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Recognizing Resistances to Financial Planning

As we start the New Year, people are looking at their resolutions and may want to improve their financial situation. They start to look at creating their financial plan; however, it seems to be harder than they thought. They get inundated with all the information out there. It becomes so complex that they push it aside for the time being and instead tackle one of their easier home projects. Next thing they know, it is 6 months later and they are no further towards their financial goals then they were when they started. What happened? Resistance happened.

What is a resistance? A resistance is anything that slows you down from pursuing your goals/dreams. Some of the most common resistances to financial planning are:

  • I do not have the time
  • I do not know enough
  • I do not have enough money
  • It is too hard
  • What is the use, I never get ahead
  • It just leads to arguments with my spouse

These may be the reasons that people use when they have not reached their goals. However, as I learned from a business professor, you need to ask yourself “why” 5 times before you know the real reasons. The reasons above may sound valid. Yet, they may be covering up other reasons why people do not want to look at their finances. What resistances do is to create layers so that the reasons people think why they did not meet their financial goals are not as obvious because other reasons cover up the real reasons. Resistances are tricky because if we really knew why we did not want to do something then we can overcome them easier. So to keep us stuck, resistances use other resistances to protect themselves.

So in digging deeper, what are some other resistances to financial planning?

  • Beliefs

Beliefs are engrained thought patterns that we have about how the world works. For example, some money beliefs are: money corrupts, rich get richer and poor get poorer, common people can not get ahead in today’s economy, etc. We do not want to change our beliefs because we have already learned the truth of how the world works. If we find the world doesn’t work how we think it does, then what can we count on and what can we actually believe? It is like saying the earth is not flat? Oh wait, we already know that it is actually round. Think how hard it was to get people to believe the earth is round after thinking the earth was flat for 10,000 years. It works the same way for our beliefs about how our finances and economy works. If the belief is that the issue is out there, than we have little control over it and it is no big deal if we do not have the time or do not know enough about financial planning. Because all the work we do will have little impact if the issue is out there with the economy.

  • Shame

Shame is an action of covering up who you are because it is not good enough (like wearing a mask). Thus, we put up a façade for others to see how great we are or our lives are when our life could actually be crumbling. A good cover to shame is to use excuses to avoid looking at what is really going on (create layers of resistances). If we do not see what is really going on, how will anyone else, thus the perfect cover up (mask). Yet, without being honest with yourself or others, the situation can not get better.

  • Blame (victim)

Blame is pointing the finger at someone else versus looking within. I always remember that when you point your finger at someone, there are actually 3 fingers pointed back at you. So the trick to blame is recognizing that your resistances want to show you that the issue is out there (no one is hiring, economy is tough, etc.) to distract you from doing what you can do to make your situation better (the three fingers pointed back at you). Thus, what is your part in the situation?

  • Anger

Similar to blame the focus is out there on someone or something else instead of on what you can do to change your situation immediately. Similar to blame, the premise is that something out there can hurt you. Part of this is a belief that you are a victim to the world out there. By being a victim, the belief is that you can not handle a situation that may occur (e.g., like job loss, inflation, etc.).

  • Guilt

Guilt can be very powerful in that we did something to deserve the situation that we are in. Thus, if we deserve this punishment, how can we get out of it?  We don’t if we live with guilt that is why it is called a resistance.  We need to see that there are possibilities versus doom and gloom.

So how do you know if you are dealing with resistances? The first trick is to recognize them. If you life seems like it is not going smoothly (e.g., bumps in the road, moving slowly towards your goals, etc.), it is a sign that there may be a resistance. So pay attention to your thoughts about why things are the way they are and then ask why is it so a few times. Remember many times the resistances cover themselves up with excuses and other resistances to keep a strangle hold on you (and keep you in the situation you are in). They key is to see though the top layers to the real reasons why you can not achieve your financial goals/resolutions. Tip: if the reason is anything to do with something out there (e.g., boss, economy, etc.) than it is not the real resistance.

For example, when there was uncertainty at my old job and people wondered what would happen if they were laid off, my thoughts turned to so what? Even though it most likely wasn’t going to happen, I was confident in my abilities to survive being laid off and find something else. I kept up my emergency fund. I continued to update my skills and job responsibilities so my resume would jump out to a potential employer.

Remember the resistance of anger and blame can have an underlying doubt of our ability within us. And, when we doubt ourselves, others will doubt us as well. Thus, the resistance that needs to be overcome is how to be more confident in yourself versus how to change the world out there. By looking out there, you are doing nothing to change yourself (e.g., keeping up your resume, improving your emergency fund, etc.) to handle any situation that comes your way.

This article is a part of a 12-month series that I am doing on jump starting your financial plan in the New Year. To read other articles on resistances, see:

Why we avoid financial planning

Steps for Taking Charge of Your Financial Life

Resistances – How it keeps you in the struggle