Do You Celebrate Your Financial Wins?

When most people reflect on their financial life, they tend to focus only on the things that aren’t going right—I’m not making enough money, I’m not saving enough, I have a payment coming due, et cetera. This is normal and part of human nature—the survival instinct that keeps us all alive is wired to focus on threats, which are the things that can kill us.

However, I’ve found that an exclusive focus on the negative is harmful to improving my habits, behavior and decision-making process. This is because, if I don’t take time to celebrate my financial wins, I never give myself any positive reinforcement for doing good things. It’s a carrot-and-stick approach, but without any carrots.

I’ll give you an example:

I have been checking in with a friend (let’s call her Eunice) about her project of moving her investment accounts from a professional financial advisor to a self-managed account. The professional advisor was charging her several thousand dollars in fees, without providing enough value. (See my thoughts on financial advisors here.)

This is difficult work! Both emotionally and logistically. Eunice is not a financial expert and this process is unfamiliar to her.

She felt fear and anxiety at first when she was contemplating the move: “I don’t know how to do this, what if I make a mistake, where else do I set up an account, I don’t know what companies are out there or who to trust.” She also felt guilt at leaving the advisor, as she had been with this person for nearly ten years. Still, after a period of contemplation, she resolved to go through with it and open up her own account. She confronted her fear, and from that place of fear, she took a positive action.

When we talked, she shared her progress—the emotional challenge of making the decision, breaking the news to the advisor, taking the steps to fill out the forms for the new company, clicking the button to transfer the funds, etc. And then she wanted to move straight to the next challenge.

But I stopped her.

I asked her, “Did you slow down to celebrate the financial win you just achieved?”

Of course, she hadn’t. As soon as she achieved a milestone, she discounted it and immediately moved on to the next hard thing. I asked her to take a moment and recount her journey—the anxiety, the guilt, the wrestling with an unfamiliar process—and reflect on how it felt to fight through all of that.

Her emotions were satisfaction, pride, and comfort in knowing that she was putting herself on the right track.

Those emotions are a big deal! They’re just as important as the anxiety and guilt that preceded them.

This is the part that most people skip. If we never give ourselves positive reinforcement for stepping into the face of fear, centering ourselves, and finding the courage to act, how will we ever teach our psyche that doing hard things is good for us? How will we teach our mind to relish a challenge?

If you do good things, let yourself enjoy the goodness! I am not saying if you wake up at 5 a.m. to work out, you immediately go pound an ice cream sundae afterwards. I’m saying that if you do something that’s hard for you, and you feel pride and satisfaction, let yourself feel the pride and satisfaction.

Action is the gateway to moving past limiting emotions. We want to train ourselves to look forward to acting.

Process: Feel blocking emotion --> Act --> Feel the emotion of the win


1.      Journaling prompt: Which of my financial wins did I celebrate? What were my financial wins that I could have celebrated, but didn’t?

2.      Action: This week, feel into a difficult emotion surrounding a financial challenge you are facing in your life. Then take any small step towards improving that situation. It can be tiny.

For example, if you’re in debt and avoiding thinking about it, allowing yourself to feel the impossibility of getting out of debt and then simply Googling “strategies for debt reduction” is good enough. You don’t even have to read any of the articles—simply executing the search is a win in my book.

3.      Aftermath: Celebrate the win. Is the tiny action you took more than what you’ve done previously? Tell a friend or spouse what you did and see how it feels to tell them.

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