Pain is a Great Motivator — Or Is It?
Those of you who wear contacts will be familiar with what happened to me recently.
I put one of my contacts in like normal, and it HURT! It turns out that it had a speck of dust on it. (If you don’t wear contacts, you’ll just have to trust me; that piece of dust felt like a burning boulder in my eye.)
So of course I did everything I possibly could, as fast as I possibly could, to eliminate that pain.
“Wow,” I thought. “Pain is a great motivator.”
But then I got to thinking about it a little more. Pain is only a great motivator if it’s a sharp and immediate pain — like having a burning boulder in your eye. In personal finance, that might equate to getting a pack of overdraft notices from your bank on the day that your rent is due.
You’ll suddenly be extremely motivated to figure out why your account is overdrawn, or at the very least to add as much money as possible to your account as quickly as possible.
But what happens once the immediate (and painful) crisis is past?
Probably not much, after you get done kicking yourself.
This is because making a real, long-term change in how you handle your finances can be painful. It takes time and effort, and maybe making some changes that hurt.
And what do we want to avoid?
But the costs of not living a healthy financial life are much more painful long-term than the short-term pain we hope to avoid. The pain just isn’t as immediate. It doesn’t do you much good to look back at your youth from your 80s, wishing you could go back in time and give yourself a swift kick.
Maybe knowing a little bit about how we are motivated on an internal (and often unconscious level) can help us change and improve our finances along the way, both despite and because of a few pains.