Category Archives: behavior change

My Money Tree

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Somewhere along the path of 2015, I saw an idea that appealed to me. You create a drawing of a tree with leaves, with each leaf representing an amount of money that you are in debt. Each time you pay off that amount, you color in a leaf.

I bought the canvas a couple of months ago at least, but it sat, neglected, beside my desk day after day. My Simpleology process today helped me get in touch with the short-term goal of creating my visual tree. I put a kaizen step on my daily task list to simply get the canvas and the markers out and in front of me.

As so often happens when I actually start something, I was motivated to keep going with the momentum. I enlisted the Resident Artist, aka my daughter, to create the tree, and then I made all the leaves. This thing might not qualify to be hung in the MOMA, but it works just beautifully in my family room.

If you would like to create your own tree, all you need is a work surface, the data you are working with, and some type of medium for drawing. I used a wrapped canvas 12″x36″, and some Prismacolor markers. Decide what quantity each of your leaves will represent. Draw the basic tree, then add the number of leaves which equals the total you are trying to save or pay off.

If you are saving, as you save one leaf’s worth, color in one leaf. If you are reducing debt, as you pay off one leaf’s worth, color in one leaf. We were able to color in two leaves today. I always knew I was a visual person, but I am pleasantly surprised just how motivating this is to me. Every time I see it, I think of how I might be able to color in more of the leaves.

There are free debt repayment calculators online. I know because we used one to get the facts. Ooh, the facts are not nearly as fun as combining creativity and color and a visual reminder. The facts may not change since they are based on loan amounts and interest rates and certain payment amounts, but I can see the changes on my little tree.

I took a picture of it today and will be taking a picture every month to see the progress. Question of the day: how soon can we get all the leaves on our tree colored in?

How Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing got Kepler to Stay with me in the Parking Lot

Look at that little angel face.  Would you ever suspect he’d run away from his mommy in a store, parking lot, park, anywhere-he-needs-to-stay-close? For Kepler, it seems that “Stay with me” is apparently secret code for “Run, Forrest, Run!! Talk about danger!

Taking him places was becoming a huge problem. I dreaded every trip.

Enter Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Or at least their book, The ONE Thing, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

Not only did I:
hear about the book, but I also 
reserved it at the library, and I
checked it out and brought it home, and amazingly,
read it from cover to cover, blanketed it with PINK post-it notes, AND
put it into practice
I’m particularly adept at those first three steps, but actually getting around to reading the book is more challenging, putting it into practice is as rare as a two-headed unicorn.
Keller examined the research on multi-tasking and writes on page 44, “Multi-taking is a lie.” We simply cannot FOCUS on two things at once. Narrowing our focus to ONE thing yields extraordinary results, as he says. Let’s see.
With multiple areas in life that simply must be addressed daily, I have tried to do much multi-tasking. Sometimes it works for things that don’t need strong focus, but one where it doesn’t is parenting. Applying Mr. Keller’s thesis I made a list of the essential areas, and then asked myself this question about each area (see The ONE thing, pg. 106). Here’s parenting:
Q:  What is the ONE thing I can do today in regard to parenting that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?
A:  Read and complete the first three chapters of “Without Spanking or Spoiling,” a parenting book I have had since 1996 and have not yet read!
Q: What did I discover in those first three chapters?
A:  To define the problem specifically and behaviorally. Vague problem definition was “Kepler doesn’t obey.” Specific is “Kepler runs away when I tell him to come to me.”
Q: What else did I discover?
A: To brainstorm solutions. I came up with 10. 
  1. Buy and use a child leash.
  2. Take a 3 ft rope along to show him maximum distance he should be from me.
  3. Create a simple rhyme like “Obey means Stay.”
  4. Appeal to his desire to be helpful.
  5. Find books on the topic to read to him.
  6. Create a social story.
  7. Leave him home at all times.
  8. Carry him everywhere.
  9. Allow him to lead and explore occasionally on errands.
  10. Make a leader badge for him to wear where it’s his turn to lead.
Q: What happened when I took him next to the store?
A: We got out of the car and he proceeded to dash out into the parking lot while I was getting the cart. (I hadn’t made my plan yet!) I grabbed him by the arm and his eyes got wide as we got into the backseat and I gently continued. I looked in his face and said words I guess I never really said before: “Kepler, you MUST stay with me for your safety. There are cars and you could get hit by a car if you run away from mommy. If anything happened to you, I would cry forever.” Of COURSE  I had told him bits and pieces of this but not like this; not sitting in the car giving HIM my full attention, focusing on just this ONE thing. 
My words apparently resonated with his sensitive heart, because when we got out of the car, he specifically stood right by me and looked up at me showing me what he was doing. I ended up allowing him to lead part of the time, gave him huge kudos for the good things he was doing — staying with me, helping me, listening, and I used a previous helpful rhyme: OK means Obey, and added, Obey means Stay. 
You probably know Kepler is the youngest of five kids. The other four didn’t run away. Ever. Why? I don’t know. They probably thought about it, but maybe my face was stiffer and sterner back then. So who needed strategies for this back then? 
tl;dr: Gary Keller’s book The ONE Thing, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, has practical applications in parenting and made a huge difference in my experience of taking my child on errands with me.
I’ll probably have to review all of this next time, and the time after, and the time after, but he will eventually understand and apply, and so will I. I just have to remember to focus, really focus, on ONE thing.