One of the most common responses I get to the question "What is your biggest struggle right now with reaching your money goals?" is Overwhelm.
Not knowing where to start.
Feeling behind before even beginning.
Overwhelm happens when we feel there is too much to do, and not enough time to do it. We feel paralyzed by both time and the tasks to complete.
I’ve been there. And I want to help you get past the overwhelm to a place of action and financial peace. Here are my top tips for outsmarting overwhelm:
1. Focus on the next step
The first thing you need to do when you feel overwhelmed is to bring your focus in. Stop looking at the big picture, and bring it down close.
My dad is the king of focusing. I've asked him before how he can get such big projects done, and he says that he just looks at what he can do today.
He doesn't get lost in thinking about all the steps to come or all the work involved. He just looks at what the next step is, decides what he will do today, and then puts his head down and does it.
This impressive focus has allowed him to build an entire brick patio with curved raised planters (in time for my wedding to boot), remodel an apartment to "show home" quality, and even come out of retirement at 75 to design a school building, a coffee shop, and a chapel for our church.
His secret of close focus keeps him out of overwhelm.
So when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I think of him, pulling that focus in to what I can do today. What is the next step, and what can I do right now to move forward?
What’s your next step? What will you do today?
2. Stop thinking you are "behind"
That word - Behind - keeps you stuck.
Comparing your journey to someone else's can make you feel like you should be further ahead, or like you'll never get to where they are.
But that's nonsense.
They didn't start the same day you did, with the same amount of debt, the same resources, or the same income.
So next time you find yourself feeling "behind," remind yourself that you are on your own path, moving forward, and what anyone else is doing has absolutely nothing to do with you.
If you must look at where someone else is on their journey, see what they are doing as evidence that it can be done. Cheer them on. But don't you dare feel "less." They are winning their game, and you are winning yours.
3. Stop thinking you need to learn more before you start
Analysis Paralysis. I've had it, have you?
It’s that place where you aren't sure what to do, and you don't want to make a mistake, so you keep looking for what you are missing, reading books, blogs, maybe even taking courses, thinking that one missing ingredient will finally pop up and you'll have that "Ah-ha!" moment when everything becomes clear.
Well I've got news for you. ACTION brings that clarity, not analysis. You can't think your way to the right move. You've got to move.
If you aren’t starting because you’re afraid of making a mistake, you’ll wake up a year from now to find that you are in exactly the same place. Don't let fear stop you. Move anyway.
And you will make a mistake. You'll probably make a lot of them. But those mistakes are all opportunities to learn, course correct, and move forward. Without them you won't go anywhere.
4. Just start, and learn as you go
I love the saying "You can't steer a parked car." And thinking that you need to have the whole plan completely mapped out before you can start, is you being that parked car.
You won't go anywhere until you start moving.
Once you are moving, then you can steer.
No matter how clear your plan was in the beginning, you'll hit some potholes, end up on the wrong road, and maybe find some closed roads, but if you keep going, rerouting as needed, you will get to where you want to go.
There is no such thing as a perfect plan to get your money in order. Stop waiting until you figure it all out. Just start, and learn as you go.
Are you parked? Or are you moving, making mistakes, and rerouting?
5. Be willing to fail
Success is a terrible teacher. Failure is when real growth can happen.
Most of us think we are afraid of failure. But it usually isn't failure we are afraid of. Nope. Not at all.
What we are really afraid of is what we think failure means about us.
We think it means we don't have what it takes. Or that "so-and-so" was right about us. Or that we don't deserve it.
But all those meanings are made up.
Failure doesn't inherently mean anything at all, except that what you tried didn't work. That's it.
It doesn't mean anything about you, your ability, your worthiness, your future, or anything else.
The more you allow yourself to do it wrong in pursuit of learning how to do it right, the further you will go - in every area of your life.
Be willing to fail, my friend. That is the path to success.
6. There is no wrong step; it’s all forward
I've come to see my path as a series of twists and loops. Sometimes it can feel like I am further back than where I started, but I'm not. That's just where my path goes.
Your path is similar, twisting and looping. Some days you feel like you're making great progress, and others you feel like you're back to the beginning. But you aren't. That's just where your path goes.
There is a saying in business, "Fail Fast, Fail Forward." It means that there are failures that must happen so that you can learn the lessons and get to the next level. You NEED the failures so that you can learn.
The failures and lessons in your past have brought you to today, to this point. And there are failures in your future you must go through, to learn from them, to get past them and on to the success you dream of.
So take that step. If it turns out it was wrong, learn from the experience and keep going. Fail Fast. That's how you get to the future you want.
7. There’s no time limit on your success
If we can't see success fast, we want to quit. We look at where we ultimately want to go, see all the steps to get there, realize that it's too much to do in a couple of weeks, feel overwhelmed because we think we will never get it done, and quit.
The time passes anyway, and a year later we find ourselves in the same place.
Overwhelm comes when we think we have limited time and too much to do. Remove the time limit, and the overwhelm dissipates.
You don't have to get out of debt in a year. You don't have to save up a six-month emergency fund in six months. You don't have to pay off your car in three months.
Stop limiting your success by limiting the time you allow to reach it.
I’m trying to let go of my self-imposed time limits and just focus on the next step. You with me?
Next time you find yourself stuck in overwhelm, remember these seven tips:
Focus on the next step
Stop thinking you are "behind"
Stop thinking you need to learn more before you start
Just start, and learn as you go
Be willing to fail
There is no wrong step; it's all a step forward
There is no time limit on your success
I hope these tips help you get out of overwhelm and get moving toward your money goals!
Are any of these things keeping you stuck in Overwhelm? I'd love to hear what you think, let me know in the comments.