Why your efforts don’t seem to pay off

Working on our finances often requires a lot of effort. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to maintain them mainly because you don’t always get the feeling that you are making progress. Don’t get your hopes down though!
Picture of Grégory Leclercq

Grégory Leclercq

There are a few reasons why you might feel stuck, perhaps not satisfied with the direction your finances are taking. Psychology—of course—plays a big part. Let’s uncover a few reasons why you are probably biasing your expectations, this time from less of a financial perspective.

The ambiguity of time

Time is a fascinating concept, but not an easy one to master. Its linearity—or at least the way we conceive it—sometimes makes us feel like we just can’t make a mistake. Time feels awkward, between scarce and abundant, it confuses us. We know that we have to wait, but we’re impatient to see a result, it doesn’t help. We wish we could just have a slight peek at the future so we’d be sure to make the right decision. This way we could make sure that our efforts would not be in vain. 

That would be too easy. We have to learn to embrace imperfection and go along with it. If we can’t be too sure about what’s coming, at least we can build a rock-solid base of beliefs and values that will dictate our actions. 

TIP: Strong finances come from discipline—somehow—and that comes from our internal set of principles. Time can be our friend if only we learn to use it to our advantage and not try to play against it. Being patient is easier when your convictions allow it.

The butterfly effect

Sometimes it’s the opposite: we perceive that something we do today doesn’t really have a big consequence in the future. Because consequences are often hidden in time and in complex evolutionary forms, we even forget the origin of what will once become a major change in your life. Because of that, we tend to minimise the impact of “good” actions and minimise the impact of “bad” ones. 

We don’t realise what truly helped us make that investment at the right time. We don’t look back when we finally make that decision to switch jobs. It all seems in the moment. It appears spontaneous, sometimes we input it to our good mood, or even attribute it to luck. We don’t remember the day when we started reading non-fiction rather than fiction books and how it started shaping our mindset. 

We don’t track the little things back in time so it’s hardly giving us the same confidence going ahead. It takes us 20 years to see continuous investment really become an important sum of money. It’s only by that time that we realize how our life has changed, and how everything would be so much more stressful if that good habit hadn’t been in our life. Only then is it easier to be happy with our choices, but we should not have to wait for 20 to 30 years to acknowledge it.

TIP: The butterfly effect is often in plain sight, but it’s hard for us to see it. Small actions have enormous impacts. It’s our duty to make that apparent so it can keep on guiding us on the right path to what we desire. We need that to fuel us continuously.

Personal (mis)alignment

But what do we truly desire? Are we even sure of that? Have we even spent time asking ourselves the right questions? It is certainly the case that producing effort is tiring, not only to the mind and the body but also to the soul. It can get lost running after things that are not necessarily meant for us.

TIP: This might sound cringy to most people, but if you are not open to introversion, it will come to bite you hard someday. Make sure to be 100% aligned with what you seek, it’s the key to make the efforts seem less daunting. 

As I always say, personal finance is an undeniable part of personal development. Don’t even try to do one without the other.

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Disconnect with your future self

Would we make an effort if we were not the ones to get a reward? Sometimes. It has been proven that one of the reasons why we fail to make the right financial decisions for our future, is because we do not connect with our future self (see Hal Hershfield’s research). In fact, we view our future self as an entirely different person. That is quite problematic when we’re trying to care for ourselves, isn’t it? 

It’s our duty to ensure that this disconnect does not materialise. One of the solutions presented by the literature is to take care of our future through the people we love. If we are going to change and become someone that feels different, then surely our loved ones won’t. If you have kids, it is especially easy to justify good financial decisions because you want them to have a bright future. 

TIP: Try doing the same with yourself. Invest in financial assets, invest in your life, and invest in yourself. Make an effort to visualize who you want to become, even in the far future, and connect both sides of the equation. A bit of self-love is required. It’s not about competing, it’s about the balance between now and later. 

Lack of belief? Does doubt settle in? Trust the process!

Sometimes we have to face it, we can be discouraged. It’s normal to feel lost, unconvinced, to doubt. It happens to the best of us. What the best of us manage to do, however, is to limit their emotional involvement in their financial endeavours. If you manage to do that, then the world is no secret to you.

TIP: You need a process of solid, unbiased, and factual reasoning. If you can study, analyse, plan, execute and revise without involving your emotions or anxiety, then you can trust your process for it will bring you the wealth you desire. 

Of course, this also supposes that your process is right by nature. There’s no good in convincing yourself not to stress things out if you are investing in some unconvincingly shady projects. You will notice the change with time: anxiety and doubt decrease, ease and habit settle. Pride too. It’s an indestructible feeling once you have proven that you can do such things with total trust in yourself.


There is a multitude of psychological burdens that come with producing the efforts required to grow wealth and to build the life of our dreams. If the idea of that is not sufficient in itself, we can learn to trick ourselves into seeing the positives and the rewards of that, especially when they seem distant.

Just like all things in life, they are not easy. Luckily we are all able to engineer processes that minimise our human biases. We can automate, delegate, support and iterate. It takes self-awareness to acknowledge those biases and it takes will to get over them, but everything is psychology-related. If only we were able to master it—everything would be easier.

The key is to not let your hopes down. Just like you would not want to become over-optimistic, maintaining the right mindset and the right ambitions, not too blurred—but especially not too low—is key to making sure that you feel your progress. You need to accept it, acknowledge it.

Take pride in it, you deserve it. And by all means, keep on going!

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