A few weeks ago, at the gym, I noticed a guy lying at a 30-degree angle, with his head at the bottom and his feet at the top, on a decline bench. I asked my trainer why anyone would want to work out upside-down. I’d used the flat bench and the incline bench, but my trainer had never introduced me to the world of having blood rush to my head while pumping an iron bar.
He said there were some clear benefits—the decline bench reduces back and shoulder stress while bulking up your pecs—and asked if I wanted to incorporate it into my training regimen. He explained the benefits to various muscle groups and where I should focus my attention. Sure, why not…
I looped my feet through the pads and lay backward. My trainer explained that if I brought the bar straight down, as you do on a flat bench press, I’d hit myself in the face with 100 pounds of iron. I pushed the bar up, and he told me to lower it very slowly down toward my chest.
I was to be aware of the contraction of my shoulder blades and the feeling in my arms, shoulders and chest as I brought it down.
“Micro-movements, micro-movements, focus on the steps, let your mind tell your body the right message” he kept saying. I moved the bar down so slowly I thought it might never end. Finally, as I brought the bar to my chest he shouted, “Now, explode up!”
The experience got me thinking about the state of mind I call money mindset.
You grow up with certain ideas about money. If your parents spent freely and got themselves into serious debt, that’s often what you end up doing as an adult because that’s the behavior pattern you’ve learned.
If, on the other hand, your parents bought everything, at the discount store, even the detergent and dogfood, and invested every dime they could, you might be doing the same thing, but are you missing out on using your earnings for some rewarding life experiences?
Naturally, between these two extremes are a nearly infinite number of money messages that may or may not be serving you well. But changing your perspective is not unlike pumping iron on the decline bench. You’re working from a position that’s a direct reversal from where you’ve been all your life, and you have to make micro movements so that you don’t hit yourself in the face.
Well, you need a new set of “‘exercises” to work a new set of “muscles.” Here are seven key micro movements that will prime you for a new money mindset:
1. Begin with your mindset. Your mindset, how you approach change, is vitally important in making changes in your life. You can resist it, but follow that thread to its logical conclusion. What has made you want to alter your money mindset?
It could be a change in your financial status, whether an upward or downward one. It could be because you and your spouse disagree about how to handle money and you’ve got to find some common ground if you’re going to save your marriage.
Think about this realistically and talk it over with a financial advisor—and a therapist if you think that will help. How is your money mindset getting in the way of your happiness or success?
2. Understand your financial resources. Knowing your financial resources is a must. You need to know what you have in savings, investments, property, retirement plans, social security. You also need to understand your liabilities (mortgage, credit card or other debt, leases and other expenses that come up every month).
You need to understand what insurance you carry, and why (is it still necessary?) and your exposure or risk. In other words, what’s coming in—and where it’s coming from—and what’s going out. Unless you’re flying solo, you also must include the needs of those who are stakeholders in your life—your spouse or partner and other family members who depend on you.
3. Consider your needs for today and the future. What’s important in your life now and in the future? For example, if you’re a young parent, you might be thinking about child-rearing costs and college funding. If you’re nearing the end of your work life, what will your next stage look like and what challenges might lie ahead? Values change as you age and discover what means most to you.
4. Get an objective view of the situation. This is also where a financial advisor comes in, so hire an expert if you don’t already have one. What’s the value of objective advice? Let me put it this way: your broker wants to sell you investments, your insurance agent is going to tell you all the features and benefits of the policy she sells.
If the advice you’re getting has a product at the end of it, how can it be objective? Be really careful about where you’re getting advice and counsel. Oh, and be aware, professional credentials don’t mean much if there’s a product sale attached.
5. Assess what needs to be changed and get buy-in from your stakeholders. After you’ve done your exploration, you might find that changes need to be made. Make sure your partner and family agree. Otherwise you might find that you’re working at cross purposes, which will increase the likelihood of failure.
6. Create a workable, repeatable process for your financial transactions. Create a process for receiving your necessary cash flow, for paying your bills and for assessing your progress.
Make sure the process isn’t dependent on only one person. As we age, memory, capability and competency change, and even when you’re young you want to ensure that someone can keep your bills paid on time just in case you’re ever incapacitated. Two heads are better than one.
7. Initiate changes one step at a time. Initiate changes slowly, carefully and in a measured way. Trying to make too many changes at one time is likely to create confusion and problems. Test effectiveness and assess results. Ask for help if you need it.
I should tell you that the day after my first decline bench press experience, my arms, chest, shoulders and back got their revenge. Aside from being sore, though, it felt good to have exercised a whole new set of muscles. I’m still working on it, and each turn feels a little more comfortable.
Similarly, financial micro movements will bring on some pain at first, but keep practicing and repeating the exercises until you establish competence. Then you can explode forward into a new financial life, filled with wonderful possibilities of growth, exploration and fulfillment.