People often “disconnect” themselves from their personal health habits and financial practices. However, it’s hard to change behavior, to improve your health or increase your wealth, when you don’t fully acknowledge the problems with your current situation. Trying to make changes without an identified starting point is like making a plane reservation and not indicating the airport that you’re leaving from. You have to admit that you have a problem before you can take steps to address it.
Denial is common with both health and personal finance issues, even when there’s ample visible evidence (e.g., a bulging waistline and increasing credit card balance) to the contrary. Several recent studies, for example, have found that many people said they were “healthy” even though they were overweight, smoked, drank too much alcohol, and/or never exercised. Examples of financial denial (e.g., “other people will need long-term care, but I won’t” and “I’ll be OK in retirement even though I haven’t saved any money yet”) have also been well documented.
Awareness of one’s current behaviors and shortfalls is the first of the 5 A’s of successful behavior change. The other four are ability (being able to make a change), ambition (a strong desire to change), attitude (a positive state of mind about changing), and action (taking steps to actually change).
Most people don’t have a clue how many calories they consume daily or how many dollars they spend monthly on incidental expenses such as food and entertainment. One of the best ways to increase awareness is to keep a Food and Activity Log to record everything you eat each day and every time you are physically active for 10 minutes or more. A financial counterpart is an Income and Expense Log to write down what you earned and spent daily for a typical month or two. Keeping written records, although tedious, has been shown to be an effective way to track current practices and make behavioral changes in eating, exercise, and spending.
Ready to get started on the path to health and wealth? Start tracking your eating and exercise, and your income and expenses. You’d be surprised how just the act of having to be accountable (even if it’s just to yourself) can affect your behavior! For more information on this topic, check out http://food.unl.edu/smallsteps for UNL Extension’s “Small Steps to Health and Wealth” web based seminars, which are free!