Baby Steps and Big Picture Thinking

posted by Andrea | 05/18/2017
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As many of you know, I regularly encourage baby steps and small-but-steady forward progress… and although it might sound like an oxymoron, one of my favorite ways to make small but steady forward progress is what Dave and I call “big picture thinking”.

In fact, it’s probably one of Dave and my favorite “hobbies” (if you can really call it a hobby). We love thinking, talking, goal-setting, and dreaming about what our lives might look like 5, 15, or even 50 years down the road.

  • What types of home and yard projects do we want to tackle?
  • What types of vacations might we want to take with our children (or without our children!)
  • What would our dream jobs be? And where do we see ourselves working in 5, 15, or 50 year? (hopefully NOT working in 50 years!)
  • What financial goals and commitments might we want to make?
  • Will we have any major fitness or nutrition goals to work towards?
  • Will we ever get a pool? And if so, where exactly will be put it and how will we arrange the rest of our yard to work with the pool?
  • Would we ever consider buying income properties — like a duplex or a 4-plex to rent out?
  • Do we see ourselves ever buying an RV or a cottage and traveling for longer periods of time in the summer?

These are a just a few of the things Dave and I have recently talked about — sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for longer periods of time after the kids are in bed or when we’re driving.

While we rarely ever act on our big picture goals or plans right away, I’m positive that the fact we talk about them regularly helps us to make gradual forward progress towards eventually reaching these big picture goals and dreams.

For example…

If we wouldn’t have talked about and searched for our “dream” farmhouse regularly throughout the first 5 years of our marriage, I’m positive we wouldn’t currently be enjoying our almost fully renovated “dream house”. In fact, I remember telling an older person about our dream to renovate an old farmhouse about 3 years after we were married. Their response was, “well, you’ll probably need to wait until your kids are out of the house to be able to afford all that.” Little did they know we’d find our dream house before we even had our first child!

And speaking of homes, one of our goals has always been to pay off our mortgage before our first child enters Kindergarten. This goal was put to the test when we sold our much smaller house and purchased a fixer-upper farmhouse 6 years ago. We didn’t know if we’d be able to keep up with our aggressive monthly payments on a larger house with more property while also paying cash for all our home renovations, yard work, etc. In fact, many people told us we couldn’t do it. However, here we are — mere months from paying off our mortgage… and Nora starts Kindergarten next fall!

I’m often asked how we plan ahead and budget for all our house projects — and while I don’t have a step-by-step answer for these questions, I know that the majority of our “planning” and “budgeting” happens in short-but-regular conversations over the course of many weeks, months, and even years. In fact, we planned our current project (one of the upstairs bedrooms) almost 2 years ago. We decided we wanted to take a break from house projects last summer, but that our very first project this spring would be to finally gut and completely renovate the last bedroom in our home.

When it comes to planning any sort of vacation or trip, we don’t have a ton of experience yet. Aside from a handful of family vacations with both Dave and my extended families, we haven’t done much traveling. However, we would really like to travel more once our children are all sleeping well, potty trained, and slightly more self-sufficient 🙂 Dave and I regularly talk about buying (or renting) some type of RV and traveling for several weeks at a time during the summer. We’re not sure if this is actually something we will enjoy, but we sure enjoy dreaming about it now!

I regularly think and dream about what I could do to grow or expand my blog and VA business once all my children are in school and I have a bit more discretionary time. I know I’ll be busy in other ways once the kids are older, but I feel somewhat confident that I’ll have more time and energy to devote to my own business and hobbies (whatever those look like in a few more years). I know nothing is going to happen any time soon, it’s just fun to think and dream about all those ‘what ifs’ now.

I could continue… but the point I want to make is that even though we don’t always take action or see immediate results, the fact that we constantly revisit our big-picture goals and dream makes them feel more real, and it helps us to continue thinking about them and slowly make forward progress to eventually realize our big picture goals.

Of course, there are times when our goals and dreams change completely, there are times when we really want something and it just doesn’t happen, and there are times when we’re fairly overwhelmed with the “everyday aspects of life” that we don’t have any time or energy left to even consider our big picture goals and dreams. HOWEVER, I’m positive that the time we DO spend talking and thinking about these big picture plans is time well spent.

Over the past 11 years, Dave and I have met so many of our big picture goals — thanks in part to our baby steps approach, which makes all those long-terms goals and plans seem so much more reachable!

How do you work through your big picture goals and dreams?

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21 comments

  1. Kristin

    05/19/2017

    Wonderful post! Big picture thinking helps figure out hose smaller steps along the way.

    We’ve been chatting about buying a pop up camper for a couple of years, we. Are finally trying one out but before trying it out when have now almost decided not to get it. I got lost from the big picture which is spending family time together exploring and this can be done in so many different ways. So we’ve started to go back to basics to reall take those smaller steps to our bigger goal. Maybe we buy it maybe we don’t but I enjoy the conversations along the way!

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  2. Shan

    05/18/2017

    Dear Andrea, great post, and from someone so young! With your big picture thinking as well as daily diligence on the home front, you and Dave are making sweet progress and way ahead among your peers. Keep up the great work!

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  3. Meghan

    05/18/2017

    Great post for me to read! I either really focus on being content and happy with my current situation, OR I have to have an immediate workable plan for how we are going to reach x, y, z. My husband is more like you, and to his credit he’s amazing at thinking and planning ahead when I can’t envision that far in the future. I need to step back and listen to his dreams and goals without pushing a deadline and action steps on us both or not really appreciating his idea.

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  4. Tina

    05/18/2017

    How were you and your husband able to afford a house when first married? My husband and I had to rent which of course is like throwing money away. But I always wonder how others have savings for a down payment right off the bat. Just geniunly curious.

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    Andrea Reply:

    well, Dave is almost 4 years older than me and was working for a couple years before we got married. Also, we live in a low cost of living area and the housing market was at an all-time low when we purchased our home (so we got a great deal!)

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  5. Trixie

    05/18/2017

    Congratulations on reaching your house payoff goal!

    I’ve always done the big picture thinking like you and Dave and it has help architect a really amazing life. Thinking back over my life thus far, I realize this tactic is probably right up there in the top 3 things that have helped me to get so much out of life.

    Thinking of what my future could hold has always brought so much hope, energy and optimism to me. I can’t even fathom what my life would be like if I couldn’t see past the end of the day or next week.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Trixie!
    And yes, we have realized so many of our goals thanks to our big picture thinking. It’s exciting!

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  6. Debbie

    05/18/2017

    I love this post! This is such a healthy activity for a marriage. I’m still so impressed that you’re close to paying off your mortgage and pay cash on all your home projects. My husband and I are pretty much “can do” individuals where we do what we plan on doing, not merely talk about it. We’ve checked off home projects on our plan list, and still continuing to add to it. We’ve not discussed future dream jobs or other things you’ve shared and it gives me ideas what other things we can dream/plan for.

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    Andrea Reply:

    There’s always more to think and dream about 🙂
    And not necessarily in a way that is always “wanting more” or not content with what you currently have — but just a way that’s fun and exciting to dream about what might be in the future. I’ve always been this way my entire life!

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  7. MamaMurrey

    05/18/2017

    This is good for me to hear. I’m all about dreaming and planning and hoping and thinking about all the fun things that we could accomplish. My husband, however, lives very much in the moment. He doesn’t expend mental and emotional energy on things that aren’t happening right now. He finds it hard to think about all those future possibilities because they aren’t real.

    I need to be able to think about all the wonderful things that could happen, that we could work towards. It makes it easier to put up with tough things in my life right now.

    This post is an encouragement to me to keep dreaming, keep talking, and hopefully as I do so, my husband will catch the vision. Then we can work together towards making those dreams reality.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I will say that Dave was not nearly as “futuristic” as I was when we first got married — and I think it annoyed him that I was always planning and thinking and dreaming for the future.
    However, over time, we’ve found our “happy medium”. I can tell when he’s getting tired of talking and dreaming, but he enjoys it so much more now too (probably because he’s seen some of the big goals we’ve met)
    That said, even if your hubby never gets on board with your future planning, I still think it’s totally fine to come up with plans and dreams on your own. I realize it’s more fun to work towards the goals together, but you shouldn’t put your hopes and dreams on hold just because your husband doesn’t “get it” yet 🙂

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  8. Lindsey T

    05/18/2017

    Love this post Andrea! I’m sure you’ve written about this in the past – but would love to know more about how you’ve worked to pay off your mortgage. We’re on the same path, but always looking for more tips on the topic!

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  9. Lesa Humphreys

    05/18/2017

    I love your website & check it daily.May I ask what your religion is? You speak of it a lot & I was just curious:)

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    Andrea Reply:

    We are Christian Reformed — I guess I’ve probably never mentioned that before 🙂

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    Wilma Reply:

    I grew up CRC, too!! My husband is Catholic, however, so now we go to mass and my kids go to Catholic school 🙂

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  10. Roxanne

    05/18/2017

    I wonder if one of your top Strengths is Futuristic- it’s one of mine, and I was nodding and thinking “yep… yep… that’s me!” as I was reading through 🙂 I think it’s fun having different projects, events and goals to look forward to and work towards. Even more fun to see something that was once just an idea come to fruition!

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    Andrea Reply:

    probably — although I’ve never seen a test with that as one of the strengths. What test was it that you took (I love those tests!)

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  11. Kate

    05/18/2017

    Baby steps works for us too. We’ve wanted to buy a house and land soooo bad. But we worked to pay off student loans, past debt, saving and taking a Disney trip and now, buying a home with 20acres. The wait was painful at times but so worth it. We can afford more and we’ve been blessed with larger income to assist in continued saving. We also bought a used tractor the month we bought our house! All because we save small amounts , plan, goal set and work towards it all. I agree with your whole post! Were slightly behind you but with similar goal-setting plans.

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — sounds like you’ve crossed A LOT off your list too! congrats!!

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  12. Organize 365

    05/18/2017

    WOW! I am SO impressed with your goal and achievement of paying off your house!

    Andrea you are such a great example of so many things. Congratulations on working hard and keeping your goals in sight!

    🙂
    Lisa

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lisa 🙂

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