Wouldn’t that be nice? Someone walks up to you and says, “Here. These are keys to that brand new house over there. It’s all yours. Congratulations!” This actually happens on a popular T.V. show. I’m sure they appreciate it, but in at least one case, the people promptly took out a mortgage against the house and then lost it all in foreclosure.
How many lottery winners end up broke after spending it all on foolish things? I’m sure some are prudent and even increase their charitable giving, but most? They’re like the rest of us who get a (much more modest) raise but then promptly spend the increase.
Instead of living on what we made before and saving the difference for a rainy day, we increase our spending. Instead of getting rid of credit card and car payment debts, we load up expecting things to always go our way.
But rainy days always come. What then? If you don’t have a plan to survive the storm, the storm will eat you alive. If you’ve thought about it, though, and made plans, when the winds come, you’ll be left standing, even when everything else is blown away.
Another problem many of us face is that we don’t handle success very well. Popular life coach Tony Robbins says that we often sabotage our own success. Right before we make it, we back off, because we fear how our life is going to change. It’s like we have this goofy impulse inside to mess it up, right when we’re almost there. But if we’d just keep going, we’d get there.
Some people are what I call “drama queens.” Everything becomes a drama. They have to be the center of attention, if only in their own minds. Instead of just grinding it out, week by week, in small, predictable steps, they have a heroic week, followed by a poor week because it wasn’t sustainable. They continue to repeat this pattern until they just get tired and quit.
Remember the old story about the turtle and the rabbit (tortoise and the hare)? What was the moral of the story? Slow and steady wins the race. While I’m all about building intensity in your exercise (more on this another time), you’ve got to be slow and steady in your commitment.
Don’t expect too much, too soon, but be like the turtle. When everyone else gives in, you’re still moving forward. I call this winning through stamina. You get what you want, simply by enduring. You make a decision that you’re not going to quit, no matter what. You’re going to keep making progress.
It’s like setting up weekly or monthly automatic deposits into a savings account. Even if it’s a small amount, it starts to add up. If you leave it alone for a year or two, pretty soon you’ve really got something there for a rainy day.
Then, if you get knocked back a step, you take two more steps forward. When life intrudes, you don’t make a big drama about it. It’s O.K. to be disappointed, angry, and even grieve sometimes when life really strikes you a blow. But at some point, you’ve just got to get back up and start figuring out what your next step is.
You may have heard it said that the best degree comes from the school of hard knocks. I think it’s true. The lessons sink in deeper. They make a lasting impression on you. Whatever it was that caused things to be the way they are now, if the treatment’s painful enough, you’ll never do that again.
Getting out of debt is tough, but you can do it. Once you do it, you’ll never want to go back. Radio talk show host Dave Ramsey says it takes most people 2-3 years to be debt free (all but the house) and 7-8 years to be completely debt free (including the house). It takes a huge commitment, but is so worth it in the end.
Getting in shape is just as tough, but it doesn’t take nearly as long. Even if you’re 100 lbs overweight, you can take it off in a year, two years at the most, if you stick with it. That’s quite a commitment too, but it’s worth it.
Once you can move around easily, and don’t have all that extra weight dragging you down, you’ll never want to go back. Once you feel great and can finally do all the things you want to do, you’ll have enough incentive to keep it that way.
So what are the keys? It’s pretty simple: hard work, being consistent, and not giving up. Now those keys will really get you somewhere.