A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Chicago for the Financial Blogger Conference. It was a great trip – except for the problem that I had with the size of airline seats – and I learned a great deal.
One of the major illustrations that stuck with me, occurred at the very end of the conference. Pat Flynn, of Smart Passive Income, gave the closing remarks, and ended his speech with a very simple, yet profound, illustration.
He asked everyone to raise their hands as high as they can get them. As I looked around, everyone in the room put their hands up! I wasn’t sure why he wanted all of us to raise our hands as high as they can go, but there we were – a bunch of grown men and women raising their hands, and having no idea why!
Then he asked everyone to put their hands up one inch higher. I thought it was just a joke. I thought to myself, “My hand is already up as far as it can go, it’s not my fault that I’m this short“! But as I looked around, just about everyone in the room managed to put their hand up one inch higher!
You Can Always Do More Than You Think You Can Do
That was the point of this illustration. Whenever we are faced with a challenge, we tend to underestimate our abilities (unless you’re one of those people, who never thinks they can never lose). Although, Pat’s message was directed specifically at bloggers, it can pertain to any area of life.
When it comes to our finances, we all know that it’s good to have goals. Everyone knows that they should set up an emergency fund, pay off debt, take advantage of high IRA contribution limits, find the best retirement plan, stick to a budget (even if it’s loose and flexible), avoid credit cards (unless you are disciplined enough to take advantage of credit card benefits), and give!
As you can see, we personal finance bloggers talk about this stuff all the time – although, many of us are probably not doing all of those things – so they are not new concepts. However, when it comes time to implement these things, we come up with plenty of excuses.
Why We Fail To Give 100%
It’s not that we don’t want to get our lives in order. It’s not even that we are afraid to work hard to meet our goals. However, we will often look at the overall goal and become intimidated. We look at how many years it may take us to reach our goal, or we start to count the enormous number of bad habits that we will have to put to death, and oftentimes, we begin to doubt that they will ever become a reality.
When this happens, we will either reduce our goal in order to make it more “manageable”, start to lose focus and dedication when working towards the intimidating goal, or fail to consider just how far we can go if we push ourselves. All of these are bad responses.
I think that is what happened when everyone was asked to raise their hands as high as they can go. Some people may have considered how hard it would be to stretch their torso and arm so much, that they would actually have their hand up as far as it could go – this consideration was most likely done subconsciously.
Others may have simply thrust their hands in the air – getting them pretty high – not even realizing that they could actually go higher.
As I said earlier, we see this happen in all areas of life. I’ve seen it myself when it comes to my attempts at weight loss! I know good cardio & strength training workout routines, I know what to eat and what to avoid; I even know how important getting proper rest is! However, with all of that knowledge (along with my huge goal to lose 100lbs), I am still not making much progress.
Why? Because it is impossible to lose 100lbs in one day! I usually just look at the big picture, without breaking things down into smaller goals. The only time I set a small goal – the First Fat Guy Challenge – I wanted to lose 15lbs in a month, and I lost 16!
The fact that my goal is so large makes it more difficult to give an extra push when needed. Sometimes it just seems so far away and unobtainable!
How Do We Overcome This?
No matter what their reason for failing to hit the mark initially, everyone was able to get their hands up as far as they could once they were pushed! This means that after the initial thrust, everyone should have kept pushing until they couldn’t go any further!
Even the bible talks about the need for Christians to have endurance when running this race:
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. ~Hebrews 10:32-36
Christians need endurance to be able to go through all of the persecution, sufferings, ill treatment, struggles against remaining sin, and everything else that we will deal with in this life! Having endurance will allow us to push through all of these things…keeping our eyes fixed on our heavenly home!
Endurance is the key to accomplishing most of our other goals as well. We can’t let temporary challenges or setbacks cause us to quit. We have to keep pushing until we either can’t go any further, or don’t have to go any further (because we’ve hit the mark)!
The ability to set short term goals is vital if you plan to have endurance. Endurance it built up over time, through a series of shorter struggles to meet goals. Whether it’s a Christian who has a goal to live a holy life, but has to set smaller goals to live holy second-by-second; or it’s a fat guy trying to lose 100lbs one workout or meal at a time, the concept is the same.
If you are going to endure until you hit your goal, while simultaneously setting and meeting short term goals, you will need to have dual vision. The problem with smaller goals is that it can be hard to get motivated, because the end result will not have a big impact. For instance, if I set a goal of losing 10lbs, it may be hard to find motivation because those 10lbs won’t make much of a difference in how I look or feel – but it may help me win my 100 push ups challenge!
In these cases, it is also important to focus on the long term goal, then I can push forward, knowing that this is one in a series of smaller challenges that will add up to have a huge impact!
Staring only at your ultimate goal may cause you to feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel. Even if you don’t “officially” give up, you may not be as focused and disciplined, because you feel as though “cheating” once or twice won’t have an impact.
This is why it is important to consider both sides of your tasks. It is more likely that you will be faithful and disciplined if you develop (and pray for) endurance, while establishing smaller goals, and having dual vision.
photo by Lance Neilson
- How many times have you been faced with a challenge or goal, which you failed to complete?
- Do you find yourself “cheating” when you start too only look at the big picture?
- How often to you examine your life to see if you are being faithful and disciplined in regards to your challenges?