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Make Progress Every Day

June 2011

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Make Progress Every Day was the tagline of a successful Verizon Communications branding campaign launched in 2002. It’s also a great strategy to reach your personal health and wealth goals. Many people fail to make the connection between big goals and small steps required daily (or at least very frequently) to achieve them. They expect progress to “happen” instead of building progress steps into daily activities.

The secret to making progress is getting started and taking small daily steps toward your health and wealth goals. Three ways to do this are: daily affirmations, daily learning activities, and daily action steps.

Daily Affirmations
Affirmations are a motivational technique to help people believe that change is possible. They are positive statements about how someone wants to think, feel, and/or behave that are repeated multiple times each day. Affirmations should be short (so they are easy to remember), positive, and stated in the present (rather than future) tense, even though they the probably do not reflect your current reality. An example of the latter is “I weigh 140 pounds,” when you actually weigh more. Speaking them out loud (e.g., while commuting to work or in the shower) is recommended. Some examples of health and wealth affirmations are:

  • I am healthy, wealthy, and happy
  • I choose to honor and take care of my body
  • I have no debt on my credit card
  • My weight and body mass index (BMI) are decreasing

Daily Learning Activities
Learning to learn is one of life’s most important skills. One way to make progress toward a health or wealth goal is to learn more about health and wealth. New information can provide the motivation needed to make positive changes. Make a conscious effort to learn something new every day. Read an article, watch a television show, listen to the radio, talk to other people (family, friends, co-workers, professionals) and/or visit relevant Web sites. Start a filing system for interesting information so that you can refer to it later, if needed.

Daily Action Steps
There are no “magic bullets” that guarantee health and wealth. But daily progress will build upon itself, just like compound interest. If you do something consistently, at least 5 times a week, you will make steady progress. Each little step adds to the ones before it.

A common reason given for inattention to health and personal finances is “lack of time” for sleep, exercise, healthy eating habits, investment decision-making, checkbook balancing, etc. People hear that they need to exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day, for example, and automatically say “I’m too busy.” Fitness experts say, however, that you can accumulate those minutes throughout the day in 10 to 15 minute “chunks” of time.

Need some ideas for making daily progress? Consider the following recommendations:
  • Take the dog for a 15-20 minute walk or walk with co-workers during your lunch break.
  • Eat one more serving of fruit and one less “empty calorie” sweet (e.g., cookie, candy, and cola).
  • Eat 100 fewer calories a day by eliminating 1 tbsp. mayonnaise, butter, margarine, or salad dressing.
  • Save $1, $2, $5, or $10 a day, plus pocket change, in a can or jar. Deposit it monthly into savings.
  • Save $1, $2, $5, or $10 a day, plus pocket change, in a can or jar. Add it to credit card payments.
  • Buy one less soda, coffee, latte’, doughnut, snack food, lottery ticket, newspaper, etc.
  • Join a work-related savings program (e.g., 401(k), credit union) and save part of each day’s pay.