Have you tried to manifest a windfall of cash without success? It’s easy to glamorize dramatic change like winning the lottery, but the truth is that change that really sticks begins in your mind and is realized through step-by-step action over time. In this article, we’ll explore why that is and three simple steps you can take to increase your income with greater ease and much less struggle.
Even changes that seem like big leaps are made possible by a series of preparatory steps. The reasons for this are two strong tendencies etched into the survival mechanisms of our brains. Knowing these tendencies can help you make financial changes that work and really “stick.”
First, our bodies and brains are programmed for the “status quo.” We are conditioned to return to a familiar reference point, especially if that reference point satisfies an emotional need such as feeling safe. Unless something dramatic happens to push us to a new place, we’ll tend to fluctuate around a comfort zone. For example, we’ll stay in a familiar body-weight range, maintain the same relationships, keep the same type of jobs, and maintain a certain level of wealth. Our present reference point has a strong anchoring effect.
Second, from this reference point, we have a strong “aversion to loss” and a weaker attraction to gain. For example, when negotiating a contract, receiving “anything less than where we are at” is tremendously undesirable. We will fight tooth and nail not to lose something that we already have. On the other hand, we have much less energy to gain something we don’t already have. This tendency to “avoid loss at all costs” keeps things heavily weighted toward the status quo. Your present reference point, even if it isn’t all that desirable, is a known, you consider it “yours,” and you’re unlikely to give it up without having a very powerful reason.
So how does knowing “the heavy weight of the status quo” and your “strong aversion to loss” help you increase your income? Well, it may help you realize what it really takes to change your financial status. Here are three things you can do right now to work with those conservative tendencies and make the financial changes you desire.
1. Establish a New Wealth Reference Point. If you want to improve your finances, get real clear on exactly what that means to you. Get a clear vision of where you’d like to be.
For example, what would you like to be doing, where would you like to live, what would you like to enjoy, and who would you like to share that with? Imagine your vision in full sensory detail, including the significant feelings and sensations of doing what you’d love to be doing, the specific positive qualities of the environment you are working and living in, and what it feels like to share this with specific people. Get a vivid image of the most meaningful details in your mind and imagine what it feels like to step into that scene and live it.
Spend a little time imagining and stepping into your vision every day. In this way, you establish a New Wealth Reference Point for yourself and practice what’s it’s like to live there. This primes your mind and body to have those experiences in real life and helps you make good decisions to get you there.
2. Once you have a New Wealth Reference Point, imagine the steps that take you there. It’s effective to do this in reverse order. Begin with your vision of where you’d like to be and then ask yourself, “What was the step that I took just before that moment?” Write that down.
Continue to imagine the steps in reverse order until you arrive at the present moment, where you are now. The present step you imagine needs to be something you can do today that feels very doable right now. When you take that action today, it will set you on your way.
Write all these steps down and then play them forward. If any of them seem too big or challenging, break them down into smaller steps. Now you have an Action Plan of small, doable steps, beginning today, to get you where you want to go.
Remember if you take huge leaps, you are likely to rebound if you don’t get the results you desire right away. If you have even a small setback, loss aversion will likely pull you all the way back to where you started. When you take small incremental steps, you generate “small wins” which positively reinforce what you are doing and slowly familiarize you with living toward your New Wealth Reference Point.
3. Have a Back-up Plan for facing specific potential setbacks. Understand that your Action Plan is just a starting point to get you going. Life is not going to work out exactly as you imagined. You will face challenges, so mentally prepare for them ahead of time. Then, when those challenges arise, you’ll be ready for them. The inevitable bumps in the road are then less likely to knock you back to ground zero—your previous financial reference point or worse.
You can prepare your Back-up Plan in advance, by imagining potential pitfalls and set-backs. For example, if you plan to lease a new space to open a new business and find that it takes longer than you thought to find the right one—have a plan for what you will do in the mean-time to move your business forward. Could you begin to work from home, or meet people at their location, or.. .? Have a Back-up Plan, so you can keep moving forward when any one of your planned action steps doesn’t work out exactly as you imagined.
To encourage you in the face of setbacks, I’ve found that when one of my planned action steps doesn’t work out as I imagined it would, Life is showing me a better way. Stay open to learning better ways to do any of your planned actions.
So, to summarize, be aware of the tendency to “maintain the status quo” and “avoid losses,” and act against these by taking three steps:
1. Set a new Wealth Reference Point, a new vision for your life, and imagine yourself there.
2. Establish an Action Plan of small, doable, steps to get you there.
3. Imagine potential setbacks and have a Back-up Plan for what to do in case those happen.
With these three strategies in place, you’ll be on your way to increasing your income with greater ease and much less struggle.