Everyone knows that financial freedom starts with tiny steps.
Sure, you can dream about winning the lottery, or investing in the next Amazon just before it becomes Amazon, but that almost never happens. (And when it does, now that I think of it, it happens also because of tiny steps. Winning the lottery starts with the tiny step of buying a ticket, and investing in the next Amazon starts with the tiny step of learning how to invest in the stock market.)
The problem is, the tiny step seems so…tiny. And so we overlook it, or avoid it, or decide it doesn’t matter.
Trying to lose weight? What’s one little Hershey’s Kiss in the greater scheme of things? How many inches will it really add to the muffin-top?
Or how about trying to get fit, after years of inactivity. Fifteen steps to the mailbox instead of stopping by in the car on the way out of the driveway is not going to matter a hill of beans.
This is the thinking that stops us from achieving our biggest goals.
The goal seems so large, and the steps seem so small and insignificant. Why even bother?
Of course, we know this is not true, but it’s the untrue stuff that seems the most pervasive. We need a way to make those tiny steps feel significant enough to keep doing them, until they pile up into something bigger.
Here’s another thing. Trying to do something all by yourself is really, really hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny thing or a big thing, isolation makes it harder.
Just ask me. I am trying to do three things all by myself:
- Record every impulse to buy and wait at least 24 hours before buying it.
- Record every dime I spend.
- Save $1 per day. (That might have been $10 per day a couple of weeks ago. It proved unrealistic and I had to downward adjust.)
Presently, I occasionally think about these commitments I made to myself, as in: oh yeah, I was supposed to write that down and think about it before I spent it. Oh well, too late now.
This is the sum total of as far as I’ve gotten actually following through on the commitments themselves. Pitiful, really; but also typical when you’re trying to do something by yourself.
Trying to do something challenging goes a lot better when you do it inside a group of other people trying to do it too.
Twelve step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, know this. It’s about being in a group that knows how much it matters to reach the goal, and knows how hard it is, and can empathize, and won’t let you trivialize it. Just knowing someone else is walking in your same shoes is a big help.
This week I was introduced to a cool new online community called Daily Feats that remedies both of those problems: the hopelessness of the tiny step and the isolation of going it alone.
You should go there and set up an account. That, in itself, is motivating. It’s a really fun interface that starts right out rewarding you with points for stuff you already did, that you normally do and don’t really consider a big deal.
In my case, I got points for getting up early (also known as insomnia), for snacking on fruit instead of chips (good thing they didn’t ask me that about Thursday, when I ate half a bag of Laura Scudders), and for not driving yesterday. Woohoo!
After you get your initial points, you get to set some goals, and then learn about challenges that are already underway in the Daily Feats community. I joined a challenge called !save1% and another one called !thinkb4buying.
The idea is to check in every day and click “done” for each challenge where you’ve met your commitment. After you do that, you can see Tweet-style notes left by others in the same challenge, and you can add a note yourself – hence joining a community all striving in the same challenge.
You get points for checking in, and points for clicking “done,” and eventually those points add up and become donations to your favorite charity or even gift cards. For example, when you accumulate 5000 points, you can choose to reward yourself with a $10 Starbucks or iTunes gift card.
So I ask myself, what’s to keep me from going to the site every day and clicking “done” just to get the gift-card?
I don’t know. It looks like the honor system to me. But I guess if a person is going to go to the trouble of setting up an account, choosing some challenges, and logging in every day, then they’re probably going to actually do the daily step.
I think I’d personally feel like the worst kind of cheater if I lied about it, and that latte I buy with my fraudulently won Starbucks gift card is going to be as dust in the mouth.
I once joined a site that challenged me to write every day. I had an idea for a book, and I wasn’t writing it. (Do you see me on Amazon? No? That’s because the book is STILL not on paper.) There was a specific number of words on this challenge, I forget – maybe 100 or something.
Every morning I’d get an e-mail reminder telling me to go write my 100 words. In a remarkably short period of time those e-mails got really annoying. I found myself saying things like, “AGAIN with the nagging,” and “Where is the unsub button on this thing,” and “ShutUP.”
In other words, it was not working.
But I think it was because I chose something that I was already doing, in spades. I’ve been a writer all my life. Without doubt, I write thousands of words a day. Writing 100 more was just so vague as to be dumb, as goals go.
I don’t think Daily Feats will be like that. It’s about the tiny steps I’m not taking – the ones that are standing between me and my big goal of financial freedom. I’m going to give it a shot.
Care to join me on Daily Feats, Dreamers and set some goals together?
Leave a comment below and let me know.