Why I’m Breaking Down When it Comes to Debt
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Don’t let my title fool you. I haven’t given up on paying off my debt. 🙂 Quite the contrary, in the last four weeks, we’ve put more extra money toward one particular debt than we put extra toward debt in all of 2014! Focusing on achieving goals, debt or otherwise, by breaking them down into manageable steps is helping us see amazing results. I’m confident if this tactic works for me, it can work for you and whatever goal you’re trying to achieve too.
Many of us set goals for the new year and are busy (or so we think) going about achieving them. The funny thing about goals is that no matter how good they are, they’re worthless until we actually start working on them. Many goals go unrealized, and there are many reasons for the failure of achieving set goals. We’ve heard the advice about setting S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time bound) goals, and we know that writing our goals down also carries us a long way in achieving those goals.
Studies show that those who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve those goals than those who simply make a mental commitment to their goals. If you’ve made goals and haven’t started working to achieve them yet, writing them down is a good first step. Another practical way to make sure your goals turn into accomplishments is to break them down into more bite-sized pieces.
The Best way to take down debt is one bite at a time
Have you heard the saying that the best way to eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time? It’s a funny little way of helping us see how we can accomplish goals that seem impossible to achieve. It’s hard work to eat an elephant, and simply the thought alone of having to complete an elephant-sized goal can make a person turn around and walk away from that goal.
So how does one go about achieving the bigger goals in life? By breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. When it comes to
eating elephants setting goals, grows only comes after breakdown.
For instance, if you have a goal to run a marathon, but have no experience as a runner, first set a goal to run a mile. If you focus too much on the fact that you have to learn to run 26.2 miles, there’s a good chance you’ll get overwhelmed with that goal. Running one mile, however, is more doable to the psyche, and if you can keep your focus on completing your one mile run, you’ve got a far better chance of achieving that goal.
An added benefit: reaching that goal will bring you the confidence you need to set your goal to run two miles, and then three, and next, five miles.
Debt and the Smaller Goals
This is why the infamous debt snowball method of debt pay down works for so many people. Honestly, I didn’t used to be a fan on the debt snowball. There are reasons why, from a financial standpoint, the debt snowball may not the best choice, and there are ways that the more economical method of debt payoff, the debt avalanche, can be achieved while managing the emotional part of not paying off the smallest debts first.
However, I’ve learned on our own journey to becoming debt free that looking at a large goal (in our case, a large amount of debt to pay off) can be discouraging and can often lead to dumping the goal altogether. Many times during the first and second years of our debt payoff journey I would look at the large debt total and simply want to give up altogether on being debt-free.
Recently, though, we’ve switched gears and are using the debt snowball method, focusing on only one debt at a time, starting with the smallest. The rest of the debt, we’re ignoring, save for the minimum payments we’re making.
The result: in the last four weeks, we’ve put more extra money toward this one debt than we put extra toward debt in all of 2014!
I honestly think this is happening because we’ve changed the way we look at our goal to be debt free. We’re not thinking so much about being debt free, instead we’re thinking about our goal to pay off this one card. Once that card is gone, we’ll focus on the next one. Working at achieving goals in smaller sections instead of focusing on the end goal as a whole has given us the confidence we need to really put the extra effort into making our goals happen. It has helped us to take goal achievement to the next level, because eating a piece of an elephant is a whole lot easier than eating the whole elephant. 🙂
Have you ever tried breaking a big goal down into smaller pieces to make achievement easier? What big goal have you set recently? What works best for you to track progress and have accountability wth your goals? How do you celebrate your achievements?
Photo courtesy of: Tambako the Jaguar