Do you know someone who is incredibly disciplined? Someone who uncompromisingly sticks to their beliefs with an unmovable ability to stay within their well-defined lines?

I have a friend like that. 

Sometimes, I envy him because his disciplined nature seems so natural and easy, while I labor at it.  Like when my eating habits dial back to lazy or getting to the gym just seems like too much trouble. Those are the days when I wish I had his ability to say no to cake at his daughter’s birthday or yes to training to run half marathons.

But once I get past the jealousy, I can hold him up as a role model of great skills and can aspire to his ability—his strict discipline just doesn’t come easy to me.

I found myself packing on a few pounds that quickly showed up in the snugness of my clothes (this after a hard-won loss of significant body weight). It was a sinking revelation leading to a feeling of disappointment and not a small measure of disgust. It could have defeated me and thrown me headlong into old habits that I know will lead to hanging too much weight on my frame and too much emotional distress in my life. Getting back on track was the only rational option. 

The same holds true in our money lives. You might wish you had the discipline to live on a budget that puts you on a straight line for financial well-being and security. But life—and our humanity (we are after all, imperfect)—sometimes leads us astray. It’s normal. Those blessed with the ability to remain steadfastly within the confines of their plan are to be honored, commended, just as you might hold up a piece of art and celebrate it as a masterpiece. But true masterpieces are a rarity. So most of us have to muddle through the ups and downs of our lives, course correcting before disaster hits. 

Living a responsible money life, like diet and exercise, is about values. But it’s also about forgiveness and putting up enough signposts to nudge you back onto a path where your behaviors and habits support your true desires. It’s difficult to celebrate the lapses and failures; but getting back to what you really want is celebration worthy. If you allow yourself to just feel badly about your mistakes and believe that you are incapable of making changes, you will surely over-spend, over-eat and engage in habits that contribute to long-term misery. 

Understand going in that making habit changes (unless you are superhuman like my friend), is tough work. When you find yourself drifting from your goal, your resilience will be the difference between short-term success and long-term failure. Understand that it might be a life-long battle of ups and downs. But if your desire is strong and you’ve got the right support system in place, you can find long-term success. 

And, you can create your own success track. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Write out your vision statement (including your values), detailing fully what success means to you and why attaining it is mandatory.  Make it crystal clear.

2. Define the steps necessary to move you closer to your success. Details, details, details!

3. Support is critical to success; whether it’s a nutritionist, trainer or financial planner. Surround yourself with those who actually know how. Find role models who inspire you.

4. Expect to fall squarely on your butt—and then expect to get back up again, as many times as necessary.

5. Celebrate small victories.

Life is never a straight line—it’s inevitably filled with unforeseen twists and turns. So your very own, personalized success track is essential if you want to make serious change stick. You don’t have to make it look easy (like my friend), just make it work.

You are reading

Financial Life Focus

Establishing Your Retirement Number

It's just NOT that simple

Financial Morbidity

Four steps to reduce your risk

Money Avoidance

A guide to financial failure