The four keys to accepting personal responsibility for your finances.
It’s my fault, and no one else’s. All of it.
I own the good, the bad, and the ugly. The choices, the thinking, the money. My past, present and future. I own all of it.
And so should you.
Accepting personal responsibility for your finances is the only way to reach your full potential. Taking responsibility for yourself requires discipline. Living a disciplined life will is hard at first, but leads to greater freedom. Greater freedom leads to a happier and more contented life. Therefore, the more personal responsibility you accept, the more content you’ll be.
What is personal responsibility? It’s ownership of what you have control over. The Stoics talk about how little control we have over what happens to us, but full control over how we respond. Therefore, the more we can control our controllables, the more personal responsibility we accept.
My goal is to help you accept personal responsibility for your finances, though the four keys I’m going to talk about are universal to unlocking responsibility in all areas of your life. For over 20 years, I’ve been helping people own their financial lives. I’m honored to be named to Investopedia’s list of the top 100 financial advisors many years running.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Accepting personal responsibility for your values, goals, and priorities
- Accepting personal responsibility for your thinking, feeling, and behavior
- Accepting personal responsibility for your potential
- Accepting personal responsibility for your future
Let’s get started.
Accepting personal responsibility for your values, goals, and priorities
We were all raised with certain values. Many of us grew up in a religious tradition which informed our values, others learned theirs from other communities. Many of us continue on through life never questioning or considering the values that were instilled during their formative years. Have you ever thought about and written your values?
I’m not passing judgment on your current system of values, I do not know what they are. What’s important is that you pass judgment on yours, and get clear on what they are. The only way to accept personal responsibility for your values is to own them. If you’d like to dig deeper into yours, you can access our Values course for free.
I believe most of us intellectually understand the importance of having goals. And I also know too few of us have actually thought about and written them. To own your future, you need to own your goals. One of our superpowers is the ability to create the future we desire. Goal setting is the process through which we do that. I invite you to take our Goals course, it’s also free.
Your values and your goals help to inform your priorities. Your priorities help you decide what you’ll pursue and what you’ll forego. They inform how you allocate your most important resources of time, attention and money. Without owning your priorities, how will you make consistently quality decisions? Without consistently quality decisions, how will you achieve your full potential? I’m not confident you will.
Once you’ve examined and taken ownership of your values, set your goals, and gotten clear in your priorities, you’re positioned to move on to accepting ownership of what you do.
Accepting personal responsibility for your thinking, feeling, and behavior
Your thinking, feeling, and behaviors are what you do. Do you own them?
Our brains are constantly working. We’ve got our conscious and subconscious minds that are always working to help us get what we want. Is the work they’re doing getting you where you want to go? When we think negative thoughts, our brains believe negativity is what we desire, so it works to get us more. When we think positive thoughts, our brains work to bring us more good things. Taking ownership of your thinking means paying attention to our thoughts. When we find ourselves focused on the negative, we shift our thinking to the positive.
The same is true of our feelings. How you think, feel, and look at your circumstances makes all the difference. If you feel you’ve got a crappy job, you’re going to have a crappy job. If you feel fortunate to be doing the work you’re doing, and that you’re making an impact, that’s how you’ll feel. I mentioned how goal setting was a superpower earlier; so is our ability to determine how we feel about our circumstances. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel about this?” And then start to feel that way. It’s that simple.
Your thinking and feeling influence your behaviors. If you think you’re bad with money, and don’t feel like spending time on it, your finances will suffer. Instead, shift your thinking and reframe how you feel about money. Tell yourself, “I’m good with money, and I enjoy reviewing my finances once a month.” Is that a little corny? Sure. But it will work if you do it.
You have control over how you think, feel, and behave. Taking personal responsibility means taking ownership of them.
Accepting personal responsibility for your potential
In the parable of the talents, Jesus talks about the necessity of putting your God-given talents to work. Are you doing that? Have you ever thought about and asked yourself that? Do it now. Ask yourself, “Am I maximizing my potential? Or am I squandering it?”
Potential is an interesting thing. Having potential means you’re capable. Unrealized potential is one of the worst things in the world. If you’re someone with unrealized potential, that means you’re wasting your gifts.
For too many people, potential is like a pyramid:
When they’re young, they’re at the bottom of the pyramid and they’ve got a ton of potential. The problem is, as they get older, their potential gets smaller and smaller every year. The decreased potential is caused by a failure to own values, goals, priorities, thinking, feeling, and behaviors. People get into debt, get stuck in dead-end jobs, and don’t pursue lives of significance. When they hit their 60s, their potential is almost zero.
Then there’s this kind of potential:
Start limited, end limited. This is the worst-case scenario. Perhaps you know someone who peaked in high school; we all do.
Here’s where we want to be:
When you’re young, your knowledge and wisdom are limited. As you move along through life, you learn, get better, and improve. With each passing year, your potential expands. Truly, there’s no limit on what you can accomplish if you think about your life in this way.
Which shape are you?
In terms of your personal finances, are you earning as much as you can? Saving and investing as much as you can? Are you giving as much as you can? Are you working to expand and realize your potential?
I’m really fond of saying, “Do your part by doing your best.” After all, we need you to.
Accepting personal responsibility for your future
There will never be anyone more interested in your financial success than you are. No one. Nor should there be. You are responsible for it, and you can become financially successful. It’s essential you believe your future will be better than your past. If you believe that, you’ve got a good chance of making it happen. If you don’t, you’re in trouble.
Personal agency is one of the most important things we have as human beings. The definition is “A belief that I am the one who is causing or generating an action.” It’s accepting personal responsibility. But far too many people give this away.
Life is easy when we live in the present. It’s hard when we live in the past. Every one of us has made mistakes, poor decisions, and have been ashamed of things we’ve done. But there’s no future in living in the past. It’s imperative we stop litigating the past. We need to own the past and move forward.
We need to stop arguing for our limitations. Stop justifying current situations by blaming something that happened in the past. If you’ve paid your debts, stop apologizing and move forward.
This goes for the good stuff as well. Don’t rest on past accomplishments. Celebrate and keep moving.
You have choice. Choose to look only through the windshield and ignore the rear-view mirror.
To own your future, take a hard look at your current reality. How happy are you? What are you tolerating that’s not serving you? Here’s a harsh truth; you get what you tolerate. Whatever’s going on in your life that you’re unhappy with, it’s your fault. You’re allowing it to affect you.
To move forward, you need to identify whatever’s keeping you from the life you want and make the changes.
Are you burdened by debt? Is your work not meaningful? Are you guilty of trying to keep up with the Jones’? Whatever is keeping you stuck, address it and move forward to the future you truly desire.
One of my favorite words is arete. It’s an ancient Greek word with no literal English translation. The closest is “virtue” and its meaning is, “What I can be, I must be.”
With great responsibility comes great power. Accepting personal responsibility for your finances will position you for long-term financial success. Embracing the reality that no one is coming to save you, and that if you’re to be successful, it will be because you made it happen, is the only way forward.
Accept the responsibility.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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