How What You Focus On Can Quietly Kill Your Budget

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There are a lot of circumstances in life that our out of our control. We don’t get to choose what country we’re born in, our nationality, how much money our parents make, and countless other factors that make up where we are today.

One of my favorite parts of personal finance is that it’s one of the rare areas of life where we do have some control. We get to choose how we spend our money. Of course, some portion of our income goes to pay for necessities, but we still get to make choices all throughout those purchases. Some people spend everything they make, while others save some. Some people have a lot of extra money that they get to use in a lot of different ways, while others just have enough to cover the basics.

My overall point is that we need to stop focusing on what we can’t control, at least when it comes to our finances. Hard circumstances are going to happen, but we get to choose how to react to them. A lot of what effects our behavior is tied to our attitude.

For example, stop focusing how much the stock market is going up or down, or on a lot of what you read in the news. While it’s important to be informed citizens, there’s a big difference between being informed, and letting these circumstances rule over your own life.

I, for one, am ultimately much happier if I keep my focus on what I can control. Focus on instilling good habits in your day-to-day life. Focus on eating healthy food and making healthy choices. Focus on cutting out unnecessary spending and paying off your debt. Focus on increasing your savings rate as much as possible. Focus on finding solutions to problems instead of jumping to excuses for why the problems happened.

You can’t control what the number on the scale will say, but you can control what you eat, and how many calories you burn. You can’t control whether the stock market goes up or down, but you can control how often you check your investments, and how you react to it. You can’t control that you need to pay for certain necessities, but you can control how much of your leftover income you put into savings (if you have any leftover income).

You can’t control how intelligent you are, but you can control how much you learn. You can control hoe much effort you put in and how hard you work. You can control whether you take an online class, or pick up a side job if you want to save more, instead of spending all your free hours just watching TV or going out drinking.

For my own situation, I can’t control that my wife and I have thousands of dollars of student loan debt to pay off, but I can control how much of our money we put towards getting them paid off as quickly as possible. I can also control my mindset about having them, and use them as a catalyst to instill positive financial habits that will benefit our future. The better off you become financially, the more options are opened up to you.

I don’t mean for this to sound preachy; a lot of the times these principles are easier said than done. Unfortunately, some people are dealt a more difficult hand than others. The point is for it to be a reminder that there are a lot of situations in life that are out of our control. However, instead of dwelling on these situations, we should turn our focus back onto what we CAN control.

We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control how we react to those circumstances. We can choose to think optimistically even in the midst of the dark times. If the deck seems stacked against you, let that be even more fuel to your fire to prove the doubters wrong. Desire better for yourself, and do whatever it takes to continue to make progress. It may not be easy, but it will be worthwhile, and it will help us live a more joyful life.

Image via Unsplash

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  • nancxpants

    It’s so true. Attitude is everything, and worrying about things you can’t do anything about just wastes energy that could be put towards the things you can fix.

  • Diana

    But social change stems from recognizing structural unfairness and mobilizing. If everyone threw up their hands into a prayer pose and ignored systematic failures, we’d still have state sanctioned slavery and even “white collar” workers would be working 60 plus hour weeks.

    I’m all about the personal is political and striving for health and balance in life, but it’s far too easy/lazy/unaware to suggest that happy thoughts will address worldwide injustice and environmental destruction.

  • Caila Henderson

    I always thoroughly enjoy and benefit from your articles, Matt Spillar!