Sunday, July 19, 2009

Change One Thing In Your Life At A Time

This may be the most important self-help lesson I have ever learned. I suspect that if I had been paying attention to Zig Ziglar many years ago, I could have picked up on this idea a very long time ago. But earlier this year, several influencers converged with the same message over just a few weeks, and I was a 100% true believer convert. In fact I have been applying this new idea to my own life for the past few months with startling effects.

Let's start with giving credit where credit is due and using the actual words of the teachers who influenced me. It all started with my reading the hugely popular author Dave Ramsey and his book, The Total Money Makeover. You have likely heard the question: "How do you eat an elephant." The answer is one bite at a time. Dave Ramsey says it this way:

Find something you want to do and do that with vigor until it is complete; then and only then do you move to the next step. If you try to do everything at once, you will fail.
This is how I have attacked change my entire life. I need to increase sales to existing customers, improve collections, drive down costs, spend more time with my family, increase my ministry to others, and work on my next hobby . . . All at once. Dave Ramsey gave me the first hint that this was a futile approach.

Then while driving down the freeway listening to a CD series on Spiritual Formation by Dr. John Coe at Biola University, John described me perfectly. He said that those of us who are "self help" junkies will pick up a new self help book, read the first chapter and go, "WoW! There are some great ideas there that I should incorporate into my life." Then on to the next chapter. Soon, we've finished the book and then pick up the next one, eager to read more great ideas on how we could improve all these things in our lives.

To be perfectly honest, at least for me, some of those ideas filter in here and there. They are especially useful for telling others how they might change their lives!! But very, very little sticks, and in a few months it is all but forgotten.

John Coe said that the secret is pursuing one aspect of our, in this case, spiritual aspect of our lives that we wish to improve. Once that habit has been established we can move on to the next.

I honestly don't remember for sure where the next two admonitions came from. But they were dead on with the same advice. Soooooo . . . for once, I stopped. I listened. I did not go onto the next chapter in The Money Makeover Book. I decided to go 100% cash as instructed and to attempt to create a $1000 cash reserve. That was over four months ago. I have not used a credit card since. I am still working on the reserve. I have not turned the next page in the book.

Meanwhile, I was over at my daughter's house. My then two year-old grandson Grant checked me out thoroughly, and asked his Dad, "Does Poppy have a baby in his belly?" With the financial habit firmly in place it was now time to get something else firmed up. I had many things going against me. I'm in my 7th decade (61). I am a man of a very, very small frame. I hate exercise unless done with others in competitive sport. I work 60+ hours a week.

But you see, with the new plan, this was my focus. The rest of my life would continue to move along with its own special combination of bad and good habits. No other changes allowed until this one was successfully implemented.

I'm not going to publish the pictures, at least not yet, but Grant says he no longer worries that I'm adding to the population problem. My family members have noticed that there are actually cuts and bulges where there used to be flab and jiggly stuff. And this has happened in only 12 weeks.

With that element habitual and just requiring maintenance, it was on to phase three. In case you haven't noticed, we are in a recession. Being older than most reporters on the subject, I can tell you this is not the worst recession since the great depression. But it is the worst one since Carter's 21% interest rates and 17% inflation. And it is serious, and could get worse. In the middle of this recession I have started two new businesses. One is providing about 70% of what I need to pay my personal overhead. The other is just now starting up.

It is very easy to get distracted from a business, especially when the business is operated out of your home, and there are four other folks living in the house. To make it more interesting, all of them are teen or early 20 men who have a constant stream of similar aged male and female friends coming through at literally all hours of the day and night.

Phase three, begun just 6 days ago as of this writing, is to have a laserlike attention to business; to put in 12 hours a day 6+ days per week of solid prospecting and execution of client projects. This one thing at a time approach is still in the early stages of proving itself, but thus far it is very, very successful. I challenge others to try it and report back on your success.

Remember, you have to want the change more than you want the pain you are dealing with now. So my first pain was credit card debt. My second pain was two year-old honesty. My third pain is not being able to buy simple needs and wants. So if you have a pain in your life that can be excised, and you want it bad enough to concentrate for a few weeks or months to accomplish its eradication, go for it. Even send me an email that your going to do it, so I can keep your somewhat accountable if you like.