“People are afraid to celebrate winning the battle, because the war hasn’t been won yet.” – Kent Singletary
I was having a conversation with Kent, our Momentum Coach, and we were talking about completing the Financial Peace University (FPU) Baby Steps. That’s when he shared with me the above quote. (Yes, I could have written it into this paragraph, but it’s much better as a stand-alone quote.) He said people (especially men) are hesitant to celebrate accomplishing Baby Step 1 of FPU, which is getting $1,000 in an emergency fund, because something might happen and they would have to use that money.
He pointed out that people don’t celebrate what can be taken away. Think about the kinds of cards you can buy at Hallmark – birthday, anniversary, etc. But you don’t see a “Great job losing 10 pounds!” card. The same thing is true for emergency funds. Something might happen, and they will be forced to pull money out of their emergency fund for…wait for it…an emergency!
But that’s what it’s there for. The sad thing is, people feel like they’ve failed if they have an emergency and they have to use the emergency fund. How is that possible? Well, to be honest, it’s because of the financial roller coaster we’ve all been on with our money since we started our lives as adults. We started using debt. We didn’t watch where we spent our money. We’re a culture that celebrates permanence; therefore, we don’t place as much value on the things that might last only a short time.
According to The Wall Street Journal, 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means that all the money coming in is going right back out again. With life being this tight, any unexpected event is going to be a financial crisis. And what do we do when we have a financial crisis? Well, considering we don’t have cash to handle it, we go into debt. Thus, the pensive feelings when we finally have an emergency fund. These crises leave such deep mental scars that we’re still just waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
We get confused thinking that unless the fund stays at $1,000, we weren’t successful. The truth is, most people have never had that much money in their account on purpose! We also worry that if we have to use the money, and someone finds out, they will look at us as failures. It’s just not true! And if someone does, get that dork out of your life. Look for people who enjoy celebrating milestones.
So what do we do? Here are some suggestions:
- Celebrate – Make it a point to get excited that you have that money! (Especially you men!) Get up and dance a jig. Or the Hokie Pokie. Or the Macarena. I don’t care, just get happy!
- Celebrate with others – Again, as humans we are naturally concerned with what others think of us. If you see somebody doing something right, go crazy telling them how well they’ve done. They’ll soon begin to feel it as well. Then it will be okay for them to experience the fun! And don’t be afraid to celebrate the same win again if you have to go backward temporarily.
- Plan for emergencies – Planning for an emergency doesn’t mean one will happen. It just means you are prepared. What if there is an emergency? What then? Well, since you’ve been working like crazy to protect yourself against emergencies, then it’s okay if you need to use that protection. By the way, stop calling this failure!
Always remember that we don’t get into financial trouble overnight. Therefore, it will take some time to get out. Celebrating the Baby Steps is just a way of saying along the way that you have no intentions of going backward for good. If we do for a time, it’s only for a time.
Question: Have you ever felt this way before, or noticed someone who has? Is there someone you need to celebrate with today?
28 thoughts on “Why You Need To Celebrate Progress”
Chris ! I have never from this perspective. Especially from a country like India with poor social security and no security net, people do not feel like celebrating until they reach the stage of permanence. May be, it has been so due to the social-economic culture of my nation.
But, I have learnt a good lesson from your post today.
Thanks Uma! I think that’s the point. We don’t celebrate because we’re worried about losing it, so we rarely get to have that feeling. Why wait?!
I can’t exactly explain why we had debt, but ours wasn’t debt because of lack of saving.
The non-house debt we had when we began walking the steps was not because we didn’t have the money. It was because we were for lack of a better word, fearful, of spending the cash we had. Weird.
So we financed a car. We did home repairs and car repairs on credit. All while having the money in the bank to pay for all of it. And over time, we had amassed about 20k in consumer type debt.
When we first became aware of the Baby Steps, we talked and decided that we would treat doing this just like we didn’t have the money in hand. We were looking for behavior change. We would save the $1,000. We would pay off the smallest to largest debts. And we would save enough to fully fund an emergency fund AND develop sinking funds for known out in the horizon major expenditures (major home repairs, car maintenance and like situations).
While we now have a much better system and plan in place than we did before, we still find it difficult to spend those EF or sinking fund dollars when the time comes that they are needed.
And I would agree that I (the male) have a more difficult time with it than my wife does. It may have to do with an instinct that we need to be prepared and that deep in the back of our minds we’re waiting for the other foot to fall?
It could be. But, as you follow God’s principles, you find that He continues to bless. So I believe that as you use that fund for the right purposes, and you TRUST that He has your back, He begins to take care of you even more.
This makes a lot of sense to me. It’s hard to celebrate the first day of the war when you know the end is years away and victory doesn’t seem like a sure thing. I wrote about something similar today regarding goal setting and not getting discouraged when your “past” self interferes with getting going on accomplishing goals. The botton line is you can’t get discouraged, especially when you’re new to this. You have to realize this is part of the game, you’re not alone on this, and you must continued taking the next right step, as Michael Hyatt said. Here’s the post – http://joelfortner.com/2011/11/21/swap-ill-start-tomorrow-with-i-did-that-yesterday/
Absolutely true! And it’s a great post, btw!!
Joel: I think you hit on a crucial key.
It’s hard to celebrate the first day of the war when you know the end is years away and victory doesn’t seem like a sure thing.
I think a lot of people, especially men, struggle with that. Some of it is our instant gratification society. But we even had that struggle before our society became so self absorbed in this modern day.
I think we also get hung up on past experience will equal future results.
And you’re correct. Never let discouragement get in the way. Keep fighting. It increases the opportunity to move forward an succeed.
But I see a lot of men struggling (me included) with that first day of war issue.
Great blog, Joel! Thanks for YOUR post!
Sometimes there is this stupid superstition that if we celebrate, we will “jinx” the thing. I remind myself that if I had that much power, I’d have used it for good! (And aren’t we all thankful that the Hokie Pokie ISN”T what it is all about??)
HAHAHA….yes….yes we are!!!
I think you hit on something about “jinx”! It is as by “celebrating” the $$ might disappear.
Oh – and the “hokie pokie” ISN’T what it is all about? Well shucks…..
Haha…it is mostly about it though 🙂
Gonna share this with my FPU class–week 12 next week.
So much better to celebrate than to stay in the “what if’s??”
In our FPU class, this is one thing i insist on doing throughout the course of the class. We make a big deal of any little victory, which at first seems a bit corny, but i have realized, this little victories are what gets us to the end. Sometimes it’s as simple as somebody completing their first budget, or saving their first $200 or so dollars towards to the emergency fund, or being able to make a decision like sell a car (that’s seems to a big one), or simply cutting up their credit cards. So we celebrate this victories, every week, we don’t do the Macarena, but something like the cheer “You go girl!, or you go man”. Once you actually complete a full baby step, then it’s full steam ahead with the celebrations!, time to bring out the big guns!!, the special coffee etc. I love it and i love how this seems to energize the class, but more important allow people to keep going and not give up.
The key thing i try to pass on to everybody is the fact that they’ve worked hard, and if they keep doing it, they can expect big things.
That’s awesome Jane!! I love how much you care. You go girl!! 🙂
Thank you Chris:) it’s a blast!!!!
I love the idea of celebration! I will have to share with the FPU I am facilitating at our church! And we just might see who can dance that jig! You are right that so many people feel condemned if – after saving the $1,000 – then they have to USE it for an EMERGENCY! Instead of being relieved and thankful that they HAD the $$ – and this was one time they did not have to borrow when the emergency hit!
That’s it. I think the moment they dip into the emergency fund, they think it will be gone and they will be back at square one.
Another brilliant blog! I am celebrating your awesomeness with this post!
Wow! You rock Holly!!
This is exactly what happened to my wife and I. Had a small e-fund, but didn’t want to use it so went back to the plastic and added it to the snowball. Just paid that off yesterday & and we are now DEBT FREE!!!!!
SAWEET!!! Now don’t do that again. 🙂
I think many of us do not celebrate well. For some reason we feel like we must keep going and not enjoy the journey. The problem with this is that we can burn out quickly if we don’t take time to enjoy the journey.
By the way, for some reason I haven’t been able to comment on any of your posts in a couple of weeks. I’ve had a problem getting your posts. For some reason, it’s working now though. Go figure!
I changed platforms and it messed things up for that time. PLEASE let me know if you see anything weird.
I love celebrating!! Whenever we accomplish something at work, no matter how little, I celebrate. Sometimes it involves the happy dance 🙂
My two co-workers do look at me really weird though! But I know my weirdness has definitely helped the morale in the workplace, so I don’t care how weird I look 🙂
Girl! I gotta see that!! 🙂
Celebration is often a challenging topic for leaders. They wonder if they should celebrate and when they should celebrate.Thanks