Stretching Exercises for 2017 – You In?

No, not the regular kind of stretching exercises, but I highly recommend those too. A daily stretching routine has been a huge foundational rock for my good health and has all kinds of benefits like improved circulation, flexibility and strength. But today I’m talking about the mental stretching we need to do to achieve big goals.

I was reading this book called Money Mysteries from the Master: Time-Honored Financial Truths from Jesus Himself .  The book is written for Christians who want a better understanding of how God encourages us to handle our money, but this particular suggestion in the book can help everyone – Christian or not.

In the book, the author suggests that many Christians expect that when they make the choice to start walking uprightly with their money, that things will suddenly become easy and take no effort. He then goes on to say that although God wants good things for His children (Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew, 7:11, etc.) – much better things that we can often imagine for ourselves – that we need to stretch and grow so that we learn how to attain those good things in life.

Stretching, growing and learning new things is good, but it isn’t always easy. I think about Ruth and her first speaking engagement at the local library, which took place last month. Before, during and even after the engagement, Ruth dealt with lots of fear. Speaking publicly went against every grain in her body. It was the opposite of what she is used to doing, so it didn’t feel at all easy or normal.

But it was a good thing! Ruth made an impact on people and encouraged them to start their own journeys to debt freedom. She shared her and DH’s story of overcoming debt and learning how to manage money better. She showed the people that change in their finances is possible – and wonderful!

Changing your habits, your mindsets and your behaviors isn’t easy. And it often isn’t fun. Disciplining yourself and changing your spending habits isn’t easy when you’re used to spending with reckless abandon. Working out daily and eating healthy isn’t easy when you’re used to gorging on chips and pizza and laying on the couch watching TV. It takes time, effort and a whole lot of discipline to change out your old destructive habits for new, healthy habits.

For us, a lot of the reason we ended up in debt is because we used spending as a stopgap for emotional problems, stress or other troubles. We’d go out to eat, buy something new or take a mini vacation in order to “heal” from any troubling event.

In order to stop this cycle, we had to learn what was causing our stress, our insecurities and our fears. This was not an easy process. We had to dig deep, deep, deep into our pasts in order to face some childhood events that had caused us to doubt our self-worth. We had to heal from those childhood events as we’d spent the past thirty years not facing up to the damage they’d caused.

Facing these deeply hidden fears and emotional scars was SO difficult. We both went through times of sadness and anger over our individual childhood events, and over the hurts we’d caused each other by not dealing with differences in a healthy way. It was kind of like climbing a mountain for the first time – in bare feet.

The good news now is that we are healthy, strong and grateful that we chose to “stretch” and push ourselves to a higher, healthier level.

This year we’ll “stretch again” as we set some lofty financial goals. Are you ready to stretch, and to take yourself to a higher level of achievement, even if it requires some work? Here are four tips for how you can stretch successfully without letting fear keep you doing the same ol’, same ol’ you’ve always done.

Keep the End Goal in Mind

I find it easier to stretch and push myself if I keep in mind what I’m working toward. If it’s debt freedom, remind yourself daily of the benefits by envisioning a life where you are no longer servant to any lender and have loads of extra cash available each month. If it’s a lofty savings goal, keep a picture handy of what you’re saving for. Are you saving for a new house? Your first rental property? A vacation home that’s paid for in cash? Daily reminders of your goal will help you to know that the stretching is worth it.

Celebrate Every Bit of Progress

One of the things that was hard for us when we first started getting out of debt was that the beginning years were ones of s.l.o.w. progress. We started with a very high debt-to-income ratio (65%) and were over $1,000 short each month without Rick’s overtime hours and my side hustle cash. We were barely able to make the minimum payments on our debt let alone pay any extra.

We often allowed ourselves to fall into discouragement, until we started focusing on our progresses instead of our failures. We celebrated that we had $59,800 left of consumer debt instead of $60,000. We celebrated that we made it through the month and and had money left over. We celebrated when we said “no” to a purchase that we normally would’ve said yes to, or when we spent less at the grocery store than we usually did.

Celebrating your victories – no matter how small those victories may seem – eases the pain of stretching.

Remember That Growth is a Good Thing

In my article on the traits of millionaires, I share that one of the habits that millionaires consistently practice is that they are always spending at least 30 minutes a day educating themselves via non-fiction reading. They turn off the TV and buck the Facebook habit for the sake of education and growth. They never, ever stop learning. Then they use that education for the purpose of bettering themselves, financially and otherwise. They understand that the growth that comes with education will almost always lead to more success down the line.

Remember That Successful People Do Things Different

Amanda over at Centsibly Rich shared an awesome debt payoff story about how Andrew and his wife paid off over $300k in debt in six years. When I clicked on Andrew’s link to get the extended version of his story, one of the things he said in the story really struck me. He said:

“If everyone is going left, I immediately start thinking, ‘What is on the right?’”

Andrew then goes on to share that when he and his wife were slaying the mortgage dragon, they did lots of things that were what most people consider “abnormal.” They:

  • Put all extra money, including gifts, toward the mortgage
  • Stopped ordering takeout pizza and made pizza at home
  • Had their kids wear hand-me-down clothes
  • Did fun things that cost next to nothing

Even the mention of paying off their mortgage early got reactions of disdain and disbelief from their loved ones. Everyone thought they were crazy for not following the crowd and just making their thirty years’ worth of payments. But as Andrew said, “Big goals often require big sacrifice.” In other words, big goals require stretching. If your decision to get debt free means your family and friends start thinking you’re weird, you’re probably on the right track. If they shake their heads when you tell them you’re not eating out for the next year, you’re probably on the right track. Your “stretching exercises” will be difficult, but they will bring about change for the better.

Yes, you’ll definitely be doing things differently. And it will be difficult at times. But at the end of the road you’ll have something that 76 percent of Americans don’t have: a life where you no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck.  You’ll have more freedom and more money. Money to build wealth, to share with others or to do whatever you want to do with it.

Do you plan on stretching yourself this next year in order to reach some lofty goals? Feel free to share in the comments!





12 comments on “Stretching Exercises for 2017 – You In?

  1. Thanks for sharing Andrew’s Debt Free Story! It was a great one! I love his take on money and life.

    I am formulating some new goals for the new year, which will definitely stretch us. We’ll be starting off January with a fairly strict no-spend month. I think we’ve become a bit complacent over the last year or so and plan to take your advice and reach some lofty goals!

  2. We are deciding whether to stretch to payoff the mortgage earlier or not repay the mortgage as quickly and dedicate some additional fund to retirement savings. Decisions, decisions.

  3. “We had to dig deep, deep, deep into our pasts in order to face some childhood events that had caused us to doubt our self-worth. We had to heal from those childhood events as we’d spent the past thirty years not facing up to the damage they’d caused.” I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with these childhood wounds, Laurie. You deserve so much respect for facing “the damage” – that very difficult but essential step in healing. The fact that both you and Rick have done this work is remarkable. Many blessings to you both as you grow in strength and wholeness.

  4. I love the idea of not following the crowd, especially when it comes to money.

    That book sounds intriguing. I agree that there is a misconception in the church today, with money but also with other areas, that following Jesus will be easy or smooth-going. Yet that is definitely not the example in the Bible or Christian history. I think the promise of abundant life is better, but different from an easy life. Thanks for recommending this title; I’ll check it out.

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