Looking back on a lifetime of poor financial choices, mentalities, and patterns can be hope-destroying.
Is there a future? Can I change? Do I have it in me?
I like to think so.
My “personal angel investor” (from the previous chapter) and I are designing a contract.
It started because she offered to buy me a gym membership to help me stay active this winter.
It’s a twelve month obligation. She lives in Canada and I am in the US, and the gym requires a US routing number for the monthly payments.
In other words, the only way for this to work is, she gives me all the money up front and I pay the monthly fee from my credit union account.
It would be inefficient for her to transfer me money every month, because of international transfer fees.
So, it works best for her to just give me the money all at once, right now. She is visiting for the holidays, so can use an automatic teller machine with a small one-time fee.
The amount she would need to give me is around 300 dollars.
Which means my job is to keep that money in my account all 2017, using it only for its intended purpose, the monthly gym fee.
You see the problem here, right?
If I had that kind of self-discipline, I would not need to be writing this book…
So at first, I told her no. No way. Would never work. Maybe it would be OK for a month or two.
All it would take is one poor choice on my part, to spoil the whole plan. One compromise. One excuse, to tap into the money for instant gratification and comfort.
I’d tell myself, “Just this once won’t hurt.” Yeah, right.
Decisions rapidly multiply in kind. Momentum is a dominating force, and it does not care if it is used for good or evil.
I know every single one of my own dirty tricks.
Maybe ten years ago, I would have agreed to the offer without delay.
“Yes, yes, I can hold on to that 300 dollars.”
While on the inside going, “Bwahaha, yeah, when monkeys fly out of my butt,” already salivating about the hedonistic binges to come.
Real quick, let’s go back to a question I asked at the start of this chapter.
Can I change?
Well, I have already changed enough to refuse to let myself take advantage of someone, as I may have ten years ago.
If I can change that much, then I can change more.
Let’s see how much I have changed in another ten years…
Anyway. Having access to a warm gym would do me wonders this winter. Winter is hard for me. These past few winters, I have had deep depressions. It’s already been an unusually difficult year, so it is important to me, to take measures to sustain and increase activity through the cold months. I would love to get myself back into shape to run 5ks again. I desperately want to feel comfortable in my own body again.
So, I told my personal angel investor, if there was a way for this to work, we would need a system.
I have tried plenty of systems to herd myself into conformance before, and none of them worked too well.
So there is no guarantee our system would work either. But we brainstormed on what could be most effective.
We decided on a contract. Signed in blood (just kidding… maybe).
Here’s how it works.
Every three months, I will be compellingly rewarded for keeping my end of the deal. For not touching the 300 dollars.
I let her decide the rewards, and then I let her know if they were compelling to me or not.
It’s important for the rewards to be compelling enough for me to keep focused on moving forward during times of temptation.
Did you know that during an addiction-based impulse to consume, that our lower brains literally feel that we will die if we do not get our fix? It’s a survival instinct gone haywire. Our frontal lobes are where logic comes from.
The frontal lobe can list all the reasons to keep that 300 dollars in the checking account. Then the lower brain says, BUT WE ARE GOING TO DIE IF WE DO NOT EAT THAT BACONATOR.
I do not know about you, but my frontal lobe gets tired of dealing with that shit, and goes to sleep.
That is why it can be so complicated, to conform to a logical framework, when the addiction imps are on patrol.
Logic gets trumped by a survival mechanism that I really wish would just hurry up and evolve (come on, reptile brain, get with the times).
But, what if there are rewards on the horizon? Would that help? We’ll see…
After three months, I’ll get a seventy-five dollar Amazon gift card. That’s compelling to me. That excites me. I love buying Kindle books from independent authors, and giving them five-star reviews if they are good. Or buying whatever else on Amazon. Online shopping is fun. It kind of appeals to my lower brain. Maybe I can convince my reptile mind that I’ll die if I don’t get that gift card.
After six months, my angel investor is going all out. Taking me on a trip. To Cedar Point, in Ohio. That would be around June 2017. If you read this before then and like roller coasters, perhaps we can all meet up and celebrate financial liberation together.
Seriously. Contact me if you’re interested. No one else in the world can enrich my life in exactly the same way you can. Meeting you, whoever you are, would be a pleasure. Which provides me with further incentive for the task at hand. In other words, you’d be another of my angel investors, and would not have to invest a dime in me.
We do not have the specifics yet, for the nine and twelve month rewards. There is no need to up the ante after Cedar Point. Going back to seventy-five dollar gift cards would still be compelling. I love me some Amazon.
On the flipside of all this reward business, we have also negotiated a penalty for failure.
Should I tap into the 300 dollars for anything other than the gym payments, I have agreed to do 200 hours of volunteer work.
Which part of me wants to do anyway. The only reason I don’t, is because I am in lazy and awkward patterns lately. It would be good for me to bust out of that.
In other words, no matter the outcome, I will grow as a result of this contract.
Ideally, I will keep my end of the bargain and then do 400 hours of volunteer work anyway. You know, just to show off.
This thrills me, because I think it could actually work. Going an entire year exercising financial self-discipline would be unprecedented for me. I could go into 2018 with an entire new concept in mind for who I am and what I am capable of.
That is a big deal.
In chapter seventeen, I named some factors that played into the most financially disciplined time of my life. Let’s review them here, to see if they fit the current situation.
A powerful shift in perception
By brainstorming and coming up with a system, I shifted from thinking, “no, that will never work…” to “this could actually work!”
A compelling goal
Amazon gift cards. Road trip to an amusement park. Having a gym membership, so I can build physical momentum. The fulfillment from knowing that I am improving, and getting better every day.
Specific, measurable steps
The answer here is a little blurry. The steps I am taking are more like anti-steps. Things not to do. Like spend gym money on non-gym activities.
Well, here’s a step I can check in with myself every day on: no compromise. No, “Well, I can pay back the gym fund later, so it’s OK to tap into it now,” moments. Every day, I can wake up and put, “no compromise” on my to-do list. Then check it off at the end of the day.
Oh, this is the fun part. Right now I am imagining my body in a year, after working out regularly and abstaining from blowing my money on junk food. My long-lost abs. Healthy, vibrant skin and hair. A smile I can’t wipe off my face. I am imagining myself with energy to take on great entrepreneurial, physical, and recreational feats. Me, back in business.
I can visualize the rewards along the way. Going to Cedar Point. Maybe seeing you there. Buying your books with my Amazon gift cards. It’s all so vivid. I could get used to this. I could fantasize about the possibilities every day.
And that’s why this is going to work.
In the past, I have vaguely thought about similar plans to this one, but the resources were not available to make it happen. There was no one there, to provide the rewards and accountability. Or they were there, but we did not invent the framework.
I know, that now I am very lucky.
This is not an opportunity to take for granted. Not everyone has people in their lives, willing or able to do for them what my personal angel investor is doing for me.
That’s why I encourage everyone, to be an angel to someone else. In any way you can. Money is not a prerequisite. Just make the dreams of the people you love a greater priority to you than the superficial nonsense that gunks up our society.
You can do something powerful and moving for someone. Every day. That’s a fact.
Even if you have nothing in a material sense. Your worth is much deeper than that. Your power to transform other people’s lives is in your heart, not your purse.
Just do your part, however you can. If we all do our part, everyone will be covered. Everyone in the world.
I was thinking, if this idea works, it could establish the framework for a non-profit organization. Funded by donations and out-of-pocket. To help adults with self-defeating financial habits and no hope to break the cycle. Form new habits and invent bold, empowered, financially free versions of themselves.
That organization is exactly what I need. But I can’t find it anywhere. So, it’s being born right now, out of necessity. Thanks to the support of someone who believes in me, and who inspires me to believe more in myself.
And again, I know I am fortunate. And that not everyone is given this chance. But if this turns into a non-profit that does for others what is now being done for me, then more people get to be fortunate. See, it’s not really luck. People get lucky when other people play their parts.
This is just an idea I am kicking around. I like to share my ideas, because maybe someone out there reading this is more well-equipped at this time to start an organization like that. Then, it could be in the world sooner than if it has to wait on me.
Then, the world gets better. And that’s what I am all about.
(chapter 27/30 of a book I’m writing called Overcoming Financial Failure: A Peace Treaty with the System. Pre-order the ebook here for any price you want, to be released Jan. 3, 2017. xox)