You Can Do Big, Hard Things. Try This


The other day, I had a conversation with my wife, Julie, about moving to Hawaii. Why couldn’t we just pack up all eight of us and move to Hawaii for a year?

Our company is all remote, we can do this internet thing, why wouldn’t we do this fun thing?

Julie’s response was, “That sounds pretty hard.” And we kind of just left it at that.

It made me think about how a lot of us get stuck with budgeting when it comes to really big, long-term financial goals.

I mean, she has a point. There would be a lot involved and the sheer size of the task at hand seems big and hard and overwhelming.

And it’s easy to get stuck there. That feeling—the-it’s-just-too-big-where-would-I-even-start-feeling—is exactly what prevents most people from reaching their goals.

Break It Down

When you are thinking about anything overwhelming, you can’t focus on the looming whole, but rather smaller, achievable pieces, and what you can do today, tomorrow and next week. It’s not helpful to focus on $80k of student loans, just worry about the first thousand. You just need to worry about reaching that first-mile marker.

It isn’t ever one big decision. It is hundreds of little decisions and corresponding actions piled on top of each other.

Make A List

So, back to Julie and moving my six kids to Hawaii for one year. My rebuttal to Julie, was we should make a list of what we would have to do, to break it down, so it wouldn’t seem so overwhelming.

If we really wanted to do this, we’d have to rent our house, and use that rent money to help cover what would likely be a higher rent in Hawaii. We’d need to move our personal items and find a place.

And as you start kind of listing things, it’s not like any one of them is unachievable, and it brings a lot of clarity.

I think it is a good approach to possibly moving to Hawaii for one month, or tackling a big goal in your budget.

Lists get kind of a bad rap like they are just a list. But checklists really help people accomplish things. With your budget, you are really just making a list of priorities for your money, and your budget helps you check things off the list.

The list and the budget both serve to help you reframe the day to day decisions that add up, and make sure you are still working toward the big priorities and goals that matter most.

Let The List Be Your Guide

Don’t fall into the trap of asking yourself, “Can I afford this?” Because, especially if you’re using YNAB, the answer is usually yes. You can afford it, but that is the wrong question. Does this fill-in-the-blank move me closer to my goal? This is the question you should be asking yourself.

I love that this reframing isn’t slapping you on the wrist, it is just reminding you of the big picture. And if you’re consistently not doing things to move toward that goal, it might be time to re-evaluate if that really is the thing you want to do. Maybe that big goal isn’t that important to you after all, and if so, what helpful information!

Most big financial wins don’t happen in big chunks. They happen one little chunk at a time.

Check Things Off Your List

But in terms of budgeting, the takeaway is what you do now—the little things—influence what happens in the future. So it’s important to let the future influence how we act today.

Take a big goal, break it down into smaller chunks and use that list to check things off the list toward accomplishing big, hard things.

In the meantime, I’m going to finish my list and present it to Julie. There will probably be like 90 things when I’m done. Maybe I’ll just present the first 10 and see if I can get the conversation going again.