The man who chases two rabbits catches neither. – Ancient Chinese Proverb
I recently heard this proverb and I loved it. I like the picture that it paints. Pretty amusing if you imagine the scene. Rabbits flying in different directions and a man running in circles futilely trying to catch one.
Unfortunately, I think that picture illustrates why many struggle financially. It is hard to succeed when you are trying to accomplish everything at once.
Trying to pay off these credit cards
But I ought to be saving up an emergency fund.
Oh and there’s that student loan that’s hanging out there.
Everyone says I’d be foolish to pass up that company match on my 401K so I better make sure I’m saving something for retirement.
But then Jr. isn’t getting any younger and college costs keep skyrocketing. Better start saving for that too.
Car is getting old going too; need some money for repairs or to buy a new one.
But then we want to buy a house so I need to be saving for a down payment.
So just as our head is about to explode. We give up and say let’s just go out to eat tonight and forget about it.
Does that sound familiar?
So what’s the answer
All of those things are good things. And all of those things are worth accomplishing.
When we try to make progress on all of them at once though we end up feeling like that guy trying to chase down two rabbits. We run around in circles and wear ourselves out but at the end of the day we look down and feel like our hands our empty.
The answer is focus. All those things are good, but if you try to do them all at once you are likely to fail. I think this is why approaches like the Baby Steps taught by Dave Ramsey have been so effective in helping people get out of debt.
The idea of the Baby Steps is you focus on one thing at a time. Build a starter emergency fund. Then put all of your focus on getting the debts paid off. Then save up a real emergency fund. Then save up for the down payment on that house. Then add in things like saving for retirement, college and paying off the house.
Focus is a powerful thing. When we try to do too much at once, we end up feeling like we aren’t really accomplishing anything.
So my challenge to you this week is to identify what is the one thing you most want to focus on accomplishing this month? As always if you are struggling and feel a little like that guy chasing two rabbits, send me a note. I’d be glad to help you develop a plan.