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Goals should move us forward. They should be challenging enough to have to reach for, but realistic enough to see ourselves achieving them.
But sometimes goals become just another chore to check off your to do list. And when they start to compete with ‘urgent’ things, is when they lose their relevance and start to fade away.
We can make excuses about time constraints all we want. But when this year feels like last year, and you’re afraid next year will be more of the same, then your goals aren’t working.
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Your Goal Needs to Have a Purpose Behind it
It feels productive setting a goal. Like we’re accomplishing something. But a goal with no purpose behind it is doomed to fail.
Over 90% of New Years resolutions fail each year. And it’s usually because we pick a goal we think we should accomplish – like losing weight. But we don’t think through why we want to lose weight.
Depriving yourself for months just to see a certain number on the scale, is like pinching pennies for months to pay off $8000 in credit card debt.
Once you achieve your goal, now what?
What’s gonna motivate you to eat healthy now? Or to live within your means?
Getting control of our money shouldn’t be a chore we do because we’re supposed to. Who wants to be frugal just for the sake of being frugal?
Paying down debt, living with a budget, and saying no to things, are all easier when you know they’re serving some higher purpose.
- Do you want to transition to another career?
- Feel more secure and in control of your future?
- Establish a home for your family?
- Re-establish yourself after a divorce or separation?
- Be able to help people who are experiencing a particular illness or difficulty?
- Help people reach their full potential in some area?
Even the goal of “retiring early” is vague. Suppose you work two jobs for the next 20 years with the goal of retiring early. You finally reach your goal and retire. You spend a week decompressing and then it hits you… “Now what? What’s gonna motivate me to get out of bed each day?”
What’s your real purpose? Is it teaching something, opening a storefront, traveling, volunteering, writing or blogging, photography?
Getting control of your money (or even becoming financially independent) is a great goal, but it should be a stepping stone to your real purpose. That’s what’ll get you out of bed even when money is no longer a factor.
It Doesn’t Matter Where You are Now. What Matters is That You DO Something.
Dave Ramsey’s money principles are mentioned everywhere. But the one that’s always resonated with me is his simple statement, “financial success is only 20% knowledge, and 80% behavior”.
You can argue about the percentages, but one thing I see in our town always reminds me of this.
There’s a neighborhood near us where every home is roughly triple the size of ours. They all sit on over an acre, and some of their landscaping probably costs more than our home.
I’ve come to know quite a few people there, and what struck me was how many people run their own business. And a lot of them are businesses they built from the ground up.
Plumbers, electricians, landscapers, home renovators. They wear jeans to work, and many of the people I’ve met, never even went to college.
But they seem to have one thing in common. They decided on a plan, and executed it. Every day.
- They didn’t have every answer, but they forged ahead and learned what they needed when they needed it.
- They made the extra phone call.
- They spent time preparing estimates, and learned from their mistakes.
- They showed up when they promised.
And as I learned when I used to paint homes… one customer tells a neighbor, who tells another neighbor. And slowly, success happens.
So sure. It’s easy to see success and assume it comes only through playing the corporate game for years. But many times – maybe even most times – achieving your goals is a result of taking a few small actions in a certain direction every single day.
Whatever month it is, whatever your money situation, or your personal life – there’s something you can do today to improve your own situation.
Time Can Be Your Most Precious Resource – Or Your Downfall.
A third key tool when you’re trying to achieve goals – especially financial – is having a sense of urgency.
You’ve probably heard how making your first hundred thousand, or your first million, is the hardest. But once you hit that milestone, each hundred thousand takes much less time to save.
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck now, the idea of saving $100,000 may seem impossible. But stick with me. It’ll make sense in a minute.
Here’s an example of someone saving $10,000 per year, earning an average of 7%.
It took 7.84 years to reach $100,000.
But look how the time reduces for each $100,000 after that.
So usually we think of growing our savings in those two stages:
- Struggling to reach that first hundred thousand.
- Going beyond $100k where our savings multiplies much faster due to compound interest.
But there’s another stage. One that almost 80% of us never get out of.
The stage where we tread water for years. Where we have no regular savings program because there’s nothing left after the mortgage, car payments and “expenses”.
I was stuck here, because I didn’t understand that moving past this stage has nothing to do with making more money.
If someone mentioned saving my first $100,000 then, I would have thought:
“When my salary increases, then we’ll build an emergency fund. And we’ll have money to start investing. Right now, I can’t afford it”
I didn’t realize the first two steps above, would have enabled me to start saving at any salary.
- Having a purpose other than “getting ahead” would’ve motivated me to create a budget. A budget would have clarified exactly what I had to spend. Then I’d filter out expenses that didn’t align with my plans.
- And if I had taken consistent small actions, I could have escaped paycheck to paycheck life much sooner and started to build up savings quicker.
Here are some of the simple actions I put off:
- Listing my debt and setting a plan to pay it off.
- Determine my net worth. It took about 15 minutes and is the best indicator of your progress.
- Getting my credit score and working to increase it.
- Starting an emergency fund so my budget would be protected each month.
- Starting this blog. I was bored in my career and thought about doing this for a few years. When I finally made the move to begin, it literally took 15 minutes to set up.
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If your goals seem to lose steam after a few months, then consider the purpose behind it. Whether it’s your money, your fitness, your job or your side hustle… what’s the real purpose behind it?
Your own purpose may have nothing to do with money. But once you know it, choices will become easier. The things that matter will become clear, and the things that don’t matter be easy to say no to.
How are your goals going? Are you still motivated? Or does it feel like a chore on your to do list?