I recently read a book called The 2 Degree Difference. It was all about tiny shifts that make the difference between success and failure. Small efforts that yield huge results. In the past, I have often fallen into the trap of thinking I need to move a mountain or two in order to succeed at something. I’d look at the big picture of this monumental goal and think, It’s too hard. I can’t do it. I’d lose the battle in my head before I even gave it a sincere try. I would focus on the huge end result, rather than the tiny step I could take today that would get me there. But tiny steps are what keep me moving forward! If I wait to take a step until I can take a big step, I might be standing still for a long time. And I’ve had enough of that.
I am a nurse by profession. In nursing school, there are a few pretty tough classes. The one with the highest failure rate is Anatomy and Physiology. I remember the first day I had the textbook in my grubby little hands. I thumbed through it and scanned the course material and my heart fell. I was sure it was going to be the end of me. After a brief panic attack, I regained myself and decided that, first of all, I wasn’t going to give up. And secondly, I wasn’t going to read page two until I understood page one. In other words, I was going to take it one page at a time. From my experience, the folks who made it through the class were not smarter than the ones who didn’t. They were simply the ones who resisted the tendency to get lost in the overwhelming big picture and instead did the thing one little page at a time.
I think this is true in many areas of life. We are stopped in our efforts by our own tendency to be overwhelmed. While it is important to have our big picture clearly defined, it is also important not to become consumed by the hugeness of it to the point where fear takes over. But rather, day by day choose to grasp onto the small incremental step that is before us so we can keep inching forward.
Consider the debt snowball concept. Obviously we’d all like to pay off our debts today. And sometimes we might feel like becoming debt free is such a huge task that we really shouldn’t bother trying. We envision ourselves living on beans and water, eating by candlelight and reading Readers Digest magazines from 1982 for entertainment. We convince ourselves by focusing on the enormity of the thing that it is simply beyond our reach. That it would require too much sacrifice to get there. Anybody else?
But using the debt snowball, we find that with a little focus and planning, we can do it in a fairly short period of time by making small deliberate changes in our financial decisions.
Consider weight loss. I’d love to lose 40 pounds in a month. But one pound per week for a year is something that I can achieve without starving myself or being miserably hungry all the time. That two degree difference adds up to 52 pounds in a year.
In her book The Money Saving Mom’s Budget (which I will be reviewing soon), Crystal encourages us to save something – even if it’s only $5 per week. Normally, we might be inclined to resist the idea of saving such a small amount because after all, we won’t see a huge change in our net worth as a result. But Crystal insists that creating a regular savings plan will make a small shift in our thinking that will inevitably change how we view our money. As we see this savings grow little by little, we see that this is something we can do! Something we can work into our lives. The act of saving even the smallest amount will encourage us and propel us forward in the same way the debt snowball does. So it works sort of like a savings snowball. And it starts with a tiny change.
My Steps for Success in 2012
Using the concept of small, successive changes, here is how I will formulate my New Years goals:
- I always begin my goal setting with a purpose statement. It is a one sentence statement that sums up who I want to be. Mine is: I want to know God, love my family and serve others.
- I then take my purpose statement and break it into goals. How am I going to work towards knowing God? How can I demonstrate love for my family? How am I going to serve others? You can see that the concept of loving my family will lead to goals for homemaking, financial management and quality family time, just to name a few. So I am starting with my purpose, and then formulating goals to achieve this purpose.
- Now I divide my goals into baby steps. Some of these may be one-time goals, like finding a women’s Bible study group. For those I will set a deadline and put it in my planner. Others might be small lifestyle changes, like exercising 20 minutes in the morning. For those, I will write them into my routine. Either way, they are written down as a deadline (or sometimes a series of deadlines) or a task.
- Making my progress measurable is important. Saying I want to “save money” is less measurable than saying I want to save $500 this year. For the latter, I can formulate a weekly plan and measure my progress as the year goes on. This keeps me on track.
- If you’re a visual person like me, consider creating a vision board to keep your goals on track. You can head over and visit Scraps of my Geeky Life to see how she made hers (above). Or check out The Idiot’s Guide to Vision Boards.
- Visit Money Saving Mom where she has put together a list of free printable goal setting worksheets.
- Stephen R Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has created a free online community for goal setting. He walks you step by step through setting your goals and breaking them into manageable bits, and you can opt to share your list with the community, share with a few people for accountability, or keep it private.
- Check out THIS post by Coupon Geek for some of her favorite resources for household management, fitness goals and more.
Have any tips to help us set our goals? Please share them in the comments!
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