​From Terrible Saver to Champion Mapper in 2 months

“I’m a terrible saver.”

Channy recently confessed this to me no less than three times in the 30 minutes we spoke. I nodded knowingly. Me too.

But here’s the thing. By the end of that conversation, I was not convinced that self-assessment was accurate. I mean—that may have been true a couple months ago.

But that was before she started mapping.

I’ve been so inspired by Channy’s story and have a feeling y’all will be too. I just sat in awe of how brilliantly she’s been mapping her progress and growing in the process.

Channy first caught my attention because she’s the only Mapper I know of who is mapping five goals at the same time. “I couldn’t really pick one thing that I wanted to do so that’s how I ended up with five,” she explained.

While I wouldn’t normally recommend mapping that many goals at once, I commend Channy for knowing what works for her and breaking things down in a way that is motivating and meaningful. Channy is using all five for financial goals—be it paying off debts (credit cards and a personal loan) or saving money (for a down payment, an upcoming holiday, and rainy day savings).

I certainly related to her story. She shared how easy it had been to go into debt for various reasons—even as a result of trying to use personal loans to consolidate credit card debt. “I’ve set goals before to save and get out of debt, but they sort of fall through. That’s how I ended up with a big personal (loan), trying to get me out of that hole. I said I wouldn’t do it again, but I did.”

So many of us know what that’s like. Indeed, 25% of all Mappers are working toward paying off debt.

Regardless of whether your goals are financial, or something else entirely. Here are ten things Channy is doing right—all things you can do to successfully map your goals as well.

Put your map where you can see it often

Channy chose to put her maps on the closet doors in her bedroom: “I see them when I turn off my light, I see them when I turn it on.” This resonated with me, because that's why I drew a map as a piece of art in the first place. I wanted something beautiful to look at. Channy, too: “I’m kind of a visual person and I like bright colors. It’s just so awesome seeing (my goals) visually. It makes me highly accountable and very motivated.”

Four of Channy's five maps in process.

Take it one swirl at a time

While coloring the first swirl in may be exciting, it can also feel a little bit like putting a drop in the bucket. Or like it’s going to take forever to color in them all. As Channy said, “At first, it was one little color(ed swirl) but eventually it got a little bit more and a little bit more.” Soon those swirls start to add up and create momentum: “Now it’s very easy to tell (I’m making progress). It’s been so good for me and motivated me so much.”

Enjoy coloring in each swirl—celebrate each tiny victory

Channy’s gotten in the habit of coloring in her swirls when she gets her paycheck: “When I color in swirls every fortnight it feels awesome because I know that I have less debt. Every time I get a new swirl in, I know I’m getting closer and closer.” And when she had some extra money from her side job, “I was able to put a whole chunk of change on there, so I got to color in seven swirls, and I was like ‘Yes!’”

Create milestones to look forward to

I love that Channy has taken her map shapes and mentally segmented them to give herself milestones to go after along the way: “I’ve got almost a whole branch of the 120 swirl (Vortex) colored in now. And I’ve already picked my next branch to color in. I actually counted how much would be left on one branch. Because I want to see those branches filled in or filled up.” This is a great way to stay motivated for longer term goals and celebrate your accomplishments as you go.

Focus on what you’ve accomplished (colored in)

When Channy was choosing a map for her credit card debt, she chose a number of swirls that was slightly more than she needed—in case something came up where she needed to use her credit card (and add to the balance). I appreciated that she allowed herself some room for when “something happens” and things don’t go perfectly to plan. Even better, her attitude toward the possibility of adding to her balance: “I don’t have to go, ‘Oh, I’m just a terrible saver’ and I’m useless at this. I look at what I have done. If I have to spend that money, well I’ve had to spend it. But, at the end of the day, I’ve just cleared like $5,000 worth of debt in that period of time. I can do this, so ‘Go, me—yay!’”

[Update: As of late October, after mapping for nearly 3 months, she’s cleared almost $8,000—go, Channy go!]

Let your supporters see your progress

Channy mentioned how lovely it’s been to have the support of her Mum and sister: “When they come over, they say ‘Look at that! Look how we’ll you’re doing!’ So that’s really cool. And people who know about it think it’s pretty cool as well. People will say, “How many swirls have you filled in now?” “Oh, can we have a look at your map? Aw, that’s wicked!” Let those who are supportive know what you’re up to so they can cheer you on and celebrate with you as you go.

Set boundaries for those who don’t need to know details

Not everyone needs to know what you’re up to or what your goals are. If you aren’t sure they’re going to be supportive, you don’t have to go into detail about your maps. As Channy explains, “Sometimes when people come over and ask ‘What’s that?’ I tell them ‘Ah, it’s just something I’m doing.’” You get to choose who you share your goals with and what the swirls mean. I don’t recommend sharing details with anyone you don’t think will be supportive. Mapping progress is about staying constructive and you have every right to block out the naysayers or critics. Let them watch you grow!

Be flexible and make adjustments as needed

Channy realized she didn’t need to use the Color Tester (she ordered with her other maps) as she’d originally planned: “So, I turned that into a rainy day savings. For those things that seem to pop up unexpectedly, so I don’t need to get into my credit card or dip into my holiday savings.” She chose to have each swirl represent $100: “And if I have a bit less, I’ll just color in like half a swirl or a quarter. I sort of adjust that one as I need to.” Not only is it OK to make adjustments or change the meaning of your swirls—it’s a great idea if it helps you sustain your momentum. Course-correcting is a sign of wisdom, not weakness!

Stay positive

When I asked Channy was advice she might have for other Mappers, she said: “The big thing I guess is focusing on the positive. Look at what you have done. Or the amount of dollars you’ve saved.” And if something happens and you go off track: “So what, you had to spend the money. You can just save it again. You’ve proved you can do so.” The point of mapping is not to do it perfectly. It’s not to set yourself up to feel badly. Let yourself be on your own side and your biggest supporter.

Allow new habits to grow

With mapping, we make progress one swirl at a time. As Channy puts it, each colored swirl proves: “You have that ability within you to do it. Like I said, I’m a horrible saver but I proved to myself that I can save. That’ll motivate me when I finish those debts; I don’t need to go back to my ways. Instead of putting that money toward a personal loan, I can put that money aside into a savings account or I can put it towards another goal like a holiday.” Loosen your grip on any destructive beliefs you have about yourself, like “I’m a terrible saver” and allow for your new habits to take hold.

I was so grateful to Channy for her willingness to share her story, to which she responded: “Maybe my story can inspire someone, somewhere, who’s maybe’s gone off their journey. At the end of the day, we’re all humans and we all do mistakes and do good. I love (mapping). I think it’s awesome and once my (maps) are filled in, I’ll definitely be getting more. I was thinking yesterday, what can I map next?”

Become a Champion Mapper

So many of you have discovered how good it feels to map your progress and how much fun it can be. Creative Progress Maps are a tool to help you create and sustain momentum; visual reminders to help you stay on track, focusing on the next right step toward where you want to go. 

If you're ready to try mapping and want to get started right now, check out the downloadable maps, too.

Here's the most recent photo of Channy's maps. You can see her original five maps that have swirls colored in them. Also, a new heart map for fitness goals and the Sweetheart to encourage her on a daily basis.