Learning to Ride the Wave / by Jennifer Chan

 

It’s taken me a long time to discover that the path to our goals is not linear.

Let’s use my spending habits as an example.

In September, I was extremely disciplined with my money. At least two times a week, I brought coffee I made at home in a thermos to work. I successfully resisted the urge to buy take-out, and only splurged on eating out when I was with my girlfriend. I even carried a surplus of money at the end of the month. I also contributed $1,500 towards my student loans.

I was the complete opposite the next month. I didn’t bring coffee in a thermos at all to work, and purchased an americano from a coffee shop before stepping into the office. I succumbed to laziness three or four times and ordered take-out through UberEats (which also meant an additional delivery fee). I also splurged on my girlfriend and I’s anniversary, as well as saved $350 for my rabbit’s upcoming surgery. I only contributed $1,000 towards my student loans.

We can focus on our failures or applaud our successes. I could kick myself that I came up $500 short on my debt repayment in October OR I could pat myself on the back for paying off $15,000+ since the beginning of the year. Which narrative do you think is better for my motivation and my mental health?

We are our harshest critic and that's not always a good thing.

By scrutinizing every temporary dip or peak, we forget about focusing on the actual goal -- paying off those student loans. The only thing that really matters is looking at your general progress. What is your financial situation now in comparison to the beginning of the year? Does the timeline that you established in order to meet your goal need to be adjusted? 

The path will never be consistent or straightforward. It will involve lots of twists, turns and windy roads. Instead of beating yourself up about how you should've paced yourself when taking this turn or how you should've slowed down when approaching that bend -- take a step back and congratulate yourself on how far you've come. 

Once you shift your perspective, you will undoubtedly remain focused, be kinder to yourself, and gain more confidence in your abilities. Appreciate the cycle. Ride the wave.