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Start With “Why” - The Most Important Question (In Personal Finance)

“What you do proves what you believe.” Simon Sinek

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. - Simon Sinek

“Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.” ― Simon Sinek


One of the most (deservedly) popular pieces of content on the importance of “starting with why” in recent years has been Simon Sinek’s “viral” Ted Talk on YouTube and his book on the subject. And although he’s largely referencing the business and political realms in his material, it’s undeniably easy and valuable to extrapolate the concept of “starting with why” and injecting it into any of life’s worthwhile endeavors. 

Like, say for example… personal finance. :) 

So, that’s what this post is going to be about: starting with your “why” when it comes to accomplishing your goals in personal finance. More precisely I’m going to address, 1) the distinctive way that innovative thought leaders think first about their “why”, 2) how that is the exact opposite of how most of us think about achieving goals and 3) how to conform our own thoughts to “starting with why” in a way that helps us win more with both our money and with our life in general.

More plainly, I’m going to strive to take this entire concept of “starting with why” and apply it specifically to how you deal with money currently and how defining and developing your “why” is actually the very first step in making the changes you may so desperately want to see in your own financial life.

Before we jump too far into the "why", I wanted to introduce you to the video/series this particular content sits inside of. It’s called our“30 Day Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Challenge”. 

This “30 Day Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Challenge” is a step-by step video series designed to help you get started with 1) organizing your finances, 2) writing your first (or latest) budget 3) beginning to address your debt and 4) getting some “quick wins” in the process. 

There's also a free PDF guide that goes along with this series: “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This free resource will have ALL the tools, forms and printables you’ll need while moving through the 30 day challenge.



Why Talk About “Why” In The First Place?

Stick with me and I think you’ll see that the normal approach of starting with “what to do” or “how to do it” in personal finance radically misses the mark. I’ll share with you how, in my own 10+ years of experience as a financial coach, the students that have gotten the best results and the fastest results, were the ones who embraced their “strong, passionate, emotional why” and used it to propel them toward their goals.

You could say that I too believe that “starting with why” is the absolute most important question when it comes to anything you want to accomplish with your money or in your life in general.


What Does “Start With Why” Even Mean? 

Great question. Like I alluded to earlier, it means that you’re flipping the typical approach most people go through on its head meaning, instead of starting with “what” (i.e. tools like, a budget, a plan, a process) or “how to” (i.e. the nuts and bolts of how to do any of the aforementioned tools), you’re actually starting with your internal motivations for wanting the goal in the first place (i.e.  your “why”.) As Sinek’s work in this realm affirms, this “inside out” approach is why the world’s most innovative leaders are able to accomplish things that elude most of us “mere mortals”. :)

We’ll dive much more deeply into this throughout the post.

Do you "get down" with Pinterest? Would you consider saving this to your favorite board? 


How Do I Do It?

The easiest way to answer this question is to start with what it is you actually want to accomplish, your desired outcome or goal. And it’s helpful to be as specific and measurable as possible here.

Let’s use a common personal finance example: ”I want to save $2000 for emergencies and pay off $3000 in debt in the next 90 days.”

Excellent. That’s a very specific and measurable goal and it’s a great start, but I want you to take it an important step further. What I want you to ask yourself is “why is it that I actually want to do this?” “What’s the bigger, deeper reason that I want to do this? You see, there's always a deeper question that you have to get to.

Why do you want to achieve that? What’s driving you? Is it something external, like maybe you can’t pay your bills and collectors are calling? Or is it something internal, like perhaps you’ve just gotten tired of not feeling as in control of your money as you want to.

The point is that, no matter the reason or group of reasons, the stronger, more passionate and more emotional your “why” is, the likelier you’re going to hang in in the process and actually accomplish your goal(s). So, I always encourage our students to dig deep and sit with that “why” question for a while.

“Why so much emphasis on why?”, you might be asking. Because, in my experience both in my own debt-elimination journey and as a money coach to thousands of students, if  your “why”is something (or someone) evokes a strong emotional response (i.e. makes you cry, makes you angry, etc.) that’s  ultimately what’s going to “keep you in the game” when the going gets complicated. And as you know, it ALWAYS gets complicated.

Again, we’ll unpack that more as we go. 


Sinek’s “Golden Circle” Concept

To further unpack the idea of how most people start down the path to pursuing their financial goals (or any goals, really) “backwards” (i.e. from the “outside in”), let’s talk about Sinek’s concept of “The Golden Circle” .

The "Golden Circle" is just a mental model that enumerates how most of us naturally think about personal finance

*"Spoiler Alert" Best Practice: Most people start with "what" and work inward (i.e. outside in). It's best to start with "why" and work outward (i.e. inside out).

And here's what it looks like in more detail:

1. What: When it comes to getting ahead in personal finance, every single person knows this, “in theory”. Spend less than you earn, save and invest the rest. But yet, though we know this, why does 78% of the America population lives paycheck to paycheck?

2. HowSome know the nuts and bolts of the above (i.e. budgeting, expense tracking and investing). It may be that they know “how to” budget, “how to” track expenses, and “how to”do some basic investing. And they know that this makes them at least a little different than most people. And again, why is it that such a large portion of the population is so out of control of their money.

3. Why: Very few people know their “why” for all of this. This is the most important question of all and yet almost all of us either don’t know this or put it WAY down on the list (possibly last). We just assume we know why we do what we do even if we’re doing it at all.

Again, Best Practice: Most people start with "what" and work inward. It's best to start with "why" and work outward.


Here's our free guide on how to save money and get out of debt.


What Does This All Mean To Me?

Simply put, it means that if you can embrace this paradigm shift in your financial life, you can dramatically change your financial situation and in a relatively short period of time. Sinek’s work uncovered the fact that, here’s a thought/behavior pattern in great innovative thought leaders and its the exact opposite of everyone else.

Also like I mentioned earlier, most people start with the “tools” (what) and methods (how) without having properly understood the “why”.

The result of “normal” is that we think from “the outside in” (i.e. what > how > why).

But again, the inspired leaders, organizations and individuals think completely the opposite; they think from “the inside out” (i.e. why > how > what).

You see, your “why” = purpose, cause, belief, why do you exist. Properly uncovered (through true introspection and perhaps some coaching/guidance) and articulated, your why will be the engine that drives the tools (what) and the methods (how).  


Excellent read for the subject at hand. :)


Let me repeat a quote that I want you to think about and might make you a little uncomfortable. “What you do proves what you believe.” Simon Sinek 

I know, I know, that might hurt a little bit, but let me repeat: what you do proves (or is evidence of) what you believe.

So, what does that mean in our financial lives? It means we make a lot of decisions based on assumptions and emotions rather than on facts, data and delayed gratification. Can I get an, “amen”?

And I’m not bringing this up to be judgmental. I’m bringing it up because it’s pivotal that you (and I) take a look in the mirror, review our current outcomes and make a decision that we’re going to make some changes.


Has Your “Switch” Been Flipped?

Sometimes we learn by induction meaning, we can look at someone else’s mistakes or general wisdom and avoid their potholes. More often than not however, we have to learn through pain. That’s the case for most of our students (including me) and it’s what I call “the switch being flipped”. All this means is that there’s usually some external event that has thrown us into the realization that our situation is going to require that some big changes be made.

Maybe “the switch” for you is that there’s been a triggering event that look like some of the following scenarios:

  • You're just sick and tired of being sick and tired of your money situation.
  • You're incredibly fed up with always being behind on bills and buried in debt.
  • An unexpected emergency arose that awakened you to the fact that you're broke AND deeply in debt AND you're now totally "over it".
  • Your money situation is preventing you from doing something that you REALLY want to do like:
    • Take an extended vacation or "sabbatical" from your work.
    • Preventing you from engaging with your friends, family, social network the way you'd like to.
    • Bless someone else who's deeply in need.
    • Give to a cause you deeply believe in.
  • You're "DONE" with running from your debt AND you're simultaneously "SWITCHED ON" about running to all the things, people and situations that will secure your freedom from debt.


What's Your Strong, Passionate, Emotional Why?

You might be feeling a little overwhelmed or nervous about addressing your finances, or maybe you’re just confused about where to begin. That’s okay and totally normal. Let’s start by asking some questions that might help you move past those feelings.

  • What do you want the future to look like?
  • What does financial freedom mean to you?
  • In brief, what is your overall "why"?
  • Is your “why” actually a “who”?
  • Why do you want to get out of debt?
  • Why do you want to put yourself through the often extreme difficulty of embarking on this debt elimination process?
  • If you could change one thing you’d like to be able to do or to do differently in a year, what would it be?
  • Are you tired of having to scramble every month to make sure you have enough money to pay all your obligations?
  • Where do you want to be in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 years? Can you imagine what waking up everyday would feel like if you were out of debt and well on your way to financial independence? 
  • Are you not just totally fed up with running away from this? Are you ready, I mean REALLY ready to find that place inside of you that will do this "no matter what"? 


Conclusion And Call To Action

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post and I want for it to be a reference for you as you start with your own “why”. Hopefully I’ve been able to impress upon you that starting with why is the absolute most critical move you can make when beginning or perhaps restarting your personal financial journey. We’ve also talked about Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” paradigm and how most of us start with the “what’ or the how” in personal finance. Just has he’s articulated in his material, the most effective people always start with why and work “inside out” rather than starting with “what” or how” and working “outside in”.

What all of this means to you is that, if you’ve digested this content, you’ll have all the tools you need to really analyze your thought process around any goals you want to accomplish in life, whether financial or otherwise.

Now, I want to prod you to take action using a very special (and free) resource that includes this “start with why” process.


Call To Action:

If you’ve hung out on this platform, you’ll know I’m all about helping you to take action. And here are two very easy next steps to keep you moving in the right direction:

  1. Download our free PDF guide that goes along with this series: “Debt-Elimination Quick-Start Guide”. This has a very comprehensive and dedicated video on establishing your “why”.
  2. Head over to YouTube and start with the “Day 0” video. You can totally binge-watch the whole series if you want. That “first pass” will give you an idea of where you are and what it’s going to take for you to get to the next level with your own personal situation. And again, starting with your “why” is the absolute most important step.

I want for you to capitalize on any and all emotional momentum you’ve gotten from this piece of content by committing two just getting started by completing those two actions I mentioned above. If you’ve done that, congratulations, you’ve started! Now just follow the breadcrumbs and please let me know what’s helpful and what you might need more detail around.

Again, here's our free guide on how to save money and get out of debt.


What do you need help with the most right now?

Along those lines, I want to encourage you and challenge you again to get started in this process. Just download the guide and start consuming the YouTube series. Easy.

And again, I’d LOVE to hear from you. The biggest compliment you can give me as your coach is to share your progress and your takeaways in the comments below.

I wish you nothing but great success in your personal finance endeavors and please let me know how I can help you accomplish your goals.

To your freedom,


Your Virtual Money Coach

[email protected]

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.

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