Replace bad habits with good ones… and add common sense

Most of us want to be happy and successful, and yet rarely do we receive any education or guidance on how to achieve those competencies.

Happiness is routinely connected with good, close, and functional relationships.

Success is often connected with having fiscal literacy and being good with money.

As you get older and continue to experience the way life is, you will learn some lessons about what is really important.  Among the lessons we learn are perhaps the two most important; how to be happy and how to be successful.

  1. To be happy: You must be skilled at managing relationships in both your personal and your work life: listening, persuading, resolving conflicts, reaching agreements, negotiation, teamwork, handling emotions, and establishing solid closeness with others.
  1. To be successful: You must be skilled at fiscal literacy: managing money at the least, and making money at the most.

Curiously, it seems insane that Relationship Effectiveness and Fiscal Literacy have been largely missing from school curriculums since there have been schools!

Is it any wonder that most of our relationships are sub-optimal and largely dysfunctional or that many of us are broke and/or spending more money than we have?

It is time to remind ourselves to embrace the Obvious and practice some Common Sense about how to be successful and foundationally good with money.  This will likely make us more functional and prosperous!


Below are some common and familiar counter-productive habits that many people practice when it comes to managing money. As you read them, check off the ones that you practice regularly.  Later in this material will be a series of replacement skills and habits to adopt to help you achieve success and common sense financial security.


  1. Spending more than you make; living beyond your means
  2. Chronic use of credit cards
  3. Making the minimum payments on your credit cards
  4. Deciding to spend money based solely on your emotions and impulses; “I have to have it!”
  5. Failing to save money early in life or at all
  6. Relying on luck rather than common sense (believing in magic)
  7. Continuing to practice financial bad habits that will destroy your future
  • Buying it new when you could buy it used
  • Buying liabilities rather than assets
  • Rescuing others and enabling them to be dependent
  • Remaining dependent on others to take care of you
  • Living paycheck to paycheck
  • Failing to get regular financial advice and education

How many of the above sound like you? Is it time to replace those habits with ones that are effective and full of Common Sense?

Below are some basic habits to practice which will enable you to reach improved success.


  1. Get up early and get going.
  • Exercise every day – cardio, strength, flexibility, fun. It’s more important that you do it every day than how long or how well you do it. Get into the routine, the habit, and the discipline.   (See my articleNeed to exercise? Brush your teeth!”)
  • Eat good food: fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, water, healthy fat, less sugar, less junk, and smaller portions.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast and stop eating at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
  • Take better care of yourself. Manage your health proactively; be in charge of your health!
  • Make your bed, clean up, dress well, stand tall, and then hit it in full Technicolor!
  • Practice discipline; complete the work and stick with your commitments even when you would rather stay in bed.
  1. Schedule appointments with yourself.

Put your work, errands, duties, chores, and projects in your calendar. They have more power when you see the commitments on your schedule.

  1. Read! Turn off the TV and regularly read on multiple subjects.

Learn new topics and delve deeper into familiar passions. Stretch your mind and begin to discover more about how the world is put together.   Read from experts and take notes. All of this will develop breadth in your life, your memory will improve, you will become more fascinated and multi-dimensional, and you will begin to know a little about a lot.  

Your social and business relationships will strengthen because of what you can contribute to conversations.  Successful people will want to be around you. People who are successful share many good ideas about life as well as smart financial ideas and habits! Ask for help from financially successful people. They will help you. 

  1. Replace problem description with problem solution.

Rather than wallowing in complaints, whining about how difficult life is and how you are being victimized, replace those habits with how you will:

  • Step up; take initiative; be proactive; make the first move
  • Get on the dance floor first
  • Own your conduct; take responsibility for yourself
  • Get a broom and clean up your mess

When you become solution oriented, you become stronger, more powerful, and more equipped to handle most anything effectively.  Your self-respect goes up and your influencing ability increases enormously.

(See my article “Your Self-Respect Barometer”)

  1. Practice “The Success Formula.” (This reeks of Common Sense!)
    • Show up on time
    • Be nice to people
    • Do what you say you will do
    • Deliver more than you promise
    • Do it with energy and passion
  1. Start saving money.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Saving money is about attaching a habit to a common sense idea. It’s just like brushing your teeth.  The common sense is that regular teeth brushing is a good idea and when you are young you do it enough so that it becomes a habit.

When you begin the habit of paying yourself first (10% of every paycheck) eventually it becomes standard operating procedure.  Before you know it you have a LOT of money saved up!

Make a habit of saving 10% (or more) with every paycheck. Walk your children through the example and help them conclude that they would have done the job for 90% of the fee. When they admit it, it becomes very hard for them to pushback about saving money. It works!

(See my article “Saving Money the 10% Factor”)

  1. Start and continue basic and smart financial habits.
  • Pay off and cut up your credit cards. This will be painful at first and so what! Clean up your mess!
  • Pay more than the minimum every month on your mortgage. You will be amazed how much money you can save by paying the debt off early. Remember, on a long-term mortgage, you will end up paying several times over the original price of the house.
  • If you must buy it, buy it used. You can save a LOT when you shop in the used market. Shop online. There are tons of bargains.
  • ONLY finance real estate, income property, investments, and assets! Always avoid financing toys, fun, vacations, and liabilities.  (A liability is an expense.  An asset is an investment.)                                                                                                        
  • Quit using your money to gamble on luck. The lottery, gambling casinos, horse and dog racing, Ponzi schemes, evangelists, astrology, numerology, and other delusions and beliefs in magic; they all simply make you throw your money out the window. If you must gamble, then decide that you are willing to throw away the money you set aside as an entertainment expense. Gambling with $500 in Las Vegas is the price for the entertainment and excitement you want. When you lose your $500, simply walk away.
  • Learn to say no. Quit enabling your kids, your friends, your family members and other dependent people in your network. Sometimes you may find it so difficult to say “No” to perfectly able people who refuse to grow up and take responsibility for themselves. Do you really think you are helping them when they continue to put their hand out for money?

Sometimes it is time to kick them out of the nest.  When they have to fly, they will figure out how to do just that.  (See my article “Learn to Say NO”)

  • Overcome your emotional impulses. Do you really have to have it?  How often do you decide to buy and finance it because you “gotta have it”?  How many celebrities and others go broke because they want to look successful? The list is long.  Sometimes our hunger for status is very expensive.

Instead, learn to delay your gratification. If you buy it because you “gotta have it,” then your self-respect is likely to decline when you are upside down in debt.  You may realize that wanting it was more important than having it.  It’s simply stuff, and more stuff is unlikely to make you happy.  Buy it only when you can afford it and have the money.  Upon your decision to buy it, your self-respect goes up.


(See my article “Happy or Unhappy?”)

  1. Improve your strength of character.

Practice higher standards of Integrity, Responsibility, and Generosity of Spirit.

(See my article “It’s Always about Your Character”) 

  1. Reinforce more than you criticize!

Criticizing breaks down relationships. If you reinforce and support small children, you can do it to adults too. Compliment, respect, support, and show appreciation more.

(See my article “Practicing Reinforcement”)

  1. Restore the courtship in marriage.

When you were courting you and your partner were on your best behavior. You looked good, you smelled terrific, and you were polite, considerate, supportive, and reinforcing. As a result, the dominant reason you agreed to get married was the ongoing courtship behavior.

You married the courtship! What would make you abandon the courtship after the wedding?

Restore the courtship behavior and your marriage will improve.

  1. Laugh more and obsess less.

Life is too short to obsess, catastrophize, awfulize and constantly worry. He who spends more time laughing, spends more time lasting.

  1. Replace black / white thinking with multiple options.

Most people think in 2 options, which means they only look at:

  • Win / lose
  • All / nothing
  • Success / Failure
  • Good / Bad
  • All / Nothing

This method of thinking is hugely polarizing and counter-productive because whenever you look at reality in only 2 options, you will become increasingly negative and miserable.

So, be sure to think about everything in 3 or more options! You will likely choose a better option among 3 or more. Keep in mind that the amount of the options is more important than the substance of the options.

  1. Be proactive, take initiative, and make the first move.

(See my Article “Take Action”)

  1. Recover quickly from setbacks.

Forgive more and condemn less. Life is too short to waste time carrying a grudge, wallowing in self-pity, and remaining in emotional prison. Life is messy. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You will sometimes be admired and then you will be fired. You will celebrate a great outcome and then be abandoned or rejected. Life is about learning lessons, and lessons will be repeated until they are learned. 

Learn your lessons, change your behavior, dust yourself off, and get back in the saddle!

  1. Expect less / contribute more.

Offload your state of mind that says, “What’s in it for me?  What can I get?  I want what’s coming to me! What have you done for me lately?”

Think more in terms of what value you can contribute to others, to the organization, and to the community.  You get more than you give when you give more than you get!

Touch the lives of others and your life will be touched in return.

Happiness emerges when you are close to others that matter to you.

Success emerges when you are achieving and when you are in charge of basic fiscal literacy. 

At your service,

Dr. J. Mitchell Perry

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