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Most people set goals and keep them… for about two weeks. Then they get derailed or overwhelmed and fall back into their old patterns, even moving themselves forward.
I routinely set and meet goals in multiple areas of my life, and I always follow the same steps to do so. In 2013, many people watched as I reached a couple of goals that were so big, many didn’t think I’d get there. I had to listen to a lot of naysayers try to rain on my parade. In response I prayed, put my head down and worked that much harder. In the end I built a second income and even got a $10,000 bonus.
This year, my goals have gotten bigger. I have set goals personal goals for my income and weight. In addition, my children have set their goals, and we have financial planning goals as a family and home. It’s time to push and stretch myself to the next level.
Sometimes you need real, serious change, and that doesn’t happen by forgetting your goals. Whether you need to lose weight, get in shape, fix your finances, advance your career or anything else, you take the same five steps to reach your goal.
Pick a Goal that Scares You
No, really. If your goal isn’t so big that it scares you at least a little, it isn’t a challenge. If it isn’t a challenge, you’re not likely to follow through with working towards your goal, because you feel like it’s so easy you could do it quickly… when you finally make up your mind to do it. It’s a psychological trick, but an important one to get you over the hump of getting started. However, most people don’t set big, hairy, scary goals, so they never take that first step. Setting a big goal is one of the best ways to get started on the right foot.
A goal needs to be long-term, measurable and require discipline or a skill. Doing a one-time event isn’t a goal. Saving up the money to afford that one-time event is a goal. Going on vacation in May isn’t a goal; saving $1000 before you leave for your vacation in May is a goal.
A family sets a goal of putting $15,000 back for a new van. That sounds like a LOT of money to get together all at once. That’s kinda a scary amount to imagine in your hands. It’s also enough to purchase what they need without debt, which they want to avoid. Their current vehicle should hold out for another year, to give them time to meet that goal.
Or someone who sets an income goal that is 100% more than the average monthly income in their area while moving to being debt-free with the extra income. Big? Yes. Possible? Yes. But still scary. Sometimes, financial freedom is the scariest thing.
Set the Date
Now that you know where you’re headed, how fast do you need to get there? At what point do you need to reach your goal? Write down the date.
Open-ended goals with no date give you no motivation to get started. You should always set a goal with a specific end date, and something tangible that can be measured or tracked.
The family buying the van knows that their current vehicle will hold out for another year, if not more. They set the deadline for their $15,000 as Friday, December 26, 2014. The husband gets paid every Friday. This gives them 52 weeks.
Do the Math
When you set a large goal and pick a date, the best thing you can do is to break it down into small bites. Bites that are small enough that they look doable. Bites that you think you can accomplish. Depending on your goal, you will want to choose weekly or monthly bites.
If your goal is to pay off $20,000 of debt by December 31st, it sounds huge and freaky. It sounds impossible! But if I tell you in order to pay off $20,000, the first step you need to take by January 15th is to raise your current income, reduce your expenses, sell items or a combination that equals $833 so you can send that money into the credit card company by January 16th. That smaller amount sounds much more doable, even if it is a stretch for your family budget, than the $20,000 goal you’re staring at.
Our family buying the van has 52 weeks in which to raise that $15,000. That means that they need to set aside a minimum of $288.50 a week. That’s $15,000 divided by 52. Telling someone to set aside $289 a week (or $577 if they get paid every other week) looks easier than telling them to set aside $1250 a month or $15,000 a year.
These small bites are key to meeting your goal. Knowing the small bites and assigning dates to them will be the meat of what gets you to where you want to do. And this is the step that most people skip, and that is half of why they don’t meet their goals.
For most financial goals, I like to break them down by pay-period. That way, you must see that line item on your budget every time you get paid.
In Your Face
The other half of why people don’t meet the goals is that they don’t keep them in their face. Literally.
If you have a goal, write it down and put it somewhere where you see it every.single.day. My first three months of goals for 2014 are written in dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror. My bites for January are posted right beside my computer monitor. And they are also on the dashboard of my car. They are constantly in my face, constantly in front of me. Why? To keep me motivated and in action.
The family buying the van puts a chart on the fridge where the whole family can see their progress. Every time they stick back more money, they have their two girls update the chart. And every time something comes up that is not within budget, they can refer to the chart and their goals to evaluate which is more important, or what could be arranged to be able to do both.
Keep a Check
At the end of each bite, you have to re-access your goal and where you are. So at the end of each week, pay period or each month, evaluate how you’re doing. Chart your progress or otherwise get it on paper so you can see where you are. As you get closer to your goal, that visual reminder will become more and more motivating.
Figure out if you need to do something different or step up your game. If you didn’t meet your bite, was it a lack of time, focus or something else? What can you do to fix it?
I’ve found that with some goals that seem scary, once you break it down, you actually realize it isn’t big and scary. It’s doable. A couple of months of being on track shows you that you can move it up and accomplish it early.
The family buying the van looks at their budget weekly to make sure they’re where they need to be. They also work to tuck back extra money, even if it’s just change, towards their goal, to get them there quicker, or cushion them for times where they can’t meet their weekly goal.
Set your goals, reach and stretch, grow and learn. Keep it bite-sized and keep it in your face to get there. In the end, you’ll grow in confidence and grit as you find that you really can do things you never thought possible!
What are my goals for the year?
Yes. $20,000 a month in income with It Works by December 31, 2014. It’s a big goal and it scares me! By God’s grace, I’ll get there. I’ve set the goal, broken it down into monthly bites, laid out what I need to do to get there, week by week, and I’m going to eat this elephant, one bite at a time.
Grit, determination and LOTS of prayer. I’ll get there!
Happy New Year!
Photo credit: New+Year+Resolutions+Clock by husin-sani on Flickr