Get Over the Hump Like a Soldier (Book Giveaway)
Editor's note: Jeff Rose is an Iraqi War veteran, Certified Financial Planner™, author of Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future, and the host of Wise Bread's new video series Ask the CFP (coming soon).
We're giving away 3 copies of Jeff's book. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment below.
"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." — Tony Robbins
Having goals is super important. You know what's more important?
Writing down those goals and reviewing them frequently.
I now make it a point to review my goals quarterly, and since starting that three years ago, it has been huge for me. It's been huge for my finances, my business, and my family. In my book, Soldier of Finance, I share strategies that I've used to stay motivated with my goals as well deal with setback. The following is an excerpt.
You've now completed a significant amount of training, just as we soldiers did. You've taken the time to plan your mission, breaking it down into manageable elements. The time has come to execute your mission, that is, to begin moving in the direction of your specific, detailed goals. No matter how much you want to succeed, nothing happens until you begin to act. Unlike missions in Iraq, where we were ordered into a situation and forced to execute in order to stay alive, you will have to make the choice to execute this mission on your own.
The first few days will be easy. Your enthusiasm will carry you for a while, but as the daily grind of life begins to set in, your interest will be diverted to other, more pleasant things. That's to be expected; it happens to everyone. When you talk to a recruiter, you will be excited by his appeal to your patriotism, but six weeks into training, the last thing you'll have on your mind is home and country. All you'll think about is how much your muscles hurt. That's when you need techniques for keeping yourself motivated. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do:
- Keep your goals fresh in mind by reviewing them regularly. Ask your Battle Buddy to help you with this—that's your Buddy's role. Share your fears and worries and be honest when you're struggling. Talking it out will help.
- Automate your plan as much as possible. Set up automatic payments and establish an automatic savings plan, with money taken directly from your paycheck. Stay on track; avoid the temptation of spending before you've taken care of your Op Order.
- Make significant changes to your lifestyle. Run your air conditioner less, walk instead of driving when you're just going around the corner, and eat at home more often. Many of these suggestions will appear in the Strengths section of your Mission Analysis as we saw in Chapter 7. The sooner you implement them, the sooner you will benefit.
- Look for new opportunities to make changes that will help you reach your goal sooner. Possibilities present themselves all the time. For example, I enjoy reading. While overseas, we had moments of downtime and nowhere to go; being goal-oriented, I used the time to achieve the personal goal of reading every John Grisham book in print. Back then, that meant getting through more than a dozen full-length novels. Surprisingly, I finished that goal much sooner than expected, leaving me to find another goal to work toward.
It occurred to me that I could continue reading and work toward a life goal at the same time. I knew I wanted to become a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP), and one of the stepping-stones along the way was to become a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC). I had heard there was a class I could take online, so that became my new goal.
I called home and had my office send me the study materials. In just a few months, at 1:00 AM Baghdad time, I took the test to become a CRPC.
Twenty-One Days to Change
A lot of the problems we experience with self-discipline are essentially a matter of bad habits.
Take a look at your credit report; from the information contained there, you will be able to identify some of your bad financial habits. Bad habits are very difficult to break, but they're not impossible. Just don't expect to change them overnight. As Mark Twain said,
"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."
The positive side of this is that a good habit is just as difficult to change as a bad one. The trick is identifying your bad spending habits and replacing them with good ones. Aristotle said,
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
It is often said that you can change a habit in twenty-one days. That number can vary, depending on how ingrained the habit is and what you replace it with, but in general, it's a good rule of thumb. Pick a bad financial habit and focus on it for twenty-one days. That's just three weeks.
Change one habit at a time.
Don't try to take on more than you can handle and set yourself up to fail. Realistically, one habit will take all of your focus. The habit might be as simple as deciding that you will stop eating out every day. Perhaps you spend too much on credit. Decide that you will not add to your credit card debt for twenty-one days.
Do you go clothes shopping daily? Perhaps you need to curtail that habit. Determine what you spend too much money on and focus on those things, one at a time.
Here are some basic guidelines that will help change your habits:
- Write it down. You are setting a short-term goal in every sense of the word, so treat it the same way you treated the goals in your Op Orders in Chapter 7. Identify the habit you want to change in detail. To help clarify your goals, write down exactly why you want to change that habit. Give yourself the strongest motivation you can.
- Plan a support system. No military operation should ever be executed without utilizing every available resource. Discuss the habit with your Battle Buddy and be certain you will be supported and held accountable.
- If you miss a day or two, don't beat yourself up. Simply start again, right away. Persistence is the key to establishing new habits. Keep at it and you will succeed.
Dealing With Setbacks
No matter how much you plan, there will be things you can't predict ahead of time. When I went to Basic, I believed I would finish without a problem, and continue on to collect my GI benefits and go to college. Once I settled into the routine, I felt fairly comfortable with the whole process. I knew I could handle the training and I managed to stay (mostly) unnoticed by the drill sergeants and didn't get smoked too often.
Sometime in the first month or so, I began to feel pain in my legs. It started as shin splints that got worse every day. Eventually it escalated to the point where I could not walk without pain. I was determined to stick it out. Basic lasts for three months, if you drop out due to an injury, you have to start over from the beginning.
The last thing I wanted to do was repeat my training. I kept my mouth shut and endured the pain, until finally I couldn't take it anymore. We were on a five-mile run and somewhere in the second or third mile, I knew something wasn't right. It was more than shin splints and I had to stop.
Of course, the first sergeant was on me in an instant, screaming every name in the book. I tried to defend myself, "First Sergeant, something ain't right."
"Oh, you're a doctor, now? Now you're telling me how everything is?"
But I couldn't run anymore. I ended up on the back of a five ton truck with everyone else who dropped out — not exactly the place I wanted to be. As soon as we got back, I went to sick call to see a doctor, who diagnosed a stress fracture in my leg. I had been running for weeks on a broken leg. I limped out of there with a full leg cast.
Devastated, I was only five weeks shy of finishing Basic and certainly didn't want to repeat the first seven weeks. I reported to my drill sergeant, who was a little surprised when he noticed my cast; he certainly wouldn't say the words, but I suspected he felt bad for me. After looking at it for a minute, he said, "You know, you could go as far as you can with the cast. That will increase your chances of not having to go back to the beginning."
The remaining five weeks involved many tasks I could do. It would be challenging, but it was worth taking a shot. A lot of the training required firing different weapons in order to qualify for them. I didn't need to run to fire a grenade launcher; I just had to get to the firing range.
I gained a lot of respect from my drill sergeants when they saw me hobble up to the range on two crutches, dragging my cast. Showing up for field maneuvers, lugging an M-16 along with my crutches, I completed every element of the training that my cast allowed, and it worked.
With this new found respect, I got the okay to sit out the beginning of the following training cycle to allow my leg to heal, and was able to pick up where I left off and complete the training. Basic and Advanced Individual Training took six months instead of three, but I made it through and earned a great deal of respect in the process.
Not everything will go as planned, but setbacks are not an excuse to give up on your plans or goals. The setback in Basic Training affected more than just my time there. By the time I finally healed and returned home I had missed the opportunity to enroll in a full load of classes. I managed to take some courses at Santa Monica Community College that summer, and I avoided parking tickets this time!
After that first semester, I moved back to the Midwest and finished my associate's degree at John A. Logan College in Southern Illinois. It took me four years to finish a two-year degree. But I got the degree and I was that much closer to my life goals.
We're giving away 3 free copies of Jeff's new book, Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future.
We'll randomly select 3 lucky winners from the comments on December 9th. To enter drawing simply leave a comment below. (U.S. residents only.)