Every coaching relationship with me starts the same way: the client completes a fairly lengthy questionnaire and provides financial documentation. From the latter, I am able to glean the story of their finances as “told” by the numbers. From the former, I get to discover the story the client is telling themselves (and me) about those numbers.

Each story is different. Each story is fascinating. Each story reflects behavior and choices. Each story reflects beliefs – some that are true and some that are not; some that are subconscious and some that are not.

What is true for the coaching clients with whom I’ve worked is true for you, as well: There’s the story your numbers tell, and the one you tell yourself about those numbers. And because you’re human, a conflict (even if slight) exists between those two stories.

But the conflict between the story told by the numbers versus the one told by you is what makes your money story a good and interesting one!

Besides, conflicts, particularly of a persistent nature, expose patterns.

I like interrupting patterns.

Especially when I wholeheartedly believe some of those patterns are the cause of you getting in your own way. Blocking you from being able to experience a better way – one that will bring about the results you really, truly want. One that will help you get more from your money and for your life. With greater ease, to boot.

Hence the reason my latest bandwagon has been about changing when and how you do a year-end financial performance review. As discussed here and here, I’ve talked about the role of doing your review now vs. in December and your approach.

Interrupting the Pattern of Self-Sabotage

Today, let’s talk about the role of self-sabotage.

Because a part of knowing the truth about your money is getting honest with yourself about the ways you get in your own way. It is truth-telling at its (financial) best.

This level of financial self-awareness also happens to be one of the ways you put yourself in a position to finish the year strong!

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” ~ Alyce P. Coryn-Selby

All of us dip our toe in the self-sabotage pool on occasion. Let’s face it: you and I don’t always make the best and wisest choices; we are not always consistent; we’re not always disciplined; we don’t always follow “the” plan.

That said, I don’t believe we ever wake up saying, “I’m going to sabotage myself today!” Nah; you rarely get in your own way on purpose. It’s much more subtle than that.

Sure, there are times when the evidence of self-sabotage is obvious. For example, when your goal is to get out of debt, but you keep using your credit card and only make minimum payments.

At other times, it is less perceptible.

That’s the part of your money story we need to discuss – the more subtle ways you unwittingly sabotage your financial success.

Here are three “unusual” ways, in particular:

Big vs. Small

You only give yourself credit for the big wins, i.e., reaching THE end goal. But you overlook the “small” wins along the way.

So being disciplined and saving $100 each week no matter what until you reach $1,000 – that’s meh. But reaching your goal of saving $1,000 – woot, woot!

How can you finish the year strong, if you don’t acknowledge your progress – your wins – along the way? Believe it or not, there’s actually a name for this; it’s called the Progress Principle based on research by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer of Harvard.

Put simply, tracking your progress sparks momentum and builds confidence. Every chance you get to do this and don’t – well, that’s self-sabotage to me.

When easy is hard and vice versa

Here’s what I mean: Automating transfers to savings and retirement accounts and paying bills. That’s the easy part.

The hard part is carving out time to review your data so that you can turn all that information into meaningful insight.

Another example: Having a plan, but not consistently taking the actions your plan calls for.

Having a mindset where you make the easy stuff hard (like adding up the numbers), yet want the hard stuff to be easy (like understanding the emotional connection between the actions you choose to/not to take)  – that, too, is a form of self-sabotage.

Focusing on the wrong type of control

Whether control shows up for you as the desire for security or certainty, or both, what it likely means is that you are looking to control the future. You’re looking to have a specific outcome, and you make plans to bring about said.

But just because you plan for a specific outcome, doesn’t mean you are in control of a specific outcome. Missing that distinction is a form of self-sabotage.

Because when you expend more energy on things you can’t control and focus less on those you can (like your habits and choices, along with your feelings and expectations) that’s a form of putting your self-interest on the back-burner.

Here’s what I know to be true from my work with clients, other observations, and my own experience: Behind every financial decision is a story.

So if you want to finish the year strong, you need to know the truth about your money story. That includes coming clean with yourself about the ways you’re getting in your own way and replacing those sabotaging behaviors with better alternatives.

Because when you know the truth behind your money story, you’re in a better position to fully embrace the power that comes from exercising agency over your life.

p.s. Discover more about the story behind your financial decisions and choices >> Click here to take the “You & Money” survey.

p.p.s. Finishing the year (financially) stronger is the theme for this month’s Comfort Circle™ dinner on October 23rd at 6:30pm. Is one of the seats yours? To RSVP, click here.

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