are your goals holding you back

June 11th, 2008

Are Your Goals Holding You Back?

Setting a goal can be an empowering thing. The simple act of deciding on a course of action and planning a way to accomplish it can do wonders for motivation and cause significant forward progress in an area that may have been stagnating. But sometimes we outgrow our goals, or they outgrow us, before they’re accomplished, and recognizing that fact may save us from being held back by the very things that are designed to push us forward. Some goals are short term things and don’t need deep re-examination, but some can take a long time and can’t be simply put on auto-pilot once set. If we set goals and then never re-evaluate them, they can actually work in the wrong direction and hold us back from accomplishing what we can, if we only strive to meet our goals.

Sometimes we get so focused on accomplishing our goals that we don’t take the time to really evaluate if they are still appropriate over time. Some become too ambitious as we encounter setbacks, and some become too simple and mundane. A periodic reflection on what our long term goals are and what path it will take to accomplish them will help to determine if our goals fit us now as well as they did when we first set them.

Three ways to keep our goals relevant to our present include:

1. Periodically review your goals. This goes without saying, but it amazing how many things can become comfortable and on auto-pilot if we let them. Set it and forget it doesn’t work for goals.

2. Set a benchmark for how automatic a goal becomes. For debt reduction, I use something I call the debt crossover point as my standard for how easy my debt reduction goal date is to reach. Simply put, the debt crossover point is the point where my minimum monthly debt snowball payment alone, no extra snowflaking, will allow me to reach my goal date of all non-mortgage debt eliminated by December 2010. Once I reach that point, I know my goal date needs to be revised and shortened, because it leaves nothing extra to strive for beyond paying the budgeted minimum. My aim is to be constantly on the lookout for snowflaking opportunities, and for that I need a goal that is motivating.

3. Find a balance between shooting for the stars and staying on the ground. This is almost the most critical, and the hardest to keep in balance. With the inevitable highs and lows of any path to a goal, it is hard to know when a high is high enough to warrant revising a goal, or a low is low enough that a change is warranted. Goals should push us, but be realistic enough to be able to be accomplished with focus and effort.

When’s the last time you re-evaluated your goals? Are they due for a mid-year tuneup? Stay in tune with your hopes and dreams yet temper them with reality – give your goals a good soul searching today and make sure they still reflect your life’s path.

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10 Responses to “Are Your Goals Holding You Back?”

  1. super timely! i actually did a six month goal reevaluation, deciding that, while i was making slow and steady progress on all of my goals, i was in need of the joy of another $0 on my balance sheet! and so, my plan is to pay off the entire promo balance (1.99%) on my credit card before it expires, then shift my snowball to my car so that it’s paid off by new year’s. whether i finish the CC first or the car first, they will be paid off by april (according to many permutations of the snowball calculator), but this way i’ll get to see a $0 on that spreadsheet four months earlier. yes, i’ll pay about $10 more in interest, but i need the push more than the $10, and resetting my goals and recommitting to them has gotten me more motivated on its own.

  2. I suppose this is the reason why I don’t like yearly goals, I can be so gung-ho at the beginning and then the motivation wears off… For me, monthly goals are my sweet spot – Long enough to get something done, enough time to work towards something and the motivation tends to last the whole month and get refreshed with new goals. Of course, some things can’t fit in just one month, like my IRA goal, so that needs to be adjusted to long term but I tackle it in small pieces. It’s just what works for me. :) (Big numbers sometimes make things seem unreachable for me, so I think of it as a series of tiny ones instead.)

    The background on my cell phone is one of my constant reminders, too. It’s a picture of the Ferrari badge, and I often look at it when I feel like I’m losing motivation. It doesn’t work for all of my individual goals, but it gives me an overall sense of direction and reminds me of the life I want to have, complete with a nice Ferrari to enjoy on the weekends. :)

  3. You have raised a very valid point. There should be a meaningful goal to stay motivated. And you also reminded me what I missed when I made the budget for coming 6 months. ( Gasps!!) A goal!!! We have allocated money for savings with a couple of things in mind, but we didn’t think of putting down a concrete goal for what we wanted to do with the savings for next 6 months. I think a financial meeting with hubby is in order :)

  4. Thanks for the good timely reminder!

    I set my financial goals, in writing, once a year – usually when I have all the figures together for taxes – sometime in January. I do this when I prepare my financial statement and figure my net worth. The statement synposis and the goals all go into one specific little hardcover notebook – year after year. Nice to see my progress thru the years :) I used to have an update mid summmer also, but have gotten lax on that one and need to remind myself to do the update soon! Thanks!

  5. I appreciate goals for their ability to focus the mind.

    But I’m a big believer in focusing on what you can control.

    You can’t control whether a goal is achieved or not… you can’t control “outcomes”… but you can control your behavior.

    So I prefer to be behavior-oriented instead of goal-oriented.

    Ryan

  6. @Foxie, I much prefer monthly goals because I might actually accomplish them. Annual goals are much harder to stay on target with.

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