I think self-reflection is good for the soul and the wallet, and so I periodically take a bit of time to do it.
But when I recently thought about my goals for the year and my progress, I realized that instead of making progress, I was making excuses.
My theme for the new year was health, and while I have finally kicked the soda habit (six months and counting!), I’ve neglected nearly all other aspects of my health. In fact, I’ve actually gained weight since I made health my theme for the year.
After life threw a wrench in our budget and we went back into debt, I vowed I would work hard to get it paid off early. I’ve since added a part-time job to my life, but I haven’t made any significant progress on the debt repayment.
I told myself that I would eat out less and make more meals from scratch at home, but that hasn’t happened. I haven’t clipped a coupon in weeks.
I’ve been making excuses.
I’m too busy. I’m too tired. It’s inconvenient. It takes too much time. I’ll do it tomorrow (or next week or next month). I’ve allowed myself to wallow in some negative self-talk that’s put me at a big disadvantage when it comes to reaching my goals.
And I don’t like that one bit!
Now, I know that this happens to most of us from time to time. When we get stressed and overwhelmed, it’s all too easy to fall into old bad habits and negative thinking. What I have figured out is that it is possible to turn things around and start making progress instead of making excuses.
How to Start Making Progress Instead of Making Excuses
Assess the situation. I know what’s working and what’s not. This is the first step in being able to come up with workable solutions. I know that I need to work on my diet and exercise for my health goals. I know I need to do some work on the family budget to ensure I can start paying off that new car early. I know I need to get back to menu planning, prep-ahead meals, and couponing.
Make a plan. Once I know what I need to work on, it’s time to develop a plan. I find that if I make lists of things I need to be doing and put them on my calendar, I am much more likely to get them done. There’s something very satisfying about crossing things off a list! I have made sure to put exercise on my to-do list so that I don’t forget to to it. I’m taking a good, hard luck at our budget and figuring out where I can find some additional money to put toward our debt. And I’m slowly easing back into menu planning and clipping coupons again.
Start small. One surefire way to burnout and give up on your goals is to try to do too much too quickly. That’s why it’s so important to start small. I can find a few minutes every day to clip coupons and plan a menu. I can spend a half hour taking a walk or doing an exercise video. The little things you do add up to big things. Remember that.
Challenge yourself. There’s nothing like a good challenge to keep you motivated to reach your goals. When I had first given up soda, I really pushed myself to see if I could make it to the one-month mark. Then two months. Then three. Now, it’s become a game. How long can I go without drinking pop? There are so many other ways to challenge yourself. Can I make a dinner for my family for less than $10? Less than $5? Make saving money a game or challenge yourself to a spending freeze. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it!
Celebrate the mini-successes. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! That’s why it’s a good idea to celebrate the success you have along the way. You can celebrate without spending a ton of money. Share your success with your friends (an occasional humble brag is okay!), take a long hot bath, check out a new book from the library, splurge a little on ingredients for a special dinner. Those small rewards can help push you further toward your big goals.
Repeat. Whenever you find yourself making excuses instead of progress, just stop and repeat the above steps. We’re human and we will have setbacks. We will make mistakes. We sometimes have issues that affect us. The important thing is that we learn from our experiences and keep pushing forward. We can do amazing things when we try.