It’s cool to be anti-goal. I’m okay with being uncool.
I love the start of a New Year. It always feels like a chance to begin again, to wipe the slate clean if things haven’t gone well in the previous year or to build on what has gone well.
But one thing has changed in my approach to goal setting. My goals list has become smaller. A lot smaller.
I recently saw a headline for a post promising “50 Ways to Improve Your Finances.” Just reading the headline made my head hurt. I couldn’t bear to read the article.
I don’t want 50 things to do. I want to focus on a much smaller number of things that’ll make the biggest difference in my life.
Curly’s Secret to Success
In the movie City Slickers, three urban-dwelling, middle-aged guys going through a mid-life crisis decide to go on a cattle drive. There they meet a grizzled cowboy played by Jack Palance with the unlikely name of Curly who teaches them how to rope a cow, and in one memorable scene, an important life lesson:
Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is? This (holding up one finger).”
Mitch (played by Billy Crystal): “Your finger?”
Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean anything.” (Okay, he actually used a more colorful word at the end.)
Mitch: “But what is the one thing?”
Curly: “That’s what you have to find out.”
What is it for you?
Think about your finances. What one thing – what single change – would make the biggest difference in your life in 2015?
It Isn’t Rocket Science
When it comes right down to it, accomplishing a goal, even a big one, isn’t really that difficult.
Seth Godin recently revised, repackaged, and strongly encouraged people to buy Zig Ziglar’s legendary goals program, "Pick Four." So I did.
It consists of four simple spiral bound books in which you write down all the goals you can think of. Then you whittle the list down to just four, preferably with some balance across various aspects of your life – faith, family, career, etc.
Most of the rest of the books are diary pages where you keep track of what you did each day to pursue your goals.
The idea couldn’t be simpler. Focus on a small number of goals, take meaningful action toward their accomplishment each day, and you stand a very good chance of accomplishing those goals.
You just do the work. Every day.
Taking Your Financial Life From Good to Great
In his business classic, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins says companies that achieve remarkable success take the same route. They pursue their vision day by day over a long period of time.
He calls it “turning the flywheel.”
A flywheel is a heavy disk that helps to maintain a constant speed of rotation in a machine or to store energy. Collins describes it as “a massive metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle, about 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and weighing about 5,000 pounds.”
Imagine trying to get it to turn.
It takes every bit of muscle you can muster. You push and push. After several hours you get it to make one full rotation. You keep pushing. Eventually it moves a little faster – a little faster. Hours later you’re getting that crazy contraption to make two rotations per hour.
Finally, it becomes easier. In fact, at some point you notice the wheel is moving under the power of its own momentum.
Turning a Financial Flywheel
When I took on the task of paying off $20,000 of credit card debt, it seemed overwhelming at first. There were many days when I was deeply discouraged. Progress came slowly. I wanted to quit. But I kept going, kept pushing.
Every month I worked as hard as I could to make as much money as I could, and then I sent a big portion of what I earned to my creditors.
It was a heavy, heavy flywheel. It took time to build momentum. It took consistency. Hard work every day. Big checks sent to creditors every month. Then one day – four and a half years after starting – all of the debt was gone.
Your One Thing
What is it for you? Is there a financial issue or goal that God keeps bringing to mind? If you could accomplish just one financial goal in 2015 – one goal that would make the biggest difference – what would you choose?
Are you willing to go after it? Are you willing to do the work? Even when it doesn’t feel good? Even when you can’t see any progress? Every single day?
What’s your one thing?
Be bold and go public with your single most important financial goal for 2015 by leaving a comment. I’d love to cheer you on. One of my greatest hopes for the Sound Mind Investing community is that it would be a safe place where we can have scary conversations about using money as God directs to live the lives He intends for us.
Radically. One day at a time. Starting now.