Blog | Personal Finance

How to change yourself, not just your habits

Five personal traits and a framework to focus on in the New Year

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New Year’s is traditionally a time where we become introspective, asking what good things we did in the last year…and what things could have improved. Many people like to make resolutions this year, and that’s probably not news to you. What may be news to you, however, is that few people keep their resolutions. As U.S. News reports, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.

My belief is this is because most people focus on surface goals. Surface goals are things we want to change about ourselves that are the output of our inputs. For instance, if I want to loose weight and have an overeating problem, making a resolution to go to the gym will not work. It doesn’t address the underlying issue, overeating. And because I won’t actually lose any weight if I overeat, even if I work out everyday, I’ll give up on going to gym and the unhealthy cycle restarts itself. If I’m lucky, I won’t be even heavier by the time the next New Year’s rolls around.

But maybe I’m smart and decide I’m going to work on my overeating by having a diet instead. Unfortunately, according to UCLA, one-third to two-thirds of people gain back any weight they lose from a diet within four or five years. And you probably know from experience either with yourself or with a friend a lot of diets never even get off the ground.

Why is that? Again, it’s because a person isn’t going deep enough. They aren’t addressing the true input that results in the output of overeating and weight gain. They haven’t really changed their mindset, and they haven’t really changed themselves.

Rich dad understood this better than anyone I know. And he came up with five personal traits that every person much cultivate in order to not just conquer bad habits but also to become a better person.


The ability to see a better future. With any goal, you must be able to understand why you are going where you are going. It is not enough to say you want to quit smoking. You must understand the reason why, such as being around for your kids in old age. Then you must internalize that vision and make it a driving force for everything you do. Once you do that the outputs will be more than just quitting smoking. Perhaps you’ll drink less, exercise more, and stop being a workaholic.


The ability to act despite tremendous doubt. Anytime you change something or start something new, it can be scary. We all love the comfort and the security of the familiar. But it is only the courageous who can blaze new trails and make a positive impact on the world around them.

Change also sometimes requires sacrifice. For instance, if you want to be healthier, it may mean giving up relationships with people who don’t help you along that journey, such as those friends you have wings and beers with a couple times a week. It takes courage to say no to ingrained patterns.


The ability to think outside the box. As the old adage goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

On this journey of life, as we seek to achieve our goals, we will often make mistakes. The question is, “What will you learn from them?” The most successful people on the planet are able to embrace the lessons from mistakes and use them to find new and unexplored ways of moving forward. That is the essence of creativity.

Another important question that creativity spurs is, “How can I do this differently this time?” When we fail, we must find a new angle or approach. The creative process is using our courage each time to get up when we fall and find a new way forward.


The ability to withstand criticism. There is not one successful person who has not been criticized. No matter what you set out to do in life, you will meet opposition. Sometimes this criticism comes from other people—and sometimes it comes from that little voice in our head! Either way, you must be able to push forward even when all else is telling you that you’ll fail. And when you do fail, you’ll be able to get up and get moving again. After all, “It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get up.”


Patience is the ability to delay gratification. It can be very difficult to learn to deny short-term, immediate self-gratification in favor of long-term reward. If you want to be healthy, you have to stop eating comfort foods. If you want to travel, you have to save for the trip. If you want to get rich, you have to work hard at building your financial intelligence and investments over time. There is no quick way. There are no short cuts. At least, not any that last. Achieving success in anything takes tremendous patience.

The Triple-A Triangle framework for achieving dreams

Rather than simply focus on New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to invest in building the above character traits over the next year. You’ll be amazed at how long-term habits begin to melt away once you do so.

Then, the magic will happen. Rather than create goals that help you break bad habits, you’ll find yourself creating goals to achieve big dreams, like buying your first investment property or starting your own business.

And that’s when my wife Kim’s Triple-A Triangle comes in handy. This is a very simple framework Kim developed in her book, “It’s Rising Time,” that you can put into practice to achieve your dreams.

As Kim writes:


This is the dream, the very clear vision of what you want. And it’s much more than saying, "I want to be a millionaire.”

It’s what you will have once you reach your goal such as, “I will have the freedom to pursue my love of travel,” “I will be able to contribute more to my favorite charity,” “I will be able to spend valuable time with my children,” etc.


This is the education part of do where you gather the information you need to take action. What do you need to study to reach your financial goals, and how are you going to get that information?

Whether it’s reading a book, watching a finance video or television program, listening to an investment radio-show, or conducting some research online, set aside some time each day to increase your financial education and learn about money.


This is the stage where most people stop due to fear. But in order to reach goals and be successful, it is necessary to apply the knowledge you acquire and take action.

In order to be successful with Kim’s Triple-A Triangle, you need to have a the foundations of Rich Dad’s personal traits. Together, they are a powerful combination for changing your future, whether it’s the New Year…or any time of year.

All of us at Rich Dad wish you a prosperous 2018!

Original publish date: December 26, 2017

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