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Doubling the Penny

Weekends, especially around the holidays, tend to take me off my routine which makes it harder to have the will power that I might have in  my “normal” weekday life.

Even though I’m a finance person by trade, I was first introduced to the concept of “doubling the penny” as an application I could use in my every day life in one of the first challenge groups I participated in with my coach, Jillian. The key question is: would you rather take the the sum of a penny doubled over 30 days or $1M? Of course the million dollars right? How can a penny possibly add up to anything significant in 30 days?! Check out this Bloomberg Video for the mathematical explanation, but the “answer” is that a penny doubled every day for 30 days becomes $10.7M on the 31st day. The overall idea is the fact that small incremental activities add up to big progress — even more so than the instant gratification of a one-time windfall.

Mathematics aside, the big takeaway here is that if we make the many good decisions even little ones, everyday– the end results and reaching our goals may take a long time to achieve…. but it will mean more than the quick fix or the not-so-good decision you’re contemplating at that moment. But how do you remind yourself of that when you have something you can have NOW that seems like it feels better than the “right” decision?

To remind myself of this concept in my daily lift throughout temptation, I have an “anchor” — a physical object — that reminds me that reaching my goals may be a long road but that little daily successes are usually more meaningful than whatever is tempting me at that moment.  I got this idea from a friend who is a Weight Watchers coach. She actually lost weight on a recent trip to Disney World. When I asked her how she did it, she told me about the concept of an anchor – and her anchor was her weight watchers keyring that she received upon being a lifer. She kept it her pocket throughout the trip and gripped whenever she faced temptation that wasn’t part of her plan. I loved this idea so I originally used a penny (to remind me of the double the penny concept), which I recently changed it to a marble. I have two jars – one containing “lbs to lose” (and the number of marbles equaling the number of pounds I need to lose) and the other is “lbs lost” where the pounds (i.e. marbles) move as I work towards my goal. Not only is the marble cleaner than the penny, it is a symbol of the my goal and an actual physical way that I track progress towards my goal.

The anchor is for real — there have been difficult decisions that I’ve faced all week in the break-room at work (cookies, truffles) and at home (the wine calling me after a long day, skipping a workout when I don’t “feel” like it). I literally reach in my pocket and grasp the marble to remind me of why I started this journey, how far I’ve come, and that success isn’t over night. It works!

Can you find something that might be an anchor for you – to remind you of your success and remind you of why you started?


  1. Stephanie Martin says

    What a great post! I use the same mathematical problem for other purposes but I love how it applies to making and keeping healthy goals. Every little bit counts! This is a story I will keep with me as I continue the challenge.


    • Thanks, Steph!! The penny has become so symbolic for me as remember the big hanged happen little by little and day by day! Thanks for reading!!


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