Dave Ramsey, the financial expert, has this plan for getting out of debt called the snowball method.
In short, he suggests paying off your smallest debt first, then the next smallest, and so on until you are debt free. Other folks in finance might suggest different approaches, perhaps first targeting the debt with the greatest principal or greatest interest rate. But no matter how crazy it may sound, the snowball method works. People are using it, along with other financial strategies, to get rid of their debts and find financial freedom.
The best thing about the snowball method, though, is that it’s not limited to your checkbook. The behavior modification of tackling the smallest part of a challenge first works because it builds habits, confidence, and momentum.
So in essence, “snowball theory” can be applied to anything.
Your career. Your health. Your relationships. Your hobbies. Your goals. Your education. Your crazy wild bucket list dreams.
By looking at any endeavor through the lens of snowball theory, you can figure out your end goal, which gives you a direction. And you can find an area for your starting focus – something small…something immediate…something that, for whatever challenge it presents, is something you can tackle.
Maybe you’re a casual athlete who dreams of someday running a marathon…and you start by going for a jog each weekend.
Maybe you’ve decided you’re ready for new job…and you start by making a list of prospects and updating your resumé.
Maybe you need to lose 50 pounds and you know you’ve been eating poorly for years…and you start by eating a big salad for lunch every day.
Maybe you’re sick of not really having a handle on your budget…and you start by tracking all your spending for a week.
Maybe you want to stop dating losers and find out what it’s like to date good men…and you start by deleting your Tinder account.
Nike’s been simplifying the message for decades.
Sure, it’s definitely an option to “Just do it.” You could just do it: go out and try to run 26.2 miles on a whim, quit your day job to become a yoga teacher, start a strict Paleo diet, cut all discretionary spending from your budget, and/or sign up for a year’s membership to eHarmony. And some people might find great success that way.
But the odds are low.
(Especially if you do all of the above at once. And if you do that, you might be going through a midlife crisis…in which case you’ve got much bigger fish to fry, babe.)
I see snowball theory as being the love child of Nike and What About Bob.
Somewhere in between “Just do it,” and “Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps…” we find a sweet spot.
There has to be a balance between method and madness, planning and passion. Ambition and drive and dreams are all wonderful things to have, and they can get you far. But those qualities are best balanced with a healthy dose of focus and reality. Going balls to the wall always means you’ll eventually hit the wall.
But the odds of making it through one run per week, or tracking your spending, or eating a salad each day, or sprucing up your resume?
Those are good odds. Damn good odds.
And odds are that you’ll feel pretty damn good when you’ve curb-stomped that little inaugural snowball goal.
And when you’re feeling pretty damn good about that first step, you might decide to tackle another small step.
Three days of running each week. Daily salads and no more sodas. Tinder’s gone, and now you actually start giving your number to the nice guys once in awhile. Going on an interview or two. Setting some spending goals for one month.
And before you know it, you’ll be building habits that support your long term goals. You’ll see results from the work you’ve put in, and you’ll feel damn good, and you’ll have momentum working in your favor.
In other words, you’re on a roll.
Sometimes all the doing just needs a little direction to go along with it.
And sooner or later, that little snowball rolled right on into an avalanche.
An avalanche of ass-kicking.
I guess the only question left is…