Chump Change Thinking

I will never forget a message a young speaker gave to the youth during one of Omega’s Youth Explosion events at the Downtown Y. I don’t remember his name but I’ve never forgotten his message. From time to time I find myself thinking about his words. Today, sitting on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Dayton, in that place between sleep and wakefulness – that place where God and I have many business meetings – I was drawn back to this message. The path was a bit circuitous as my thoughts often are. I was angry and frustrated at myself for eating everything that wasn’t nailed down… in multiples… this past week. I was on vacation I tell myself. The pitiful excuses I give myself are legion and by now routine. So are my declarations, chief among them ‘I’ll start fresh on Monday.’  As I imagined myself posting signs around my house “Don’t just start, FINISH” the Lord sent me back to that Friday night so many years ago and to this young man’s talk with fresh ears.

As we sat on the floor, the speaker asked a series of questions:

Q: If I offered you $50 would you ride a skateboard from Dayton to Columbus? Without hesitation we  respond, ‘Absolutely not! No way! Forget it! Too far!’ No one accepts his offer.

Q: If I offered you $500 would take the challenge?  With very little hesitation nearly everyone repeats the earlier answers – NO! The only ones who accept are small children who aren’t quite sure what he’s talking about anyway and the homeless man who came in to get free food.

Q: If I offered you $5000 would you ride a skateboard from Dayton to Columbus? A few stalwart listeners agree to take the challenge. But the majority of us, albeit more slowly this time,  reluctantly respond in the negative. It’s too far. Skate-boarding 70 miles is dangerous. $5000 is just not worth the effort it will take to complete the challenge.

The final question: Would you ride a skateboard from Dayton to Columbus for 1 million dollars? Every head – even mine – vigorously nods, emphatically states YES! I’ll do it! I don’t even know how to ride a skateboard. I tried it once and fell flat on my buttock before I knew what happened.  But my lack of skill riding a skateboard doesn’t matter. I’ll learn to skateboard. I didn’t care if it took two weeks to make it. A million dollars would change my life!

Why did so many decide that we could complete the challenge for a million dollars when just a few minutes earlier we had been vehemently declaring that the trip was too far and the challenge too dangerous? Our young speaker explained:

When the goal is big enough, the details don’t matter!

Even in a poor economy few would choose to ride to Columbus on a skateboard for $50-500. The risk is too great and the reward too small. Even $5000, a hefty sum to be sure, is not enough of an incentive for most people. And of those who accept the challenge, most will give up before they reach Dayton’s city limits. Ah, but a million dollars is a goal big enough to make most people look at the details with different eyes. Yes, it would be hard. Yes, there would be pitfalls. Yes, there would be struggles. BUT, the goal is worth it. When the goal is big enough, the details don’t matter! When the goal is important enough people do what they have to do to reach the desired end. A Dad rushes into a burning building to save his child; a single Mom in her 30s works full-time while she earns a law degree; a retired grandmother raises three grandchildren because the parents can’t/won’t; a husband & wife decide to lay aside their differences so their children won’t have to be divorce statistics. I’m sure you could come up with other examples.

What, you might be asking, does this have to do with the internal argument about how much I ate on vacation?  Why do I constantly sabotage myself by giving in to Krispy Kreme donuts, fried fish, late night eating, not exercising, short-cutting my sleep to watch late night TV and the many other things that I know are wrong for me? Could it be that I have yet to see these issues as million dollar goals? Losing 10 pounds so I can ‘look cute/young/sexy/fit into smaller clothes etc’ is a chump change goal, not worthy of my total engagement so I rarely give it my consistent, best effort. On the other hand, being healthy/improving the quality of life, a special gift from God,  is a million dollar goal. And if this is the true goal, there is no room for excuses. Yes, it’s hard at times. Yes, it requires sacrifice and self-denial but the goal is big and important! That’s million dollar thinking. Sitting in 11A on Delta flight 2337, I knew exactly what God was trying to tell me.

In what area are you guilty of chump change thinking? Do you need to go back to school so you can have a career and not a job? Do you need to be more consistent with taking your medicines or managing your weight?  Are you allowing your children to run wild? Is your marriage lackluster?  Is your relationship with God relegated to Wednesday night and Sunday morning?  If so, you might want to change the lens through which you are viewing the situation. Chump change thinking will never lead to anything lasting and permanent. Chump change thinking will always give up before the goal can be reached. Chump change thinking will allow you to deceive yourself with excuses that make you feel good or justified for a minute but keep you mired in wrong actions. It’s time to be grown up enough to put aside chump change thinking, elevate our focus and reach for higher goals and higher heights! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

When the goal is big enough the details don’t matter!


4 Responses

  1. Big Goal thinking is only the first part. Then we have to understand the small steps that move us steadily towards that big goal. It’s in the small steps where we have to be so cognizant of the chump-change thinking syndrome. Sometimes those steps don’t seem critical. Sometimes they are aggravating, difficult, or taxing in a number of ways. And if we aren’t careful we begin to see them as the goal rather than as a step towards the goal. This is why I, and half the world, have a problem sustaining ‘diets.’ Diet-thinking is, by its very nature, chump-change thinking. Instead of seeing the million dollar goal of better health or more vitality, we get stuck at the ‘this one piece of cake ain’t gonna hurt me.’

    Million dollar thinking is a journey. We know where we want to go and we have to move steadily towards the destination. Every day, we have to renew our minds so that we aren’t side-tracked along the way. Visual learners like me need to surround themselves with images of the destination. Other types of learners will need to figure out how to remind themselves of the desired outcome.

  2. Helluva post Dr. Cox. How does one stay on track after Big Goal thinking?

  3. I remember that speaker well. I, too, have been guilty of chump change thinking over and over again in many areas of my life. I start and restart self-improvements and other projects but give up short of the goal. Maybe setting the appropriate goals and posting reminders of those goals will be helpful when the inevitable difficulties arise. It’s definitely worth a try.

  4. YES YES YES. Thank you!

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