Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Staying Motivated for the Long Haul

Like most of the MTV generation, I'm easily distractible. In order to implement a plan of the size and scale of our downshift, I need to stay focused - and, well, let's just say that the average goldfish may have a longer attention span.

So I've had to take some steps to keep me focused...or at least focused on something else besides that sale on shoes.

I find it easy to set the goals, and to make plans. What derails me is the little distractions - I want a different lunch than the one I brought, there's a sale on shoes, oooh, that cheese looks yummy, and so on. So here's my list of 6 things I do - and you can too - to keep me on track.

1. Avoid, avoid, avoid
Stay away from the mall, only go grocery shopping (and then go with a list, and a limited amount of cash, preferably) chuck the catalogs, and invite friends over rather than meeting at a restaurant.

2. Read everything you can related to your topic
I find myself re-reading books like Affluenza, Your Money and Your Life, and similar books over and over. It's a little harder to justify more shopping when you are so conscious of the impact, both to your finances and the world at large.

3. Make plans
I find if my weekends are filled with projects, there's little room for mindless spending. Now, I'm a fan of downtime as well - to me, there's little better than curling up with some tea and a book, but I find that if I plan to spend the morning in the garden, then I don't have to worry about empty time to fill.

4. Create an 'alternate option' when the urge to go shopping, or to buy something, hits
It's kind of like a smoker who wants to quit. If you always light up right after dinner, you need to find something else to do instead. You can't just stop, you have to replace. So if you find yourself wanting to shop on your lunch hour at work, decide - actively - to do something else.

5. Retrain your brain
When you pick up that pair of shoes, it might not be unreasonable to ask yourself where they were made, if the people who made them earned a living wage, and what the environmental cost is. How long would you have to wear the shoes before they 'paid back' what they took from the environment. That's not to say you should never buy shoes, but it creates an environment of conscious spending, and it makes the little purchases that drain a budget a lot less frequent.

6. Find pleasure in things that don't cost money
Or that cost little. I knew I'd hit a milestone when I realized that most of the time, I would rather cook a new recipe than eat out. And that sitting home in front of the fire with my husband on a Friday night was one of the best ways I knew to start the weekend. Look for the joy in the little moments.

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