“Everything you’ve ever wanted is one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Unknown
My friend Joanne often reminds me that “there’s no growth in a comfort zone and no comfort in a growth zone,” which means that if I want to achieve my biggest goals, I should get used to being uncomfortable. It’s a philosophy that I’ve tried really hard to embrace over the past few years in many areas of my life, including finances.
One thing I’ve discovered is that a comfort zone is a lot like a balloon; the further you push its limits, the more it expands. I’m sure at some point there will be an explosion when the “balloon” bursts, but I’m also pretty confident that when that explosion happens, I’ll just find myself pushing the limits in an even bigger zone! That might sound delusional, but you only have to look at super successful people to see that they’re constantly surpassing what they thought was possible and going on to even bigger (and scarier) things.
Push Your Financial Boundaries
This idea of pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone is very important when it comes to managing money, getting out of debt and building financial security. This is because all too often, the reason that we don’t make changes is not because we don’t know that we should, but because we’d rather stay “comfortably uncomfortable” in our present circumstances. We don’t want to take the risk of getting really uncomfortable by trying something new. The reality though, is that if we don’t like where we are, the only person that can change that is us. It’s all very well to blame our past, our present or the randomness of life for our current situation, but all that does is hand the power to change things over to some external force that, quite frankly, isn’t very motivated to do anything for us. It might sound harsh but, as someone who spent a long time kidding herself that she was too young, too broke, too unlucky, too unqualified to make a change, I can tell you that it’s all nonsense. No matter where you are, you have the ability to make it better, you just have to choose to do it and follow that choice through, no matter what. It’s truly amazing how life turns around when you decide to start moving.
Adjust your Financial Comfort Zone
One key factor in eliminating debt and building financial security is adjusting your financial comfort zone – something that author, T. Harv Eker refers to as your “money thermostat”. Eker presents the concept of the money thermostat in his book, “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” which I’ve talked about in my last couple of blog posts. It’s a concept that makes a lot of sense to me and one that’s been very useful throughout my own money journey.
In a nutshell, the theory suggests that each of us has a certain amount of money that we feel comfortable with; a certain amount that we like to have in our bank accounts and a certain amount that feels “appropriate” for us to have in assets. When our bank balance falls below our comfort zone, we’ll rein in our spending and do what we can to get it back up to a comfortable level. When our bank balance gets above our comfort zone, subconsciously we’ll start to look for ways to spend ourselves back down to our comfort zone.
This money thermostat is the reason why most lottery winners have spent all their winnings within two years of winning the lottery; and why, if you’re comfortable being $3000 in overdraft when you’re $1000 overdrawn, you feel like you have money to spend. If we’re going to make a serious change to our financial situation by getting out of debt and building savings, we have to get comfortable with the idea of having money in our account and leaving it there! It might sound silly, but I can tell you first hand that if you’re used to seeing maxed out credit card balances and credit lines that are always pushing the edge of their limit, it can be really hard to adjust to not carrying a balance or having money in your account that doesn’t need to be spent on something.
Your Money Thermostat Changes The Way You See Yourself
Our money thermostat is also connected to our perception of our self. If you’re used to seeing yourself as a poor money manager or someone who struggles with debt, it can be hard to adjust to seeing yourself as the kind of person who has no debt, $5000 in their savings account and $100,000 in RRSPs. We have a perception of what “those kind of people” look like; the jobs they have, the homes they live in and the personalities they have. If that perception doesn’t match with our perception of our self, it makes sense that we might have a hard time getting ourselves to that point because we don’t want to turn into “those people”.
How To Reset Your Thermostat
Adjusting your money thermostat takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t need to be hard. Start by putting all of your limiting beliefs aside and think seriously about where you would like to be financially. Then think about where it’s realistic for you to be six months from now, a year from now, three years from now. Think about how it would feel to be in that situation and get comfortable with the idea that you are the kind of person who can be in that situation. It doesn’t matter whether your friends or family are in that situation. All that matters is that you get comfortable with the idea that being in that situation is better for you than staying where you are now.
As your situation improves, be aware of the fact that your subconscious will try to bring you back into your old comfort zone so you need to focus on being comfortable with where you are. Over time, it gets easier – there’s something about getting out from under a pile of debt that makes life less stressful and realizing that you can build savings is a good incentive to keep doing so!
This week, why not think about where your money thermostat is set and how it might be holding you back from getting to where you want to be financially. You might be surprised at how expanding your comfort zone can help you move forward.
Read Sarah’s other psychology of money posts: