I’m going to ask you to do something today.
Take your biggest dreams, and lay them down. The very things that propel you forward, that fuel the fire inside you. That’s right. For today, I want you to set them aside.
Just for today.
Your money or career goals. Early retirement. Dreams for your relationships.
Lay them down.
Your fitness pursuit. That future victory over fear. Your search for forgiveness.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about big dreams. In fact, at 41 years young, they’re bigger than ever. It’s just that sometimes, I realize my need to pause to celebrate the small victories, or wins.
Why is that so important? The answer is simple, small victories turn into big ones.
Practice isn’t the thing you do when you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.
– Malcolm Gladwell, The Outliers.
In January, I decided to forego all non-essential spending for the month. For the most part, this meant avoiding my near daily routine of buying coffee and lunch at work. And I did it. In 31 days, I didn’t spend a cent.
Let me tell you, every drop of brown gold percolating in my kitchen early in the morning was a small victory. The five minutes I took to prepare my lunch before leaving the house? Win.
Two dollars here, five dollars there. The month passed by and I’d saved at least a couple hundred.
What’s even better, the good habits I built will turn that $200 saved into $2000, and so on. It’s almost March, and I’m still bringing lunch each day, and have only bought coffee at work once.
This kind of thing always seems to propel me toward more positive action. What other small changes can I make? What other good habits can I build?
There’s so much power in incremental change.
You see, the small victories, they add up. With every good habit you develop, you’re chasing down big dreams. When you take a moment to listen to someones struggle, or share your experience, you are making a difference.
Think about it.
Every dollar of debt that you repay is increasing your net worth.
Every cent that you don’t spend is strengthening your savings discipline.
Whenever you encounter someone, you have an opportunity to leave a positive impression. To choose empathy or compassion over indifference.
Every conversation you have with your children is an opportunity to teach, and also to learn.
Earlier this week, I found myself dwelling on the distance my wife and I have yet to travel to reach some of the bigger goals we’ve set for our family. In thinking about it, I began to notice some of the small wins that were playing out right in front of me. I’ve summarized a few of them below, it’s a pretty eclectic mix:
TAKING TIME TO LISTEN
I had a great conversation about reconciliation with one of my staff this week, in regards to a growing resentment he was feeling towards a colleague. It was an opportunity to share a personal experience with him about a time that I chose to forgive rather than take up an offence. He responded positively and I’m hopeful our chat can be a catalyst towards a stronger personal and working relationship for both parties.
I care about my people. Important conversation for the small win.
I witnessed my 10 year old daughter respond differently than she has in the past, when informed that her parents plans for the family’s day didn’t perfectly align with her own. Rather than draw on that steadfast and independent spirit that resides just beneath the surface, she took five minutes in her room before returning with a hug and a certain level of remorse, exclaiming “I will be ready to enjoy whatever you have planned today, Dad.” Those were her exact words : )
Needless to say, I have big dreams for my daughter. Teachable moment (and melted heart) for the small win.
In a slightly less life-giving example, I used Booking.com to save $100. Oh yeah! : ) I have to say, I LOVE this website and book almost all of my hotels through them when travelling. As you may have tired of hearing by now, I’m taking my son to Phoenix for a few days in March, to catch (no pun intended) Major League Baseball Spring training. I booked a hotel a couple of weeks ago, understanding that prices would likely drop again, closer to our trip. This week, I noticed that the exact same type of room at the same hotel had been reduced by $100! No problem! With the click of a few buttons I was able to lock in the lower price and cancel my old reservation. I’m pretty sure I’ll find an even lower price yet, but I have the comfort knowing that my room is booked regardless.
I’ve got big goals for my money. Mini travel hack for the small win.
LEARNING TO LET GO
My son decided to forego a large (for him) purchase this week. He got his drivers license a few weeks ago, and has this newfound motivation to save his hard earned money and buy his first car. Of course, along the way there are sure to be distractions, shiny objects primed to sway him from his goal.
In this case, the shiny object was a video game system, which he decided to pre-order. It surprised me as he really doesn’t pay much attention to video games and for the times he does, he already has a perfectly good XBox. I was disappointed with his choice and protested somewhat, but left the decision in his hands. As he gets ever close to adulthood, Mrs. Mystery Money and I are learning the balance between maintaining control and letting go.
A couple of days ago, he told me that he had cancelled the pre-order. He resisted the shiny object, deciding that the bigger goal, his first car, was more important to him. He said that he had calculated how many more hours he would have had to work to make up for the depleted savings. I left the decision in his hands, and he made the prudent choice.
I have such big dreams for my son. Delayed gratification for the small win.
There you have it, my week of small wins. On one hand, these are all somewhat mundane occurrences, the kinds of things you face everyday. But in the context of your biggest dreams, there’s nothing small about them. What they are is another step forward, another mile on your journey.
How you choose to celebrate the small victories is up to you. Perhaps it’s simply taking the time to reflect. For me, I decided to write about it. The important thing is to recognize the progress you’re making.
So for one day, lay your biggest dreams down and celebrate the small victories, for they are many.
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
― Desmond Tutu