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  • Writer's pictureBrock Williamson, CFP®

Succeeding at Self-Control

Self-control is an important characteristic to develop that can help us in all aspects of our lives from biting our tongue, to passing on the sweet treat, to accomplishing our New Year’s resolutions, to avoiding alarming financial market news alerts. But it isn’t easy! In fact, it can be downright painful, especially when trying to control some urge. 

 

It’s Not About Willpower 

 

Many people say what they need is more willpower and discipline, but that isn’t it. And thank goodness because we have a limited amount willpower that depletes quickly. 

 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, said, “The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least…the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.”1(emphasis mine)  

 

It’s About the Environment 

 

When we engage in an activity that requires self-control, we should seek to create an environment that will lessen the need to use self-control. If we are seeking a healthier lifestyle it would be easier for us to accomplish if we spent more time (and money) in the produce section and less in the bakery section of the grocery store. 

 

We cannot control all environments we find ourselves in, but we can adjust many of them to create an easier environment to behave the way we wish to behave.  Becoming, improving, and accomplishing is often just a product of our small daily decisions. 

 

Your Investment Environment 

 

The investment environment is one that investors can control pretty easily. Most investors prefer peace to anxiety, stability to volatility. The markets, which are uncertain and volatile by nature, will not provide that. But choosing not to tune in, not to look at every move and sensational news headline, produces an environment much more conducive to feel peace and stability. 

 

No matter what you are seeking to accomplish, changing your environment can be much easier than exercising willpower to act in the way you hope and wish to act. With regards to your financial plan, it is about looking at your big picture rather than getting caught up in the day-to-day news and slight market gyrations. 

 

©The Behavioral Finance Network 

1. Clear, James. Atomic Habits. 2018 

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