He who fails to plan, plans to fail.
Do you want to turn your dreams into reality? Are there things that you want to do with your life or things that you want to have, that seem impossibly out of reach?
The key to achieving our dreams is to set goals in a systematic way, and take positive action in small concrete steps each day and by doing so, turn our dreams into reality.
In this post and the subsequent two, I look at the art of goal setting for success.
What has goal setting got to do with frugal living?
One of the reasons for being frugal is so that we say no to short-term gratification and consumerism in order to do those important things. Our long term goals are on of the reasons for not spending money today.
Whatever your goals may be, money often plays a key role. You will need money to travel, money to buy that house, money to take a year off to study.
Of course, you could go into piles of debt achieving your goals, or you could plan, budget and divert your money from short term gratification spending, to saving for those things that you really want and are really meaningful to you.
Goals setting – the path to happiness
In January 2005, Time Magazine did a feature on what makes us happy. Among other things, they found that beyond enough to meet basic needs, more money doesn’t make us happier.
In fact, in one of the most affluent times in history, cases of depression are at an all time high. Studies have shown that no matter how much money a person earns, they believe they still need more to live well. Of course, the things that truly make us happy are the things that money just can’t buy: love, friendship, family, respect, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose.
Creating a sense of purpose comes from setting goals. Expectations about the future have more influence on a person’s happiness than their current situation. People living modestly, but anticipating better days to come are likely to be happier than those who have nothing to look forward to. This is where goal setting comes in.
What are your goals?
This is an important question – what are your goals? If you have never sat down and thought about this, I encourage you to do so now. Start by brainstorming all the things that you could possibly want. To make it easier, sort your goals into categories. Some possible categories may include:
- Family and Friends
- Health and Fitness
- Career / Business
There are no limits – for a little while at least, anything goes. Nothing is outrageous. Want to learn flamenco dancing in Spain? Then write it down. Own a twelve foot luxury yacht? Write it down. Write your own romance novel? Write it down.
There are only two rules here: you have to put pen to paper and they have to be things that you really want – not what you think you should want. There are no right or wrong answers. Ask yourself why you want this. The first key to success when it comes to achieving your goals is to be passionate about what you want. If you are passionate about your goal, this will be motivation to help you achieve it.
Now it’s time to get SMART
One of the standard goal setting tools is the SMART system. Look at each one of your goals and rewrite it according to the SMART system.
Specific: A goal is more likely to be achieved when it is specific. For instance, "I want to be a writer" is non-specific. "I want to have a romance novel that I have written published in paperback" is specific. It’s impossible to achieve goals that are intangible or indefinable like "I want to be happy." Make your goals concrete and specific.
Measurable: When you set your goal, how will you know when you have reached it? A goal to have a book published is measurable because you know that when you walk into a book store and see you book on the stand, you have reached your goal. And you can measure your progress towards that goal: every time you write another chapter you get closer to your goal. Another example is "I want be thin." What is thin and how do you measure it? A more measurable goal may be "I want to weigh 65kg," or "I want to fit into my size 12 jeans." You can measure your success with the scales or the zipper.
Attainable: Anything is attainable. You are allowed to think big. If you never try, you just never know. In fact, goals that seem too high are often easier to obtain because you are more motivated to achieve them. For example, you may work really hard at saving for a trip to Fiji because it’s something that you really want. On the other hand, you may find many excuses for not saving for a holiday with the in-laws because the desire isn’t there. The second option seems easier, but not nearly as motivating.
A goal is attainable if you have access to the resources that you need to achieve it, if you have the time, or your current situation allows for it. A goal to be a surf lifesaver, even though you live 500kms from the nearest beach may still be attainable if you move, but if your current situation doesn’t allow you to move just yet, then you either need to rethink the goal or take the necessary steps to make it attainable.
If your goal seems completely extravagant and unattainable, don’t discard it yet. Have a think about what you really want. Your dreams are a clue to your inner passion. For example, you want to be a famous Hollywood actress, but you’re camera shy. Maybe it is the acting you’re passionate about, and if so, your goals could be achieved by joining the local theatre society. Or maybe it’s the fame that you really want, and there may be other ways to fame that are more suited to you. Or maybe it is the film industry that you are really interested in and you could think about writing or camera work or directing etc.
When you write down your goals, don’t try to conquer the world all at once. Start with just a few goals and focus on achieving them, you are more likely to succeed with focus.
Realistic: Goals are realistic when you are able and willing to work towards them. If you are not willing to put in the effort, or, if you are not really passionate about achieving your goal, then it might not be realistic.
Your goals need to be in sync with your life and your bigger objectives. For example, owning a gas guzzling car may be conflicting with your values if caring for the environment is a concern to you. Your goals should also not be in conflict with one and other either. For example, one goal may be to travel to Greece this year, another may be to pay $5,000 extra off your mortgage. If your income doesn’t stretch to fulfil both of these goals, then they are in conflict and one won’t be achieved.
Time specific: Put a time on your goal. "I want to have my children’s book about kangaroos published by the end of December 2010." Make a contract with yourself to achieve your goal – set a date for success.
A few other things to keep in mind are:
- Write it down. Writing your goals down transforms them from half thought dreams into a concrete achievable reality. By writing your goals down, you are telling yourself that they are something that you can and will achieve.
- Use positive language to write your goals. Instead of "I want to lose 10kgs" write "I want to achieve my goal weight of 65kgs." Using positive language programmes your mind for success.
- Half reaching your goals still counts as success. If your goal is to pay $5,000 extra off your mortgage and you only manage $2,500, you are $2,500 better off than than if you don’t try at all. This is a success worth celebrating! I read once that many of us overestimate what we can achieve in a year, and underestimate what we can achieve in 5 years. Of course, you may far exceed your expectations as well.
There are many excellent resources for setting goals and achieving them. Tony Robbins’ Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within and Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are three classics that have been around for quite some time now but are still highly recommended if you want further information in regards to reaching your goals.
Tomorrow we will continue looking at goal setting and how to go about achieving our goals once we have written them down. Specifically, we will have a look at how to reach our financial goals.
Until then, please feel free to share how you reach your goals, and have a great day!
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.