Move to change

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My wife and I decided to downsize our housing arrangement and move to something easier to manage. Sounds simple doesn’t it? However, after living in the same house for 30 years and raising two children, we have accumulated a “lot of stuff.” You name it and we probably had it squirreled away in some corner or drawer. We’ve looked at boxes and boxes of photographs, old homework, birthday cards, broken tools, old TVs and clothes that we will never fit into again. There are memories everywhere and we had to make many tough decisions about what to keep, give away or to toss in the trash.

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A number of friends have asked, why are you moving now? We both are in decent physical, mental and financial shape. Quite frankly, life is good,however over the medium to long-term, we will not get any stronger.

The time to change

Twenty years ago, Larry Bossidy, a General Electric vice chairman, said, “The time to change is when you are strong and have a number of options. When you are weak, your options are limited and it is difficult to change.”

Unfortunately, many lifestyle changes are thrust upon us by a catastrophic life event, such as a heart attack, bankruptcy, divorce or being laid off. When these life tremors occur, we have little choice but to either change our ways or face death, financial ruin or some other dreadful calamity. Changing at these points of weakness is the absolute worse time to have to change. Wouldn’t it be better to change while we are strong and have the energy and resources to do so?

Change is a pain

GE and other large corporations have studied the implementation of management changes and why some are successful and others, even after great expense and fanfare end up being failures. The studies concluded that there is a process for the successful implementation of change in organizations. Some of these same process steps may be helpful to individuals in making significant life style changes.

Most individual lifestyle changes fail because the person is not committed in their heart to the change. To “wanna change” is not strong enough to drive change over the long haul. The need to change, whether driven by a threat or an opportunity, has to be instilled within the individual and shared by their immediate family and associates. The need to change has to exceed the pain of maintaining the status quo.

Create a vision

Successful people create a clear and compelling vision of themselves in their desired and changed state. As an example, if their goal is to lose weight, they will place a picture of themselves, taken when they were at their prime size by their nightstand or dressing area, so that they can see their vision when they wake up and before they go to sleep. This helps to create and sustain a mental picture that will help to guide them as they make decisions throughout the day. Additionally, they share their vision with their family and close associates, so that they receive support along the way.

Implementing change begins by writing down your plan. What are the key steps that will be taken today, a week from today, a month from now, six months and so on? How will you measure your progress? Continuing the weight loss example, what will be your average daily calorie intake, when will you exercise and how often will you weigh-in? How much weight will you lose in the first month, second month and so on?

Make change last

All too often individuals have successfully made a lifestyle change only to revert back to their old habits after a year or two. I know people with two wardrobes, one for before the diet and the other for after losing weight. After you have achieved your desired goal you have to institutionalize the change into your on-going life patterns.

What is your financial vision for you and your family? What do you have to change in your lifestyle to achieve your financial vision? Have you created a compelling need for change and a commitment that will sustain the change over the long haul?

(Michael G. Shinn, CFP, Registered Representative of securities and investment advisory services offered through Financial Network Investment Corporation, member SIPC. Visit http://www.shinnfinancial.com for more information or to send your comments or questions to shinnm@financialnetwork.com. (c) Michael G. Shinn 2010.)

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