There are thing in our lives that scare us to death. It can be a task that we are dreading, or an ongoing behavior that we don’t want to face. A common response is to stick our head in the sand and ignore the problem. This is often referred to as the ostrich effect.
As a fellow ostrich, I often revert to this defense when stress enters my life. When faced with a challenge, my instinct is to shut down and pretend it doesn’t exist.
When I was 18 I was supposed to be saving up for a car. I had been using my parent’s car and the agreement was after we graduated high school I would have to buy my own car. The idea of saving for a car was so overwhelming that I did nothing about it. I stuck my head in the sand and pretended the problem wasn’t there. One morning my dad came into my room and said, “I found you a car! How much have you saved?” I will never forget the feeling I had when I had to confess that I hadn’t saved a dime.
Challenges exist. They’re not going away. In fact, they will only become worse the longer we ignore them. Here are 3 practical steps I took to face my problems head on.
1. Create a Long-Term Goal
What is it you’re hiding from? That pile of debt? A fast approaching retirement that is drastically underfunded? Whatever it is, write it down and make this your goal. If you want to pay off $30,000 in debt, write it down and give it a due date. Figure out how much you want to have saved by retirement and what age you would like to retire. You need to have the end in mind before you can take a first step.
You need to identify the challenge and face it. Ever heard the phrase “the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one?” It’s time to admit it! Grab a pencil and paper and write down something you’re avoiding in your finances.
2. Create a Short-Term Goal
Now we’re going to create a short-term goal that will lead you to achieving your long-term goal. What can you do today to help you reach it? Maybe creating a budget is your first step. If you already have a budget, maybe you’re next step is to find areas in your finances that you can cut.
A long-term goal that we have is to pay off our house early. Simply stating that I want to pay it off early isn’t going to get the job done. I need to set short-term goals to accomplish it. My first step would be to look in our budget to see how much more we can put toward the principle of our mortgage. After that our goal would be to start making those extra payments. Once that step is complete, I set a goal to find extra income sources to throw more money on the mortgage.
Short-term goals are practical steps toward achieving your long-term goal. I have a full blog on goal setting that outlines how I set short-term goals.
3. Start Today!
The road of someday leads to the town of nowhere. Don’t put it off any longer! Instead of wondering how to pull your head out of the sand, just pull it out! Acknowledge the problem and face it head on.
Imagine you are assigned to give a big presentation in front of your peers and colleagues. What if you showed up to the presentation without preparing at all? You were so nervous about having to speak that you avoided the task all together. You would stand up in front of a packed room and have nothing to offer. Just the thought of it puts a pit in my stomach.
Now, imagine you began preparing the day you were assigned the task to speak. You knew what the long-term goal was; to speak in front of your peers. So you set a short-term goal. Today I’ll create a framework for what I’ll speak about. Then next week I’ll put together some slides and talking points. When the day comes to present, even though you may be nervous, you are prepared and will be more successful.
The sooner you start, the better you’ll feel about the challenge you’re facing. Once a plan is in place, you’ll find that the task isn’t as daunting. We tend to fear the unknown. So get to know your problem by taking steps toward beating it!
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