What science knows about making 2018 your best year ever!

I hate planning for the new year, but I have a perfect low-hassle way of setting yourself for the best year ever.

Honestly, nail this and the rest will follow.

Did you make a few New Year’s Resolutions?

You know, the usual list: having a more balanced life with work and family, healthy eating and regular exercise, paying down the mortgage, investing more etc.

And you recall this happened last year, the year before…..and the year before that.

Yep. It’s the Different-But-Same Groundhog Year loop.

How about we don’t do that this year?

You have decided what you want and worked out how you are going to get it…but why do we humans often continue to fail to achieve what we want? The perseverance needed is within our control.

Thankfully, it’s not been left for us to wonder. Lots of research has been done into it.

Research studies in the field of Neuroscience has shown that there is a good explanation for this turmoil that we put ourselves into.

According to Harvard University’s Dr Jason Mitchell this is because evolutionarily, we share a region of our brain, called the Nucleus accumbens with reptiles.

Why blame the Nucleus accumbens for our foibles?

The reason is that this region of our brain is primitive, meaning that it understands and responds to the present but it does not care about the future.

Can you imagine we carry such a thing in our heads?

When faced with a chocolate cake (yummy!), a glass of wine or bubbles (Mmmmmm), another series of Game of Thrones (So glad you came back to life again, Jon Snow), we would prefer to indulge rather than persevere with our new year resolutions.

Why would I mention this?

Future you vs Current you

This presents a challenge in the money arena because the Nucleus accumbens does not care about your money in your future.

Yep, the present you couldn’t care less about poor old future you, so says science.

What’s even more complicated is that money has rewards on multiple time scales. This stretches over periods from the immediate to weeks, months, years and decades.

That means that stuff a long way off, just isn’t as appealing as that awesome pair of shoes (just get your credit card out) that is calling to you NOW!

No wonder the Nucleus accumbens can’t handle this! It only cares about the immediate wants/cravings resulting from our lifestyle desires.

The Neuroscience researchers concluded this is the reason why we have problems with making decisions for the benefit of our ‘future self’.

We would prefer to spend money on the fun things in life right now instead of allocating money towards the future which are intangible and hypothetical.

Yep. I get it. Really I do (cutting another slice of chocolate cake).

The problem with your memory

Another concern is the Nucleus accumbens also see very little difference between remembering the past and the future, so if you have certain (bad) habits, you like to keep doing it.

So, enough science. What’s the practical solution if you have now decided that 2018 is the year you turn things around financially?

Here are some simple strategies that you could employ to help you trick your Nucleus accumbens to change the way you think about money or counteract your tendency to keep spending?

Strategy 1: Write it down

According to neuroscientist Dr Mitchell a helpful exercise is to sit down and write a five-minute narrative of your future self. This exercise helps you to make a connection between who you are now and who you will be in future.

Give it a go! What have you got to lose… See if you can overcome your reptilian brain’s focus on the now.

Strategy 2: Visual

Instead, get focused on the future you, experiencing the financial independence that you have proudly achieved.  Imagine you have achieved financial independence by a specific date, what will you be thinking then?

We all want to make the future better than the past. The challenge is that sometimes our biochemistry is designed to make that hard.

So instead of fighting, the low hassle way can be to understand what’s going on under the bonnet and use those biological urges to get you want.

Whatever the future holds, you and your loved ones will be living with the experience. Hopefully that would be a champagne lifestyle!

PS. If you’d like to begin the year with all the answers, I’m finding many of my clients are wanting to get clear on how to be financially strategic, having a tax-efficient plan and Super changes. If you have a question you want answered about these areas, drop me a line with the subject heading “here’s what I wanna know” and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Alternatively, book a meeting by calling us on 02 6188 4266.

This is general information and does not consider your circumstances. Before acting on such information, you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation or needs.

Zuraida Ariffin