In the summer of 2020, my husband Patrick decided to “retire” from the VA and shift into full-time coaching with our business BONSAI. It was the early days of COVID, so you can imagine how difficult working at a hospital was. Even though they had very few cases, the stress was consuming.

As we planned for his retirement date, my friend Liz suggested a countdown chain she had used with her kids. I decided to try it – figuring it would either be awesome or not so good for adults. We found it to be a powerful tool that fueled momentum and increased resiliency and faith. Since that time, we’ve recommended it to multiple clients who have used it with success to count down to big events or milestones.

How It Works

Ideally, you hang a string of pom poms (one for each day until the deadline) from a curtain rod where you will see it during your day and in the evening. I like to have every ten balls be a different color to make it easy to count how many are left. I went with Cyclone colors since we were headed to Iowa, but you can choose whatever colors work for you.

Each evening you cut off one ball and place it in a glass jar or vase. Over time, the string gets shorter, and the glass jar begins to fill up. It’s a fun activity to do with others in your home or post on social media periodically if that’s your jam.

Why It’s So Powerful

The countdown strand works so well for these reasons:

  • Segmenting is a practical technique for getting through something hard, like approaching a marathon as 26 individual one-mile runs instead of a big 26-mile run. You focus on getting one more ball off the strand at a time. This approach works especially well for people with the Gallup strength of Achiever.
  • Celebrating small victories propels us forward and builds confidence. For our countdown strand in a time of significant stress, every night was a victory because one more day had been completed. As the jar filled up, we could see all that had already been accomplished, and it fueled the motivation to keep going.
  • Laughing is good for the soul. We really embraced the countdown strand in our house, and the whooping and applause around it cracked us up. We also had critical discussions like, “Do we get credit for the weekend?” (of course!) and “What day do I get to cut those balls off)?”
  • Remembering God’s faithfulness gives us strength and courage. In a recent study, I came to realize how Rahab’s family seeing the scarlet cord outside their window (placed there to signal to Joshua’s army to allow them to live) must have been a reminder every day as they waited, tried not to be afraid, and trusted that God would protect them. This brought a whole new perspective to the strand of balls for me — we can remember God’s faithfulness as we think about how He was beside us as the balls accumulated in the jar and will continue to be there for the ones left in the strand.

This last reason is now my favorite one. And what’s interesting is God had His people use rocks instead of balls for this purpose. He had both Joshua and Moses gather rocks from the rivers they crossed to remember His faithfulness.

Although it is now a full year later, we still have the jar from the retirement countdown so we can reflect on that time when other challenges arise.

How To Make It

It is simple! You will need:

  • One or two clear glass jars — quart canning jars work well
  • Pom poms (You need one for each day until the deadline. I got them at Hobby Lobby and purchased different colored strings of balls to make it easy.)

You can get as simple or as fancy as you want:

  • Simplest – Have two jars (label one “victories accomplished” and the other “soon-to-be victories”) and simply transfer one ball each day.
  • Simple – Connect the end of the string to a curtain rod (you might need to connect several strands together if a big project) and simply cut one ball off each day to put in a jar.
  • Not too hard – Have every 10 balls be a different color and connect them with needle and thread. This makes counting remaining days easy – even from across the room.

The key is to put your countdown somewhere that you will see it in the morning and each evening so it serves as a daily reminder and encouragement. We put ours in the kitchen, but do what works for you

Other options for this concept include making a paper chain from strips of construction paper, moving marbles from one jar to another, or even putting some large pieces of paper on the wall with boxes that you cross off each day. Anything visual that you have available will work!

Please email me your success stories as you use this technique so I can share them with others. Include your victory pics too!


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    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.