Saving money and making continual progress toward financial goals seems like it is just plain easy for some people.  Is this is because they have a mind for finances, or they are talented with money? Whatever the reason, it’s clear that some people are much better at meeting financial goals, and sticking to a budget or a savings plan than other people are.  While reading Grit, a book by Angela Duckworth, I started to see some reasons emerge for the varying financial success that different people have. While “Grit” is not a personal finance book, nearly all of the concepts laid out in the book are applicable to the way we handle money.

Grit is the personality trait characterized by perseverance and effort combined with passion when pursuing a high level goal.  It is the ability to stick with something in the face of difficulty and setbacks. Gritty people have the confidence that what they are doing is important, has value, and is worth sticking with.  

Gritty people are the ones who achieve their goals and accomplish great things.  It turns out that grit is more important than inborn talent when it comes to achievement.  So if you want to be able to make great progress in your financial life and meet your money goals, you need to learn a little about grit

GRIT AND PERSONAL FINANCE

The concept of grit immediately made me think of the varying approaches to personal finance that can be seen in different people.  We all know someone who absolutely can never stick to a budget, and can never manage to spend less than they earn. And I’m sure we also all know someone who seems to always be able to easily meet their financial goals. I think the difference between these types of people has a lot to do with grit.

In this article, I’m going to go over four important principles that I took from the book: Perseverance, Pasion, Purpose and Novelty.  I think they all have important applications to personal finance. Hopefully, by giving these ideas some thought, you can start to increase your own grittiness so you can stick with, and achieve your financial goals.

PERSEVERANCE

Anyone working toward any defined financial goal knows how slow and grinding the progress can seem at times.  Making financial progress requires us to make hard decisions both big and small, day after day. It’s the sum of these decisions over the course of years that makes a distant goal turn into a reality.

“Many of us, it seems, quit far too early and far too often.  Even more than the effort a gritty person puts in on a single day, what matters is that they wake up the next day, and the next, ready to get on that treadmill and keep going.”

from Grit by Angela Duckworth

Since pretty much all significant financial goals unfold over a long period of time, the perseverance to keep plugging away at the goal, month after month, and year after year, is the most critical part of actually achieving the goal.  It’s inevitable that there will be setbacks along the way, and progress will be slow, but having the motivation and the willingness to keep at it, makes the goal achievable.

The importance of perseverance is especially important to remember in the early stages of achieving a financial goal.  Whether you are saving up an emergency fund, or starting your journey toward financial independence, the early steps are especially hard and unrewarding.  

It often seems like practically no progress is being made as you save a chunk of money each month and try to just get a little money in the bank.  You feel the pain of not having that money to spend, and your bank account seems to grow at a snail’s pace. But after a while of grinding away at saving, you start to see your money compounding, and the process speeds up and eventually takes on a life of its own.  However, it is the slow, difficult start that really requires the discipline and perseverance.

Perseverance is the most critical component of grit.  Having the willingness to keep going and going, despite frustration and difficulty, is a major predictor of success when it comes to being able to meet a goal.

PASSION

When you have passion, or a compelling interest in a topic or activity, it is so much easier to stick to a plan of action in order to achieve your end goal.  Angela Duckworth identifies passion as a critical element of grit:

“It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special.  In a word, they had grit.”

from Grit by Angela Duckworth

I have found that the best way to develop a passion for finance is to get educated about it.  Personally, my passion for personal finance has been formed by reading books, blogs, listening to podcasts and basically consuming personal finance information in any form I can.  Passion for a field of knowledge is not inborn, it must be developed by discovering the field first, followed by continued education about the topic.

If you want to reach your financial goals, make an effort to develop a passion for learning about personal finance.  The more you learn, the more interesting it becomes, and then a true passion can develop that will help carry you toward your goals.

“passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development”

from Grit by Angela Duckworth

PURPOSE

Feeling that we have a purpose is important in our careers, and life in general.  A feeling of purpose is also critical in keeping us motivated to stay on track so that we can meet financial goals.

Purpose is an integral component of grit and it is what forms the backdrop to all of the actions and decisions that go into meeting a financial goal.  Everyone knows that saving money is a good idea, but just knowing that saving money is good is not motivating enough to make anyone stick to a savings plan over the long term.  There must also be a fundamental sense of purpose served by pursuing the goal. The purpose behind a savings goal might be: “It is right to provide financial security to my family”, or “My savings will eventually be given to charity to help others”.

Whatever your unique purpose is, it is important to have that sense of purpose inside of you.  Otherwise, it will be very hard to stay motivated to plug away at your goal year after year, when it gets difficult, or when you face obstacles in your path.

NOVELTY

It is in our human nature to seek out novelty; to go to the next new and exciting thing.  But reacting to novelty has a negative impact when it comes to achieving long term goals. In order to achieve a goal, we need to stick with it, even when it is boring or frustrating.  If we abandon our path to the goal when something new and more exciting comes along, we will miss out on our progress toward that goal.

“To seek novelty, to be on the lookout for change and variety – it’s a basic drive”

from Grit by Angela Duckworth

Resisting the lure of novelty in the world of finance is especially important, and also especially difficult.   If you follow the financial media, you are certainly aware that someone is always promoting the new hot stock, or a new and exciting investing method that will dramatically increase your returns.  All of these distractions can divert you from the path to your goal. Sticking to a simple and solid financial plan over a long period of time may not be particularly exciting on a day to day basis, but it is the way to make meaningful progress toward a big financial goal.

As you plan your next financial goal, get educated about the best ways to achieve that goal, decide on the method that is best for you, and then stick to it.  Ignore the distractions of novelty along the way. One of the most important aspects of reaching a financial goal is sticking to your original plan without allowing yourself to be moved off course by a newer more exotic strategy.   

CONCLUSION

The most important quality you can have when it comes to achieving a goal, financial or otherwise, is grit. Grit is the ability to persevere through obstacles and difficulty to move steadily toward a high level goal. It is even more important than inborn talent or intelligence!

If you want to achieve your long term financial goals…then you better get gritty.

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