Sunday, June 27, 2010

Patience. Passion. A plan.

Growing food requires a lot of patience. These raspberries will someday be red and juicy, but for now we need to wait — probably several more weeks — before we can enjoy them.

Once they ripen, we'll need to cover the plants with netting to keep the birds and squirrels from getting to them first. This is a lesson learned from experience, a piece of wisdom that comes from finding that your much-anticipated fruit was stripped away before you even had a chance to taste it.

But after the planting, the watering, the waiting and the netting comes the big payoff: a bounty of fresh raspberries for the rest of the summer. There is a point when it seems like if you pick five on a Tuesday, there will be 10 more on Wednesday. A particularly sunny day causes the plants to explode with berries. It is sweet, and certainly worth the wait.

Patience is only part of the deal. To end up with the fruit, you also need passion and a plan. Your passion for fresh raspberries will see you through the days when it seems like they'll never ripen — it will remind you that everything will be worth it in the end. Your plan will help you outsmart the wily critters that are desperate to get the goods.

Patience. Passion. A plan.

I was thinking about how important it is to have patience when I realized that the other two pieces are just as crucial for achieving any goal.

Take, for example, my goal of becoming debt-free. Before I started my Big Debt Payoff of 2010, I lacked all three of these elements. I was content with living paycheck-to-paycheck, just barely scraping by — I had no passion. My debt seemed insurmountable, like it would take years to pay off — I had no patience. And I was afraid to take a hard look at the numbers, to figure out exactly what I needed to do to free myself — I had no plan.

I'm only now realizing that during these past six months, somewhere along the way, I gained all three.

As many things in life do, it must have begun with passion. I became angry with myself for letting my debt spiral out of control. I recognized that everything could have been different if only I had made the right decisions — if only I had taken the time to consider the consequences.

I was also sick of pretending that everything was OK. I purposefully blinded myself to the truth because I was afraid of what I would see if I opened my eyes. Once I got the courage to open my eyes, I came up with a plan.

Writing everything down was huge. I figured out how much I owed and to whom. I wrote down all of my monthly expenses and came up with how much money I could put toward debt payments each month. I wrote down a schedule of payments and discovered that if I followed the schedule, I would be completely debt-free in July.

Debt-free in July? I was shocked that I could dig myself out of this mess so quickly. Only six months until freedom? Yeah, I have the patience for that.

The schedule — the plan — got me through it. It was a road map to my goal. I had already done the hard work of deciding what to pay and when. Now all I had to do was do it.

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru behind The Total Money Makeover, is big on having written goals. He likes to quote Zig Ziglar, who said, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."

Without my written road map, I would have failed. I know that because I have tried and failed before. I had no goals, I ran out of patience and my passion dwindled. I aimed at nothing, and I hit it.

Passion inspired me to come up with a plan. The plan empowered me to be patient. Everything worked together to help me get to where I am today.

I know this concept is not the end-all, be-all for achieving goals. It is simply what worked for me. Having patience, passion and a plan is not easy. You can try to have all these things and still, sometimes, your humanness will get in the way.

I struggle with being patient every day. I am good at being passionate and setting goals, but patience is not my strong point. It is essential to be patient, though, whether you're stuck in line at the post office or working on a stressful project. I try to remember that there are certain things I have to do, and I can either do them happily, with patience, or unhappily, with rudeness. It's all about making a choice.

I have been patient with my Big Debt Payoff, and I'll see the fruits of that effort in July, when my last debt payment finally shrinks to $0.00. Maybe around that time I'll be able to enjoy some raspberries, too.


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