A new year is upon us. Practically everyone on Planet Earth will be making a New Year’s resolution. The ultimate goals we strive for every year can be grouped into four categories: better health, more wealth, quality relationships and more efficient use of time.
Better health: Lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy, quit smoking and quit drinking.
More wealth: Get out of debt, save more, buy real estate and seek better employment
Quality relationships: Find a love mate, strengthen marriage, spend more time with family and friends, enjoy and appreciate life, and enhance one’s relationship with God
More efficient use of time: Get organized, work less and play more
It’s easy to see that if we attain these goals, we’ll have a higher quality of life. Who doesn’t want a higher quality of life? Yet, we make these goals New Year’s Day (Jan. 1) and by the time Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) rolls around, 90 percent of us stop doing the things that are necessary for us to achieve our goals. Does this imply that most of us would rather be fat, sick, broke, lonely, tired, confused and/or overworked? If the saying is true that “action speaks louder than words,” we need to take a hard look at what we want to achieve versus what we’re doing to achieve it.
In order to achieve any worthwhile goal, our behavior, attitude and actions have to be congruent with our goal. If not, your goal will amount to nothing more than wishful thinking. You’ll continue to live life wondering why you’ve always struggled with weight and why you’ve always struggled with money. You’ll continue to wonder why your life is a cluttered mess and why most of your relationships feel insincere. Regardless of what your goal is, the steps necessary to achieve your goal are relatively the same. Although, my focus is primarily on financial goals, you can substitute the financial goal with whatever your goal is and achieve the same outcome—SUCCESS! I’m in the business of helping people realize their financial goals! When preparing financial plans, I use goals as the motivation to stimulate action. With every goal there are sacrifices to be made and obstacles to overcome. I try to convey the message to my clients and to myself that you’re paying the price now because you want to own a home, feed and clothe your family, keep the utilities on, become debt free and retire with a million dollar net worth while at the same time—HAVE A LIFE! It won’t be easy. Nor is it easy to struggle from paycheck to paycheck, buried deeply in debt, not knowing how you’re going to make ends meet with no money in the bank. If I’m going to struggle, I want to struggle as I experience incremental progress as opposed to struggle and continue to deal with more of what I don’t want.
Below I’ll share the steps that are necessary to achieve your goals in 2013:
Decide exactly what you want. What is it that you’re trying to achieve financially? Save more? Get out of debt? Establish an emergency fund? Buy a house?
Prioritize your goals. When you’re working to achieve more than one goal, it’s best to prioritize your goals and decide on which goal you’ll focus on first, second, third, etc. It’s easier, more efficient and more practical to focus all of your energy and resources on one goal at a time. After you’ve accomplished one goal, you’ll focus all of your energy and resources on the next goal.
Set specific measurable goals. Don’t just set a goal to save money or get out of debt. Set a goal to save $5,000 for emergencies in the next 10 months. Don’t just set a goal to get out of debt. Set a goal to pay off all credit card debt within the next year.
Break goals down into smaller parts. It’s helpful and more believable when you break your goals into smaller parts. If you’re striving to save $5,000 toward your emergency fund, it may sound more feasible to you if you set a goal to save $312.50 per month for the next 16 months.
Imagine life as if you achieved the goal. Consistently create mental pictures of how life will be once you’ve achieved your goal. What will be different? How would you feel? This will help you to stay motivated and encourage you to hold firm to your goals.
Monitor progress. Each day, each week and each month should bring you closer toward your goals. Financial goals are easily measurable. One of two things should be happening: You should see the balances on your debts going down or the balances on your savings and investments going up. If you’re not experiencing progress, you need to ask yourself, are your actions consistent with your goals?
If at first you don’t succeed, try a different method. Persistence is a noble characteristic only when you persist with an adjustment to weed out the things that are holding you back from reaching your goal.
Create a new lifestyle. The same behavior, attitude and actions that were necessary to achieve your goals, will be the same behavior, attitude and necessary to “maintain” your goals. Far too many people fall off course once they’ve achieved their goals. They end up back where they started.
In closing, I’ll leave you with two quotes: “Virtually any goal can be accomplished, but the desire for the goal is not nearly as important as what you are willing to “give up” to achieve the goal.”—Earl Nightingale
“Obstacles are the things you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.”—Zig Ziglar.
(Mortgage and Money Coach Damon Carr is owner of ACE Financial. Damon can be reached at 412-856-1183.)