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.