It’s easy to get sucked into a habitual cycle and not even realize it or know how it started. The cycle could be seasonal, annual, or stretched out over many years making it difficult to even see its cyclical nature. Only when you verbalize something in discussion at the right time the possibility of an, “Aha!” moment arises and you realize you’re actually in a cycle that’s not increasing your chances of reaching your goals.

Even truly happy people may have things in their life they want to improve or change in one way or another. I consider myself happy, but I could definitely find room for improvement, especially with my finances.

A while ago, I verbalized a financial habit through a conversation that made me realize I had a cycle I needed to change. But that first step was verbalization. Not everyone can find their cycle through words, sometimes images are a better way to visualize something you want to change. I’m borrowing a collage idea from a self-help program that I’m not entirely sold on, but collecting images that you either want to achieve or pictures that portray how you feel about a topic, like money or finance, might be a good way to start pin-pointing the issue.

Once I realized my financial cycle, which is a long five-year cycle, I knew I needed to figure out what caused it (the antecedent). By figuring out it was lifestyle inflation, I could make adjustments before the next cycle began.

Now that I know why the cycle begins, I’m making changes to my everyday habits. I’m not depriving myself of every single pleasure, but I’m thinking about both small and large purchases before I make them, or altering my behavior (sticking with an ABC – antecedent-behavior-consequence – description).

The next step, for me at least, is visualizing what I want this new cycle to look like. In my case, it’s zero credit card debt and a hefty savings and investment account. Using my quarterly goals to get me there, I should be well on my way by March of this year.

Sticking with quarterly goals, I should be able to break my splurge-debt-repayment 5-year cycle using smaller increments of time to monitor myself. If I were to break my strategy into actual steps, this is what it would look like:

– First step: recognizing a harmful cycle – verbalizing something you wouldn’t normally verbalize or writing it down.
– Second step: become aware of what’s causing the cycle to start in the first place (antecedent behavior).
– Third step:  changing the antecedent behavior.
– Fourth step: visualizing what you want to happen instead of what usually happens.
– Fifth step: making mental notes, or actually writing down, what changed to break the cycle or turn it around – the consequence.

I can’t say my strategy is 100-percent fool-proof since I’m in the middle of step three, but now that I’m aware of the cause, I have the power to change the outcome.

Have you recognized a cycle that you’d like to change in your life?