Goals play an integral part in our life. Without them, you have nothing to work towards and nothing to compare your progress
But it's more than just setting the goal. You have the drive and the tenacity to stick with it.
How do you do that? Better yet, how do you set goals that are worth sticking to?
Set goals that matter
If you think you can set any goal and be able to stick with it, you’re kidding yourself. If you have a list of 5 goals you’d like to achieve, but 3 of the 5 are only on there so you could have a longer list, guess which goals won’t be achieved?
If you are setting a goal, you have to make it meaningful. Not only that, you have to make it concrete. For example, if you have a goal to be healthier, what does that mean exactly?
Are you going to eat better? Watch calories? Exercise regularly? Then you have to come up with context for those goals. What fruits and veggies are you planning on eating? What will you limit your calories
Giving your goals some meaning and context should make them easier to attain. At the very least, it’ll give you some parameters to follow that’ll get you on your way.
Don't set yourself up to fail
Along the same lines of giving yourself solid, meaningful goals, you have to make those goals reachable. If you set too lofty of goals, you could be setting yourself up to fail from the very start.
For example, if you make it a goal to save $10,000 at the end of the year, but you only clear $500 each month after all of your expenses. That goal isn’t attainable given your current financial state.
However, there could be a positive to the “unreachable goal” from above. Sure, if you save what’s left over after expenses, you have $6,000 at the end of the year.
But what if you got a promotion and a raise? That would increase your bottom line and might enable you to save more.
What if you cut down your expenses or paid down some debt? This could reduce your expenses and give the ability to save more as well.
Make small steps
Lay out your year-end goal. What’ll take to get there? This is where you start planning your journey. Is your goal to get healthier and lose weight? Break it down into steps.
- Start exercising a couple of times per week. Start with short workouts.
- Stop eating unhealthy food.
- Drink more water
- Increase the length of your workouts
- Find healthy foods you enjoy.
You should take this goal one step at a time. Once you’ve conquered the first step, continue doing that while simultaneously moving onto the next one, and so on.
Doing all of those at once would be overwhelming and could discourage you right away.
Another example is to improve your financial health. Here are some simple steps for this goal.
- Create a budget
- Track your spending
- Reduce your expenses
- Pay down some debt
- Create/fund emergency savings
- Increase your retirement savings rate
Depending on the amount of time you have until retirement, you should go through these steps the same way.
Do 1 and 2 first so you know how much you are bringing and how much is going out. Then move to 3 so you can limit how much is going out.
Once you have your expenses cut, use that freed up cash to pay your debts down. 4 and 5 can be interchangeable, but you also have to be conscious of your emergency fund. The last step is to increase your savings rate for retirement.
Once your expenses are reduced and your debt is gone, you should be able to save more for retirement.
Obviously, for a lot of people, this is a multi-year process. You just have to make sure you continue to make progress. If your income is such that this list of tasks seems daunting, check out this post, here.
Fall in love with the process
If there’s a part of goal setting that I have to stress more than any other it’s to fall in love with the process. The process being whatever ever plan and subsequent steps you put in place in order to achieve that goal.
If your goal is to save $xx amount at the end of the year. Enjoy cutting extra dollars off of your expenses. Enjoy seeing your debt go down and your savings go up. Enjoy the feeling of relief as you get further out of debt and closer to being financially secure.
If your goal is to improve your relationship. Enjoy talking with that person. Enjoy listening to them and actually hearing what they have to say. Enjoy that quality time together and getting to know them on a deeper level.
Whatever the goal is, make sure that steps along the way are enjoyable and make the goal worth working towards. Not every step will be fun, but some of them should be to make up for the ones that aren’t.
Don't go it alone
Share these goals with your friends, family, or social network. Better yet, find people that are working towards the same goal and work with them. Check in with them on a regular basis, update them on your progress, and really listen to them if they give your praise or criticism.
Having an accountability partner will absolutely keep you honest, and diligent in sticking with your plan and working towards your goal.
Don't be too hard on yourself
To think that you will set these goals and achieve them without a hitch is foolhardy. Of course, there will be bumps in the road. Of course, there will be slip-ups. There might even be goals that you fail to achieve.
You can’t let those things get you down. This is where having an accountability partner and falling in love with the process comes in handy.
What’s also important is keeping track of small wins along the way. Comparing your progress to your end goal could be difficult, and could be very hard to put your work into perspective. Along the journey, you should have milestones in mind so that when you pass them, you have something to, not only celebrate, but also keep you motivated to continue forward.
The fact that you are working hard and making progress is a win in and of itself. Don’t take those small wins for granted.
Track your progress
Take your end goal and break it down into four small goals. Each quarter of the year, look at where you are compared to the goal for that quarter. Are you close? Did you pass it? Do you have work to do?
Tracking your progress along the way will do two things. It’ll show you where you are currently compared to where you “should be” based on your broken down end goal. The second thing it will do is tell you what you need to do.
If you are ahead of where you should be, celebrate! If you are a little behind, that tells you, you need to work a little bit harder.
Finance resolutions for 2019
- Create and stick to a budget
- Improve your credit score
- Reduce or get rid of debt
- Set aside some money for emergencies
- Save for retirement
- Increase your savings rate
- Commit to maintenance
- Eat better
- Go to the dentist/doctor
- Regular home/car maintenance
- Educate yourself
Creditcards.com wrote a great article with some different resolutions that could be very helpful! Check it out, here!
It's more than just setting the goal. It's also developing a process, checking your progress, and making sure you're held accountable.
Make this year a great one! Set goals, but don't just reach them, crush them!