How I Achieved a Major Personal Goal

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I just achieved a personal goal in my life, and I want to share with you a couple of tips that helped me along the way. But first, you need to know the back story...

I nearly didn't achieve my goal. On August 24, 2017, the university where I worked opened a state-of-the-art wellbeing facility, including numerous indoor basketball courts. My reason for visiting the facility wasn't basketball, but rather weight loss. I wanted to drop a few pounds (23 to be precise). The problem was, I dislike working out. I'm not good at it. Everything about the process dislikes me, too. So, I tricked myself into it. I told myself, "Self, if you'll show up to the gym, I'll let you shoot ten free throws before you begin your workout. I bet you can't make ten in a row." Now, we had a challenge, because while I knew I was horrible at working out, I was confident that I could resurrect that teenaged shooting guard and we could drain ten straight.

Each workout began with ten free throws. I afforded myself three warm-up shots, and if I made any of those, I could start the count at any time. It turns out that two decades of not shooting free throws left me a little rusty. I made 4/10 my first day. Then, 6/10. Next day, 5/10. I hovered around the 50% mark for a while, but then things improved: 7/10; 9/10; 8/10. Occasionally, I'd slip back to 4/10, with my worst being 2/10. From August 24, 2017 to May 25, 2018, an eight-month period, I had made 9/10 four times, but never all ten and never nine straight, missing the last one. Then, I had an idea.

Time was running out as we were moving to Florida in just a couple of weeks. I knew that making 10/10 was going to be difficult. You see, by the time I'd reach 7/7, I'd start thinking to myself, "Self, you're on a roll. This could be the day." Then, number eight or nine would smack the rim and I'd be back to hoping tomorrow would be the day. That's when it hit me: I couldn't seem to make ten in a row, but making three in a row wasn't a problem. So, I changed my goal: Make three in a row, three times, and hit a bonus shot at the end. You see what I did there? I'd hit three straight, then I'd set the count back to one, hit the second and third, then reset again. 

I had several hours to myself that next day, so I went to the gym to exercise. Well, honestly, I went to the gym to shoot free throws, and worked out because I was there. I started my routine and made three easy buckets. Then, three more. Then, three more. I had hit 9/9! All that remained was that last bonus shot. I bricked it. As soon as it left my hands, I was halfway to mid-court with my arms raised in victory. And, it bricked. I started again. And, again. Four times that session I hit 9/9 and missed the tenth shot. But, look what happened- I'd never hit 9/9 before. Now, I was doing it with ease by breaking the goal down to three sets of three, plus a bonus shot. While I didn't make the bonus, I'd found the secret.

On June 1, 2018 I entered the gym ready to shoot my three sets of three, plus a bonus, free throws. I made the first set. Then, the second. And, to my elation, the third set. I decided not to think about the bonus shot, but to just step up to the line and take it. I made it. Hands in the air, a loud WHOOOOHOOOO ringing in the rafters, and nobody to witness it, I ran around the court like a kid.

By the time I achieved my free throw goal, I’d dropped thirty pounds long ago, and was maintaining a weight that felt good for me. I can make 80% of my free throws on average. But, most importantly, I learned the power of breaking down sizable goals into smaller parts.

Along the way to meeting my weight goal, I'd tell myself to not focus on the whole goal, but just a smaller goal. For example: I couldn't get from 191 to 168 all at once, but I could get from 191 to 189 fairly fast. Then, to 187, and so on. As it turns out, the same principle worked for free throws.

I'm no goal expert, but I want to share two lessons I think can help all of us as we pursue goals - especially financial goals:

  1. Make your goal fun. My weight loss goal was achieved because of my free throw goal. 
  2. Break down the goal into small pieces. When Elizabeth and I achieved our debt free goal in 2003, we did it using The Debt Snowball, a tool that Dave Ramsey's team created. It helps you create a plan to eradicate all your debt in small chunks, and you pick up momentum (like a snowball) as you go. You can do the Google and find info about The Debt Snowball.

I don't share any of this because I want you to be impressed in any way. To be honest, I gained back nine pounds since I met my weight loss goal. But, I can still hit 80%+ from the free throw line! My hope for you is that, wherever you stand financially, you take small steps toward a goal that feels life-giving to you. Give yourself permission to start small, and to make it fun. 

As always, find yourself a professional if you need one to help you set your goals. I'm just here for encouragement, and your situation is your situation. Nevertheless, I'm praying for all who read this, and I'd love to hear from you along the way.

Tommy BrownComment