The Slog Is the Hardest Part in Any Journey

Keep your mind and heart in the game to win.

Today I woke up without a burning desire to write.

I set off on a journey to write about personal finance and financial independence this spring and set goals.

That wasn’t the hard part, though.

It turns out that sitting down and doing the actual work is more difficult than creating a plan.

The current funk I’m in brings back memories of the early days of my battle to defeat debt.

My debt was killing me, and I made a plan to wipe it out. I felt pretty good about my dream.

Then came the slog.

Read: The Slog Is the Hardest Part in Any Journey

Paycheck after paycheck, I made payments. And the needle didn’t seem to move.

I made sacrifices to make those payments. One of them was driving around Tampa, Florida, in a car with no air conditioning.

I nearly broke on a scorching day. I was so close to giving up on my dream of living debt-free. I wanted to drive home from work without melting. The car dealership was taunting me as I drove by.

Besides, I was barely making progress on my debt anyway. What was the point?

Read my story: That Time I Nearly Gave up on My Financial Goals

We have amazingly short attention spans.

Most personal journeys take time. We get excited about our goals, get started, and then lose our motivation.

A human notoriously has a shorter attention span than a goldfish.

We expect instant results, and we move on when that doesn’t happen.

In a world where an answer to most questions can be answered in seconds by a device you carry in your pocket, a slog in a journey can be unbearable.

Create smaller goals to help your motivation.

It will take a while if you have $50,000 in debt to pay off.

Setting smaller goals that you can achieve faster can keep you interested and motivated.

When paying down debt, I was initially looking at the end goal. I chopped my journey up into much smaller steps.

These smaller goals meant that I could see progress. The needle was moving.

Looking at my overall progress wasn’t motivating me when the mountain of debt I faced was so large. Digging down let me appreciate the small gains I was making.

Learn about creating good financial habits. Read: You Can Create a Savings Habit Now — Pain-Free

Remind yourself why you are on the journey.

It didn’t take long to realize that living with debt was soul-crushing. I hated how I felt making payments for things I didn’t even have anymore.

Paying off debt took a long time, and I was tempted to give up several times. It would have been easy to give up.

I would think about how I felt when every credit card I had was maxed out, and I couldn’t afford to put gas in my car.

The more progress I made, the further away that memory felt. It was easy to forget. So I kept bringing it forward in my head every time I felt like giving up on the slog.

If you lose sight of the why behind your journey, giving up will become so easy that you will likely fail.

Finishing is an amazing feeling.

Lots of us start things and never finish them.

I have a friend who is inventive and has excellent ideas. He proves he can create his concept and then walks away before completing the project. This happens time after time with him.

I had problems finishing what I started before I started my debt-free journey. In fact, paying off my debt was one of the first significant journeys I started and saw to completion.

My debt journey was long and filled with moments that teetered toward failure. And when I submitted the final payment, it felt wonderful.

Now I recall that feeling of accomplishment when I struggle in the slog of a journey. Visualizing this helped me today as I sat down to write.

Read about my journey to early retirement: These 10 Steps Made My Work Optional Before 50

Don’t let the slog beat you down.

No matter your journey, you will likely encounter the slog — that time when you have to keep moving even though there is no end in sight.

Use simple tricks to keep your mind and heart in the game.

  • Break down primary goals into smaller bites. This will help you see progress.
  • Remind yourself why you are on the journey. We have short attention spans. You’ll need to remind yourself often.
  • Motivate yourself by visualizing how it feels to finish something. Recall an old memory if you have one, or create your perfect feeling if this will be your first major accomplishment.

I wish you the best on your journey, whatever it may be. I’ll be right here working on mine.

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Tom Petty