Society teaches us to visualize the end result.
Imagine living in your dream house. Imagine having enough money to allow one parent to stay-at-home. Imagine having the funds to travel the world, launch a business, or retire young.
The problem with this exercise? Visualizing a grandiose dream can leave us feeling overwhelmed. "Enough money to travel the world? Are you kidding? I'm trying to visualize next month's rent!"
When we feel overwhelmed, we're likely to throw our hands in the air, declare "I can't afford it!," and resign ourselves to an unnecessary fate.
That's why I recommend concentrating on the small steps. I'm sure you've heard the expression, "A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step." Well, a journey towards a million-dollar net worth, a dream home, or a debt-free life, starts with the first dollar.
Back in 2008, I quit my job and launched a two-year trip around the world, traversing across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Australia.
My friends all asked me the same question: " How can you afford it?"
"I saved," I replied.
No one seemed satisfied with that answer. They knew I wasn't a banker or doctor or lawyer. I was a small-town newspaper reporter, a class of people who are known for earning low wages.
So everyone was a little befuddled about how I'd managed to save. They began assuming all kinds of crazy stories – that I'd won a lottery, or met a wealthy lover, or amassed huge debt.
The truth is a much simpler story. I took small steps. I saved one dollar at a time.
I rented the cheapest apartment I could find that was still within bike-riding distance of my job.
I biked to work, saving fuel costs.
I wore thrift-store clothes and used secondhand furniture.
I bought store-brand products.
I refrained from buying processed and packaged foods at the grocery store.
I exercised outdoors instead of at a gym.
I never dyed my hair or manicured my nails.
I gave friends and family homemade, heartfelt gifts – like cookies baked from scratch – rather than expensive gifts.
These aren't huge sacrifices. They're mostly simple acts. But they helped me save, one dollar at a time, until I reached the day that I could pour those savings into a one-way airline ticket across the ocean.
At moments of weakness, when I needed motivation, I'd visualize the major end goal: two years of travel.
In the meantime, I focused on small steps. And I journeyed far more than 1,000 miles.
by Paula Pant