Essays

Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy

The core principles of personal finance success are really, really simple. Spend less than you earn. Find smart ways to cut spending, especially on big stuff. Invest the extra money, first in an emergency fund, then into paying off debt, then into diversified investments. That’s really it – everything else is just nuance.

The thing is, you can say something very similar about other life changes. For example, the core principles of physical health success are really, really simple. If you’re wanting to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. Exercise allows you to burn more calories and makes day-to-day physical activity easier. That’s pretty much it – everything else is just nuance.

But here’s the thing. 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. More than two thirds of Americans are overweight.

The truth is that just because things are simple doesn’t mean that they are easy to achieve. If simple meant easy, then we’d all be millionaires and at a perfect healthy weight.

Simple just doesn’t mean easy.

The question is how exactly do you make progress on a change in your life that seems really simple but is actually really hard to put into practice? Financial change fits here, as does health improvement, independent learning, and on and on and on – almost any positive habit or routine change that a person might want.

I’ve tried to make lots of different changes in my life. Sometimes, they’ve been successful. Sometimes, they haven’t. What has been the difference between success and failure?

I think it comes down to five things.

First of all, you need to break things down to today – nothing more, nothing less. Success is about today, period.

Yes, it’s fun of dreaming of having a bunch of money or about having a thin body, but those things are simply not going to happen tomorrow or the day after or even next month. Those are long-term things.

The only way you’re going to get there is by taking one single day at a time. What can you do today to move in a positive financial direction? Or in a positive direction in terms of your health?

Today is all that matters. Succeed today and you can feel good, because you know it’s a step in the right direction. Then, just repeat it tomorrow. Do that again and again and you will find the results you want.

Take a step in the right direction today — that’s all that matters and all you control. Then do it again tomorrow. Photo: JJ Chang