October 4, 2017

Stewardship Transformation pt. 5: Make It Happen

Over the course of the year, we’ve looked at some applications of Michael Hyatt’s “Best Year Ever” teaching to our personal stewardship. We started by looking at some beliefs that limit us – lies of the enemy that discourage us before we get started down the path of stewardship. In April, we discovered the importance of understanding how we got to where we are, recognizing that if we don’t complete the past, we’ll never be able to fully move forward. In June we turned the corner to look at designing the future, emphasizing Hyatt’s concept of SMARTER goals. Last time, we emphasized the importance of understanding the motivations behind our stewardship goals – finding our “why” so that we have the motivation to continue when obstacles arise.

In this newsletter and the next, we’ll conclude the series by looking at Hyatt’s twelve steps for realizing our goals. We’ll take the first six steps this month and conclude next month with the last six. Note that these are not necessarily in chronological order, but are different steps to take to stay on the path.

  1. Get off your “but”. Don’t let circumstances become excuses for not making progress. Recognize the circumstances, update your goals if necessary, but remember why you’re on the path of stewardship. Don’t settle for, “I’d love to get on a budget, but…” thinking.
  2. Don’t overthink it. This one is my favorite, because it’s my biggest tendency. Planning can become a substitute for action. The best plans are the ones you actually put into action. Remember, it’s easier to turn around a car that’s moving than a car that’s parked. Move in a direction, and make adjustments as you need to. So, for example, don’t spend month after month trying to figure out a budget. Get one down on paper based on your best estimate of monthly spending, then track and adjust as you need to.
  3. Chunk down your goals. Stewardship is more of a marathon than a sprint, and you can’t start the marathon at the finish line. You need to take step after step, and achieve mile after mile. Break down bigger goals into smaller, more manageable ones. This has the dual advantage of providing the encouragement of accomplishment and of confirming that you’re on the right path toward the bigger goals.
  4. Get it on your calendar. This goes for both goals and tasks. So, for example, use the “debt snowball” method to plan actual months when each debt will be retired. This will help you chunk out the goal of retiring debt and keep you on track. Plan a daily time for recording expenses and a monthly (or more often) time for reviewing your expenses against your budget. Plan dates for key tasks like getting your credit report.
  5. Honor your commitments. Pray about your financial goals before setting them, and then commit the goals to God when you set them. Stewardship is a key element of spiritual growth, so consider your stewardship goals as commitments to God for your growth. Make every effort to be true to your commitments (avoiding excuses, as noted above). When you fail (and we all fail at times), confess it and receive God’s forgiveness; understand the reasons why (see below); and make adjustments and move forward.
  6. Review your goals and key motivations. A budget is one goal. If you create a budget but never actually review your expenses against that budget, it does you no good. Similarly, review your progress toward other key goals such as debt retirement, savings, and giving. Keep your goals alive by keeping them updated, and remind yourself regularly of why your goals are important (go back to the “finding your why” exercise).

These aren’t steps to perform in isolation, but rather key activities to keep your goals in front of you and to keep you moving toward them. Often, many of these need to be considered together. For example, suppose you fall behind in your plan for debt retirement. First, you won’t know you’re behind unless you’re reviewing your goals and progress against them.

If you then come to realize that a key factor was an unexpected repair, don’t let that become an excuse or a discouragement in the way of debt retirement. Instead, review your motivations to understand why debt retirement is important to you (and to God!); confess any sin or unwise action that might have contributed to the problem (for example, lack of an emergency savings fund to handle the unexpected expense); and adjust your goals as needed (see if you can make some budget adjustments that will get you back on track, or revise your dates for the debt snowball, then recommit yourself to those dates in prayer).

In the final installment of this series next newsletter, we’ll look at the last 6 steps for “Making it happen”.