at the mercy of my mental or emotional state. When I encounter this issue, I have a very specific way to fight back. I control the content my mind consumes. The old cliche “you are what you eat” comes to mind when I think about this topic.

In the same way that if you eat too many carbs and fat, you will be, well, fat, if you spend too much of your free time consuming information about topics that are different than your goals, your mind will prioritize those topics. It will become more difficult for you to be excited to pursue your goals; especially ones that require tough decisions.

Financial goals are full of tough decisions. Putting off purchases, spending the extra time looking for bargains, searching for various means of passive income, etc. When money becomes tight, you may begin to feel stress. That stress will weigh down your mind when you’re focusing on your financial goals.

You need to feed the mind, in the same way you need to feed the body. When you get sick, it’s even more important to eat nutritious foods and consume plenty of fluids. The same concept applies to your goals; financial or otherwise. When you are pursuing financial goals, you need to feed the mind the raw materials it needs to stay focused on your goals.

Assuming you agree with the argument that your mind focuses on and thinks about the information you consume, and that you can exert control over that information, the next question you may have is “What should I read/watch/listen to?”

The best answer depends on the specific goals you are pursuing. There are tons of blogs, books, podcasts, and videos with great financial content. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of books than anything else because books force you to spend several hours (over the course of the book) reading about the topic of the book. Podcasts and blogs are often “snack-sized” content, making it pretty easy to completely forget the central argument or topic of the content by the end of the week. This is less likely to happen with a book. But you should read/watch/listen to whatever works best for you. If you never make it through books, then try a YouTube channel or podcast.

The main point is that in order to stay focused enough to change your behavior in ways that further your goals, you must feed the mind the information it needs to motivate you into action.