I just got back from a very restful vacation to Disney World with my family. It was great to see my wife and kids the whole day. My mom even came with us this time, which was enjoyable.
But Disney World is a double-edged sword these days for me.
Note: I promise there is a point to what follows so stick with me. 🙂
I love the food, atmosphere, rides, and everything else, but the customer experience has been lacking the past few years in Disney World.
They’ve changed the way things work with lines to where it has actually created more and longer wait times. They’ve added a Fastpass line queue to rides that didn’t need them and would be better without them.
Overcrowdedness (is that a word?) in the Disney parks is at an all time high, and it’s frustrating for a longtime hardcore fan to see.
Disney hyper-controls the crowd levels, either in perceived or real ways, to give perceived value to a Fastpass system that was implemented poorly and to keep people in their Disney Parks stores.
Why? The bottom line.
See, I am passionate about pleasing customers (the customer experience) and Disney is passionate about pleasing investors—sometimes at the expense of its customers.
As I kept thinking about this on my trip, I kept thinking (selfishly) about ways that Disney could change things to make my vacations better.
Then, I clearly heard a phrase in my head that immediately shifted my thinking.
“Change What Matters”
Yep. Change what matters.
For me, I’m trying to influence your financial future with my experiences and advice—and by teaching you how to be you with your money.
That’s what matters; helping you get a better hold of your finances your way so you can live your life to the fullest.
This is where my energy should be focused. This is what will be insanely valuable for others and not just for me.
Helping you is way more important than trying to figure out how to influence Disney to change things so I can have a better vacation.
If I’m able to help people change their financial present and future for the better, then that is more meaningful to me than even a thousand Disney trips.
So What’s Next?
Now, this has me thinking. What happens when we apply this to other areas of life?
What happens when we decide to make meaningful changes to our money, mindsets, business, habits, or even our diets?
Despite our best efforts, we easily become distracted from changes we need to make.
For healthy lifestyles, it’s very easy to get distracted by an impromptu work party filled with sugar-filled delights to reignite your sugar addiction.
In budgeting, we can get distracted if something goes wrong or we mess up. It’s very easy to tell yourself, “Ah, there’s no point.” when things like that happen.
When changing our mindsets, errant thoughts about ourselves or our situation can creep in and totally derail our progress if we let it.
So what’s the key?
Again, it’s the same phrase I heard in my head in Disney World.
Change what matters.
There are two ways (yep, that’s it) to help you figure out what changes will matter in your own life.
1. Look Ahead
The first part of learning how to make meaningful changes in your own life is all about looking ahead.
What goals do you have for the future? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
How much do you want to have saved for retirement and by what age?
How much weight do you want to lose and by weight date?
Where do you want your revenue for your business to be at in 3 years? When do you want to complete your MBA or other postgraduate degree?
All of these are goals that you set for the future and they are an essential part in knowing what to change now so you can get there.
So what are some things that can help you know what to change now while looking ahead?
Keep Your Goals in Mind
Staying focused on your goals can provide clarity for next steps and allow you to make course corrections when you veer off.
I’ve used the example before of a lesson I learned when learning how to drive. It’s a lot easier to keep your tires in between the lines of the road if you’re you look farther down the road straight ahead.
The same applies to lawn mowing. If you keep your eyes fixed on a single point ahead, you’ll find that your lawn lines from the mower are nice and straight.
Keep your eyes set on your goal by reviewing them often, and you’ll find that you’ll be able to figure out what changes matter in your own life.
Take Small Steps Toward Your Goal
At the same time, only focusing on your goals can be stressful because you may want to get there faster than you can or even should.
The journey that’s ahead of you should not be ignored when focusing on your goals.
If you’ve ever driven anywhere, you more than likely know what it’s like to be caught in traffic. Sometimes there is no worse feeling than being stopped on the highway.
What I like to do in those situations at times is to get off the highway and take the side streets to my destination.
To me, it just feels good to keep moving whether or not I actually get to my destination faster or slower than I would have by staying on the highway in the traffic.
This is the same for small changes in your life rather than big sweeping changes all at once.
By taking small steps toward your goal, you are continuously moving forward. You don’t have to worry about getting burnt out.
On days that you are unmotivated, you can take comfort in knowing that you still only have to take that one step to keep moving toward your goal.
As you continue to move forward and look ahead, don’t get discouraged by how long it takes. You are making the same amount of progress as someone who might get burnt out by going all out.
2. Look Behind
In a scene in the Hobbit, Gandalf storms off after being unable to convince Thorin to bring his map of Erebor to the elves for help.
Then, Gandalf comes back and helps save the Dwarves from the trolls. This exchange then happens between Gandalf and Thorin.
Thorin: “Where did you go to, if I may ask?”
Gandalf: “To look ahead.”
Thorin: “What brought you back?”
Gandalf: “Looking behind.”
Changing what matters doesn’t involve just looking ahead, but it also means looking behind.
Here are a couple of ways you can “look behind” to help you change what matters.
Remember WHY You Wanted to Change
At some point in time, something happened and gave you a reason for wanting to alter something your life.
You may have had a family member die or get cancer. It may have been a bad boss finally making you realize that you would love to be your own boss.
It could be as simple as needing to change your diet because your cholesterol is getting too high.
Regardless of the reason, remember the why behind your reason to change.
For me, starting a business is a goal of mine and has a couple of why’s.
First, I want to help change peoples lives by helping them find a better way to budget and run their money.
Second, while running a business may take a lot of time, it will ultimately allow me to have the flexibility to spend more time with my family.
What are your why’s for wanting to change?
Reflect back on why you want to make the change in your life and it will help you gain clarity for changing what matters.
Look behind you, remember why you wanted to change, and then use that to determine if what you’re currently doing is getting you closer to your future goals.
Remembering your “Why” is a great way to course correct and make meaningful changes in your life.
Learn from What Hasn’t Worked
The other great thing about “looking behind” is that it allows you to learn from past mistakes.
Now, in no way do I think you need to dwell on the past and focus on your mistakes. However, it is important to know what has worked in the past—and what hasn’t.
If you’re trying to change your spending habits with little luck, you may need to change up your budgeting method.
Let’s look at an example of exercise. One of the best times to exercise is in the morning.
If you have a goal of getting healthy and waking up early isn’t working out for you, you may just have to change your workout time to line it up with what works best for you.
The point is to do something different than you have been doing to meet your goals. Sometimes that’s looking at what isn’t working now, and sometimes that means looking at what hasn’t worked for many years.
Poet and philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
While this is taking it to the extreme level—and sometimes not true—it can be a good reminder that we need to remember the past and learn from it.
Look at How Far You’ve Come
Looking behind also gives you a piece of motivation as well—by looking at how far you’ve come.
If you’re always looking ahead, you may get into the weeds and not remember how far you’ve been able to come already.
As you continue striving forward with bettering yourself, absolutely DO NOT forget the progress you’ve made.
It will motivate you to keep going even if your goal seems far off. It will also help get rid of any discouragement you have, especially if it’s taking longer than expected to get to your goal.
Look behind you and see the progress you’ve made and then turn back around and go get your future.
Change What Matters in Your Own Life
As I’ve always said with personal finance, your budget and the way you run your money is going to be different from everyone else’s. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
That means it’s very important to change what matters in your own life, even if it means trying out something different than what you were taught.
Look at your goals, look at your finances, and look at your life to determine what areas you personally need to change to get where you’re going.
And remember to always look ahead, but don’t forget what looking behind can teach you as well.
Use both of these methods to change what matters in your own life.