Michelle is a financial advisor and the founder of MichelleAB, a lifestyle platform that enables change-makers to achieve financial freedom.
How do you make yourself aware of a problem you don’t know you have? This is one of the biggest challenges I run into with my financial advising and coaching clients. These people have no trouble solving problems; problem-solving runs in their blood. But you can’t solve a problem you can’t see.
Let’s start with a bit of background: I work with high performers. I’m talking about executives and business owners with multimillion-dollar salaries. Even though they have reached a level of career, financial and life success that many only dream of, they have blind spots like everyone else. So, our work together begins with exploring the concept of contextual self-control.
What Is Contextual Self-Control?
When I talk about contextual self-control, I mean that while you may be highly successful in certain areas of your life, you may also drop the ball in other areas. At work, you’re a dynamo. You have this ability to stay calm, cool and collected while putting out fires all over the place. Everyone wants to know your secret.
But when you come home and your significant other says, “I want to explore our finances,” you find yourself feeling passive, resistant — maybe even defiant. This is contextual self-control.
Sure, there’s a bit of a personality clash: You like to live in the moment and believe that everything will work out. But your spouse is more of a planner, thinker, worrier. They want to put a plan together and project the numbers into the future to set you up for a beautiful retirement. But when confronted, you find yourself wondering, “Why can’t I get motivated to talk about our finances?”
In these moments, you’re aware that there’s a problem. Your significant other is insistent, or you may have an argument. Unfortunately, after the current storm blows by, you go back to living in the moment and not paying attention to the finances.
What if you could find your blind spots on your own? How much better would things be if you could show up as the same high-performing self in every area of your life?
How To Shrink Your Blind Spots
To shrink your blind spots when you’re driving, you adjust your mirrors. Think about what I’m about to share as a way to adjust your mental mirrors.
Psychologists talk about the six stages of change (i.e., the Transtheoretical Model), but I’m going to focus on the first two. The first stage is precontemplation. At this stage, you may be resistant to change or ignorant of the problem. Continuing with the same example above, if you’re averse to looking at your finances, you are in the precontemplation stage.
The success strategy here is to start analyzing your beliefs and your behavior. In other words, you first need to figure out why you’re averse to discussing your finances with your significant other. There is likely a money story hidden below the surface that explains why exploring your money makes you feel uncomfortable. Take some time (even five minutes a day is a good start) to write down how you’re feeling, and try to get to the root of the struggle.
I encourage you not to ruminate on these stories, however. Too much time spent beating yourself up over your money beliefs is at best unproductive and at worst depressing. But you do want to understand the core of the resistance.
Moving onto the next stage, contemplation, you can begin to identify barriers to change. Consider the repercussions of changing your behavior.
• What would it mean if I were more engaged with money?
• Would I have to compromise?
• Would I need to change my spending habits?
• Would I have to say no more often?
• Who would I be disappointing? Others? Myself?
As you explore the pros and cons of making the change, you will likely feel some of your walls coming down. You will become more aware of your own resistance and learn to catch yourself before you get outwardly defiant with your significant other — at least, this is the goal.
When I do these exercises with my clients, another discovery many of them make is that the negative ramifications they’re imagining are almost never as terrible in reality. In these moments of fear about communicating with their spouse or saying no to a dependent child, I remind them that taking this step won’t feel nearly as bad as running out of money or being financially unprepared in the future.
High performers know how hard it is to be successful. You have found an above-average level of achievement in so many areas of your life through hard work, determination and commitment. Now, it’s time to apply those skills to your blind spots, like facing your money stories.
I see you. This stuff is hard, and no one teaches us how to do it. But shrinking those blind spots is within your reach. It’s a matter of peeling back the stories one layer at a time to see what’s really there. When you do that, you’ll begin to see the problems you didn’t know were there.
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Michelle is a financial advisor and the founder of MichelleAB, a lifestyle platform that enables change-makers to achieve financial freedom. Read Michelle Arpin Begina’s