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Need a little boost?

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Ricardo Stucker / Reuters / File

(Read caption) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gives a thumbs up during his visit to the Ford Motor Co. plant in Camacari on November 20, 2009. Sometimes friendly encouragement can be just the confidence boost needed to finish a difficult path.

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Every day, I receive dozens of emails from readers describing their financial situation and asking, very simply, what I think about it.

A lot of those letters come from people in very difficult situations where it’s clear that some major life changes are in order. Without making some sort of a significant change – moving, drastically cutting spending, telling a loved one a closely-guarded secret, seeking professional help, selling off some significant assets – they’re going to go bankrupt or do irrepairable damage to relationships in their life.

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Just as often, though, I read emails from people that just need a small boost to get where they’re going.

They’re on the right path, but they’re feeling like it’s very long and arduous.

They’re breaking even and need just a little bit more to get ahead.

They’re on the verge of reaching their goal, but they’re having a bit of cold feet before taking that leap.

In short, they’re just shy of being in a place that they want to be in. All they need is a little boost.

I think we all find ourselves in that kind of situation sometimes. I know I certainly do.

I’ll be on the road towards a savings goal and feel impatient along the way, like when I was saving up for a computer replacement two years ago. I’ll be on the verge of reaching a goal, like completing my last book, but find myself fretting deeply about finally calling it “done.” I’ll spend a few weeks just writing exactly enough to maintain The Simple Dollar and begin to really dig deep looking for ways to get ahead a bit with my writing.

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When I’m in one of those “almost there” situations, I look for a little boost to put me over the top.

A financial boost Sometimes, a bit of cash right away will do the trick. Other times, shaving just a bit off of a monthly budget will help. Whatever it is, often the smallest of pushes can turn a sense of stress and overextension into a sense of success.

How can you get a financial boost? Sell something. Have a yard sale. Use a frugality tip or two, preferably ones that can directly cut your monthly bills. That little cash boost can often tweak things just enough to make a negative into a positive.

A confidence boost Believing that you actually can pull something off can often make the difference between success and failure.

How can you get a confidence boost? Talk to trusted friends, ones that don’t drag you down with their responses. Take a long look at the things you’ve already achieved in life and ask yourself if what you’re doing now is really that much beyond some of the things you’ve already achieved. Get some exercise, eat better, and get some sleep (you’d be surprised how much this works).

A creative boost So many jobs today rely on or make great use of creative work. Our home lives, in many cases, also thrive on a bit of creativity (think about cooking, for example). When we’re out of creativity, our lives begin to fall into a routine place and feel very drab.

How can you get a creative boost? My best technique is to withdraw for a while. Rather than continuing to squeeze the orange and get no more juice, I step back and take a break. I load up on mindless busy work. I play with my kids, simply doing whatever they want. What I find is that eventually, things start to click again.

A motivational boost We’re moving in a certain direction, but we’re no longer sure if it’s the right direction. Why are we doing this?

How can you get a motivational boost? For me, it’s all about the goal-setting. If I’m feeling lost as to why I’m doing certain things in my life, I focus on the goal. Is this something I really want? Have my goals changed or am I just losing touch with them? I spend time really focusing on the outcome and making sure that it’s something I really want for my life.

Sometimes, all it takes is just a little boost to get us on the right track again.

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