Home | The Financial Page

If you are trying to deal with debt or get ahead in life, here are...

The Three Things That
Most Commonly Get In Your Way

by Keith Rawlinson
Volunteer Budget Counselor

Most people who try to eliminate debt, deal with financial stress, or become wealthy will fail to do so.  The people who fail to get ahead financially are usually stopped by one or more of the three things that most commonly get in the way.  You may not have all of these things working against you, but having even one of them could still keep you from your goals.  These three things are very common which is why most people fail to become debt free or wealthy.  These three things not only apply to finances, they apply to many other areas of your life as well.    Let's discuss these three things in order.


The first, and most common thing that gets in the way is laziness.  Many times, people know what they need to do to accomplish their goals, but they just can't force themselves to make the required effort or they procrastinate to the point that things don't get done.  Here are some warning signs that you may be letting laziness get in the way of accomplishing your goals:

Looking for easy answers.  You may make a decision to accomplish a particular task or reach a particular goal, find out what you have to do accomplish your goal, then, if what you have to do is not quick and easy, you immediately or eventually give up on the goal.  Basically laziness leads to looking for a quick easy answer and giving up when there is none.  Notice I said "quick" and easy.  When laziness is getting in your way, you will not only tend to give up when things get difficult, but also if it is going to take a long time to accomplish your goal.  Another word for this is impatience.  For a lazy person: if it isn't going to work quickly, they're not interested in sticking with it.  Lazy people are often willing to spend time on things they don't mind doing, but never seem to get around to doing the things they don't want to do.

Another trait of people who are being stopped by laziness is that they are generally not willing to do much research or make the effort to learn new things that will help them accomplish their goals.  A lazy person may want to start investing for their future, but won't take the time to read a book about investing.  Oftentimes, a lazy person won't even be willing to spend time at a bookstore or library looking for books that might help them.

People who are letting laziness get in their way are also often people who sort of wait for someone else to step in and make the effort for them.  They see a problem coming or decide what goals they want to accomplish, but wait for someone else to come along and get things started or do some of the work for them.  

Lazy people are also very quick with excuses for why they aren't doing something.  They say things like "yes, I want to go out and put in some job applications, but I'm waiting for the job market to improve."  or  "yes, I would like to put my house up for sale, but I'm waiting until I can get it cleaned up and I just never seem to have the time."  or  "I would like to put some money into savings each month, but I'm waiting until I find a better job."  The true mark of a lazy person is that their excuses are generally not even things that are actually stopping them.  The excuses may sound reasonable at first, but if you look closely, their excuses are things that aren't really stopping them.  In our examples:  a bad job market does not stop you from going out and putting in job applications.  A bad job market might make it difficult to find a job, but it doesn't stop you from putting in applications.  

How to overcome laziness:

First, just do something--anything--to get started.  If you have paperwork to do, then go and set it all out on the desk so it is ready to go.  If you are trying to get the house cleaned up, then just get up and do one thing--such as clear off an end table or sweep the kitchen floor.  Quite often, once a lazy person gets up and gets started, they find they can keep at it for a while and get a bit more done than they thought they were going to.

Start with very small, attainable goals.  Don't try to take on big tasks all at once.  If you are planning to reorganize your dresser drawers, don't wait until you think you have the time to do the entire job start-to-finish, just get up and reorganize one drawer.  After that, you can stop if you want to.  Later, your next goal would be to do the next drawer.  Before you know it, the job is done.  If you are trying to save money, don't wait until you can put $100 per month into the bank, start with $10.  Do that for a while and see how it goes.  Then increase your savings goal to $25, then $50, then $75.  Before you know it, you are saving the $100 per month you originally planned.

Finally, set time lines.  This will help you overcome giving up when things don't happen quickly.  Instead of giving up because you put in job applications all week without a single job offer, promise yourself that you will put in job applications for four months before you allow yourself to give up.  If you think your savings isn't building up fast enough after two months, promise yourself that you will stick with it for six months before you even worry about what the balance is.  Chances are that after six months you will see that you are starting to get somewhere.

Never forget that laziness is the number one thing that gets in the way of accomplishing goals.  Also remember that very few people will admit to laziness being a problem.  Some lazy people don't even realize they are lazy!  So, if you see in yourself any of these traits of lazy people, you need to use the techniques I've given you to overcome the laziness.  When it comes to accomplishing goals, financial or otherwise, if you can't overcome laziness, you will never accomplish your goals.  Your financial future is too important--don't let laziness get in the way.

"The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns..."     Proverbs 15:29

Pride / Arrogance

The second most common thing that gets in the way is pride or arrogance.  Since arrogance and pride are so closely related that you cannot really separate one from the other, I consider them to be the same problem.  As a matter of fact, you can throw ego in there too.  Here are some indications that you might have a problem with Pride, arrogance and/or ego:

The first thing most commonly seen if you are dealing with an ego problem is an unwillingness to take responsibility when you are wrong.  Notice I said "you" and not "they."  The reason for that is that arrogant people are very unwilling to see their own faults.  To admit they have faults would be taking responsibility for mistakes or shortcomings and egotistical people generally blame their situation on other people or circumstances rather than take the blame themselves.  On the rare occasion that an arrogant person does admit making a mistake, they will usually follow it up with a reason why it is someone else's fault.  You can easily recognize an arrogant person because everything that is wrong in their life is always someone else's fault.

Also, people dealing with an arrogance problem usually have considerable difficulty apologizing.  Apologizing would be admitting to a mistake which would make it much more difficult for the arrogant person to make the mistake someone else's fault.  When an arrogant person does apologize, it is generally a very shallow, insincere, condescending apology.  Arrogant people tend to hold grudges for a very long time; sometimes forever--especially if someone hurt their pride.  

If you are arrogant, you will think that you are smarter than just about everyone else, and you will tend to treat others accordingly.  This will show up in such things as intentionally using words the other person won't understand, talking down to others, treating other people's ideas as stupid or less valid than your own, often referring to other people with such words as idiot, moron or fool, interacting with others as though they are children even if they are not.

Arrogance leads to thinking you are smarter than just about everyone else, and that leads to difficulty taking advice.  Since arrogant people tends to believe they are smarter than others, taking advice from someone else would be admitting that the other person knows something the arrogant person doesn't.  For someone dealing with a pride problem, that is a difficult thing to do.  When an arrogant person does take advice, they often change it slightly just so they don't have to do it exactly as someone else told them to.  Quite often an arrogant person will shoot down someone else's idea, then implement that idea later when the person who suggested it is not around.  Sometimes, the arrogant person will even take credit for the idea.  Going along with this, arrogant people often get angry when something isn't being done their way.

Arrogant people often have few close friends and tend to see themselves as "loners who don't need anyone else."  Arrogant people tend to believe that other people think highly of them, or like them even though it may not actually be true.  Quite often arrogant people are talked about and put down by others behind their backs--sometimes by the very same people that the arrogant person believes think highly of them.

Arrogant people tend to argue only as long as they feel that they are winning the argument.  For this reason, when the other person makes a strong point, or begins to prove that they are right, arrogant people often walk away or hang up the phone before the conversation is finished.  When an arrogant person is shown to be wrong during an argument, they sometimes change the subject or just flat out disregard the other person's point often laughing at the person or treating them as if their idea is foolish.

How pride and arrogance affect us financially.

First of all, arrogant people have a hard time admitting it when they need help.  There may be a very good counselor available for free, but the arrogant person does not take advantage of that opportunity because they don't want to admit to needing help--they're convinced they have it all under control.  Therefore, arrogant people seldom seek out counseling when they are in financial trouble and this arrogance costs them the opportunity to learn how to correct their financial mistakes.

Even when arrogant people do go to financial counseling and the counselor tells them that the way they are handling their finances won't work, the arrogant person usually thinks that they are the exception:  the statistics don't apply to them, they've got it all figured out, they have an angle, they have a better way, they are smarter than all of the other people who have tried to do the exact same thing and failed.  In my own counseling sessions, I often have arrogant people argue with me and try to convince me that the things I teach are wrong.  I have actually had arrogant people come in for counseling because they were deeply in debt, and then try to convince me that debt is not a bad idea as long as you know what you are doing!  Arrogant people have a really hard time admitting it when their ideas aren't working.  Sometimes arrogant people will come in for counseling expecting me to tell them that the way they are handling their money is correct and their problems are not their own fault; then they get angry with me when I have to tell them otherwise.  I have a saying I use in counseling : "the first person you try to blame should always be yourself,"  and arrogant people always have a problem with it.

How to overcome pride, arrogance and/or ego.

First of all, look to see if you have any of the traits I described.  Do any of the things I mentioned sound like you?  If they do, at least consider the possibility that you may have an ego problem.

Ask someone very close to you to be perfectly honest with you and tell you if they see any of these traits in you.  Tell them ahead of time that you might get angry at their answer for a while, but to please be willing to be honest anyway.  If they are not perfectly honest with you, and you are an arrogant person, their lying to you about it will only feed your ego and make the problem worse.  If the person won't agree to be painfully honest with you, don't ask them.  If it makes it easier, have them write their answers down so that you can read them later when you are by yourself.

This next idea will be very, very difficult to do (for anybody), but will be a real eye opener: find a mature, honest, truthful person who does not think very highly of you and ask them why.  As already mentioned, you can just have them write down their response for you to read later.  If you know several such people, have them all do it without putting their names on their responses.  Like I said, this can be painful.  It is very hard to open yourself up to this kind of honesty, but it can be a life-changing experience.

Here's another way of working on an ego problem:  practice apologizing.  Even if it is something rather trivial, apologize anyway.  Be sincere and only apologize for things you have actually done wrong, but apologize for something.  A sincere apology goes against everything that makes arrogance a problem and the more you apologize the easier it gets.  With each apology, little by little you will be chipping away at your ego problem.

Practice admitting that you don't know something.  Too often, arrogant people act as though they know it all.  Sometimes arrogant people do this so much that they even start to believe it themselves.  Usually, though, other people aren't fooled and can see right through it.  Admitting it when you don't know something helps to counter this tendency.  When you ask someone for advice or counseling, come right out and say that you are coming to them for advice because you don't know enough about it.  As with apologizing, it gets easier the more you do it and you'll be surprised how much you'll learn from others in the process.  Purposely put yourself into unfamiliar situations where you really don't know enough about it and use this opportunity to practice admitting it.  Find a child who knows something you don't and let them teach you (you'd be surprised at the skills some children have!)

Finally, arrange a code word that close friends and family can use to secretly let you know, without embarrassing you, that you are behaving arrogantly.  Make it an unrelated, but common word, so that it can be worked into the situation.  The code word can be just about anything--even a name.  Let's say your code word is the name George.  Your friend or family member could say something like "that sounds just like something George would say."  That let's you know that you are behaving arrogantly without anyone around you knowing what it means.

Pride, arrogance and/or ego can prevent you from getting counseling.  It can stop you from listening to people who know more about the situation than you do and can prevent you from getting the advice you need.  Pride, arrogance and/or ego can also prevent you from implementing the advice or counseling once you've received it.  Don't forget that pride is expensive.  It can cost you your financial future.  If you are dealing with an ego problem in your life, start right now to overcome it.  Don't let pride keep you from accomplishing your goals.

"With pride comes trouble, but with counsel comes wisdom."
  Proverbs 13:10

Lack of knowledge

The third most common thing that gets in the way is a lack of knowledge.  A lack of knowledge can often lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and lost.  Lack of knowledge also leads to not knowing what the next step is--a feeling of "I have no idea what to do next."  A lack of knowledge leaves you unable to even come up with a plan to deal with a problem, let alone break the plan down into individual steps.  You feel like you need some goals, but don't know what those goals should be or what to do first in striving to achieve them.

A lack of knowledge is also usually the cause when you experience such things as:  constantly running into related vocabulary you don't know,  not knowing whom you should ask for advice, not bothering to question advice you are given to see if it makes sense or not even being able to determine if the advice makes sense.

Overcoming a lack of knowledge is simple.

To overcome a lack of knowledge, start doing some basic research.  Go to the library and look for books on the subject.  Do a search on the Internet.  As you read more and more about a particular subject, you will discover more places to get additional information.  If there is a counselor available, go talk to them.  You don't have to follow the advice you get, but at least you'll have it to consider.  Find other people who have gone through the same thing you are and talk to them.  If applicable, join a support group.  As you gain knowledge, it tends to lead you to more knowledge.

Regardless of whether or not your goal is a financial one, devise some sort of plan to achieve it. Break it down into small, attainable steps you can work on.   I am an avid chess player and in chess we have a saying: "a bad plan is better than no plan."  That is because with no plan, you don't even know how to get started or what to do next.  And a bad plan at least eventually reaches a point that you can see it is not working which allows you to figure out what you're doing wrong.  Without any plan at all, you are just making things up as you go along and reacting to situations as they arise which makes it nearly impossible to go back and see why your decisions were bad ones.  In other words, a bad plan at least allows you to see where you are going wrong, while having no plan robs you of the feedback you need to make corrections.  

When it comes to knowledge about family finances...

You'll find most of the financial knowledge you need right here on Eclecticsite.com's Financial Page.  These articles are specifically chosen because they deal with the most common financial difficulties faced by Americans today.  Read through every article--even the ones you don't think apply to you.  Maybe they don't, but maybe they do and you won't know it unless you read them.  Either way, you'll have knowledge you didn't have before.  And of course, don't forget to check out the financial books I recommend and the finance-related links.

"The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on foolishness."
 Proverbs 15:14

Please know that all of the thoughts, information, suggestions and techniques given on this site are nothing more than the author's opinion on the matter being addressed.  Do further research before making any decisions.

This article copyright 2007 by Keith C. Rawlinson (Eclecticsite.com).  All rights reserved.

This article may be copied for non-profit use including newsletters, bulletins, etc. as long as you
first get written permission from the author and 
full credit is given which includes the author's name
and the name of this website.

Home | The Financial Page