Confession: I hit a plateau recently in both physical fitness and personal finance goals. My carefully planned journey to achieve better financial and physical fitness didn’t quite succeed.
Toward the end of last year, I made it a goal to start becoming healthier. I started kickboxing, doing strength training, and eating better. I've lost about 20 pounds so far, but it's been a slow process. In April, I realized that I didn't lose any weight at all. I felt pretty bummed. I kept trying to reset things and keep a positive mindset, but it stung a little to realize that I had just stopped making progress.
Even before that – toward the end of 2014 – I decided to improve the way I managed my money so that I could have a better quality of life. I wanted to pay off $30,000 of debt, stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, and regain control of my money.
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I started trying to turn things around by creating a budget, making extra debt payments, and establishing an emergency fund. Things went fine at first – I was even able to pay off my $9,700 car loan within a year.
I even had plans to knock out my remaining student loan debt balance the following year. But things didn’t work out that way. I also had issues with impulse spending and not monitoring my budget.
Working on both health and personal finance goals has been exhausting.
After all, they both require a ton of motivation and dedication. But when you hit a plateau, you still have quite a few options to help you get back on track.
1. Fix the Error of Your Ways
Identify anything you may be doing that could be deterring your progress. Most people start out with tons of motivation and discipline, but after a while, that wears off. Before you know it, you may find yourself cheating and veering off track. Try practicing delayed gratification. That will change your thinking and make it easier to stay disciplined and focused.
2. Switch Things Up
There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken, but routines don't necessarily work well for everybody. With health and fitness, your body can adapt to your diet and exercise routine, which in turn could stall your results. Something similar could happen with personal finance.
You might get used to doing something that no longer actually helps you fix your finances.
I experienced this when I decided to adopt a frugal lifestyle. I loved being able to lower my expenses, but once I got everything as low as it could possibly be, I had to switch it up and focus on earning more money, as well. Now I do a combination of keeping my spending low and seeking out ways to earn more money so that I can continue to pay off my debt. It’s important to be able to regularly adjust your routine to adapt to your changing needs.
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3. Set Small and Exciting Goals
Don’t get crushed under the big picture – take the time to set small goals that get you excited. For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds in one year, set a smaller goal to lose four to five pounds per week. Or maybe even eliminate the need to track your weight and just set a goal to look and feel healthier.
Why do this? It boosts your motivation. That way, when it’s time to reset and get back to work, you can break out of that plateau. Sometimes, you may even realize that you'd never really plateaued in the first place.
For me, some of my smaller, more manageable goals include doing more push-ups on my toes and mastering certain exercises that were difficult for me in the past. Meeting those goals is exciting because accomplishing them means that I’m getting stronger and still making progress, regardless of what the scale says about my weight.
Plateaus in both fitness and personal finance goals happen all the time. Yes, they can be discouraging, but you’re not alone. They’re among the less glamorous parts of the process, but always remember that you have options to help you bounce back.