Few things are more discouraging than working really hard to accomplish a goal, but feeling absolutely no progress. There is no better way to say it than the overused cliché ‘you are ‘spinning your tires’. Thus enters the power of focus.
Financially, many of us are no more focused than the average horse. The horse looks all over the place, wanders here and there, and walks wherever he pleases. Hence the need for blinders. Blinders force the horse to focus only on the object directly in front of the animal.
Many of our finances are simply a collection of good ideas and good advice. We are so lightly invested in so many different things that ultimately we are failing at all of them.
We might have a little life insurance because someone said we should. The kids are getting some money for an allowance because that is supposed to teach them financial responsibility. The pastor said you should be giving, so you do. Retirement is important so you allocate some dollars into a Roth IRA and then a few into a 401K because you never completely could decide which was better. You give nice gifts because that is what a good human should do. You make your minimum payments on your credit cards. Write a check for your house. And well, by the middle of the month, you have a little of a lot of good things that, as a result, are just a little of nothing.
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Focus is the solution.
Choose only one financial task and invest all your resources into that task. For example, if you are in debt make sure you are minimally covered on essentials and drop everything else. Like a military commander, you are going to call some troops away from a job over there and reassign them over here. Reassign every extra dollar towards debt repayment. This means to drop your retirement savings for a time while you focus on becoming debt free. Moreover, choose one debt (i.e. one credit card) that will receive all of your focus.
Why does focus make a powerful difference in our finances?
- Focus leads to results.
- Results lead to motivation.
- Motivation leads to more focus.
Once you have discovered and learned how to leverage the power of focus the effects are far reaching.
Six questions to help you decide where you should focus your time and energy:
- What is the most emotionally burdensome thing to you? Are you up late at night because a specific credit card company keeps calling? Start with whatever would make you feel most liberated.
- What item carries the most cost? You might have a high interest credit card and it really bothers you paying so much in fees. Make that your priority.
- What is the most immediate need? Do you really feel like you need a little cash for breathing room? Do you have a vehicle about to be repossessed? Focus on the time sensitive tasks.
- What do ‘experts’ advise? You could be struggling to know where to start. Just get on the Dave Ramsey Baby Step plan and Ramsey will lay out the seven steps for you. Just find out where you are and start.
- What are those around you saying? Friends might be mentioning that you really need to get your car or credit cards paid off. They might be concerned that you are not saving for retirement. While their advice is not definitive, if enough people comment on the same factor it might just be worth your consideration.
- What frees up the most money? If you have a truck payment that is completely out of line, focus there (focus might be focus on selling the car) because once that problem is resolved you will have ample resources to attack all the smaller issues.
While these factors might lead you to think a couple of places are a good place to start, resist the urge to do more than one thing at once. Focus only on one item and you will see the most results.
Why do you think financial focus is hard for many of us? How do you decide where you should focus your energy?