Goals Are Great Motivators


Marathon de New York : Verrazano Bridge

Goals can be great motivators to help you achieve! I find that when I have a specific goal it’s much easier to focus on what I want to accomplish.  For example: For me to save money is one thing but when I have something specific to save for I find that I can save up much quicker.  When I was younger I wanted a new stereo (the hand-me-down I was given still had an 8-track in it).  I made a goal of saving up for a new stereo.  When I sacrificed some expense for savings I knew i was to help me get that stereo.  When I worked extra hours in the supermarket I knew it was for the stereo.  In no time I had enough to go out and buy a new stereo, equipped with not one but two tape decks! (Have I dated myself or what?)

Let me give you some other goals I’ve set for myself and accomplished:

Ran the NYC Marathon – In 2005 I decided I wanted to run the NYC Marathon.  I knew I needed time to train and run enough races (you have to run 9 NYC RoadRunner races for guaranteed entree).  In 2006 I mapped out what races I would run to qualify for the next year’s race.  It was tough to keep up but I ran and finished all nine races for entry.  In 2007 I started a training program to get me in shape for the marathon.  In June I started my longs runs every weekend to get me ready for the distance.  The first Sunday last November I woke up at the crack of dawn and hopped on the Staten Island ferry to get to the start of the marathon.  Later that afternoon I would be able to call myself a marathon runner.  I don’t think I ever would have run the distance without a specific goal of running the marathon.

Paid off my credit cards – Some years ago I finally got fed up with how much I was paying monthly in interest for my credit cards.  I resolved to pay them off.  It started slowly but bit by bit I started to gain ground.  After an incident that led me to move back with the ‘rents I was able to turbo charge my payments and finish off my credit card debt.  I haven’t had more than a month’s charges since then (I pay my cards off in full every month).  Without resolving to pay off my credit cards once and for all I would still be idling along with minimum payments and a ton of debt piling up.

Started a personal finance blog/site – In October of 2007 I had discovered blogging via Zen Habits then Get Rich Slowly.  I was already itching to find something productive to do with my time and had healthy interest in personal finance.  I set a goal of starting up my own blog and making it successful.  I’m still in the middle of this goal but I feel like what I’ve done so far has been a success, especially when I look back at my first month of original posts on my Blogger site.  Without my goal I might be surfing fantasy baseball sites instead of writing this article.

Build up our savings – My wife and I wanted to make sure we had enough in savings for any emergency and then some.  Rather than hope to put some money away with what was left over at the end of every month we calculated a specific amount we could afford to do without and set up our ING savings to automatically withdraw money from our checking every week.  We have since achieved our emergency savings goal and exceeded it.  If we didn’t create a specific plan our savings would be considerably less and we’d be scratching our heads wondering where our money went.

The lesson here is that I was motivated to accomplish different things because I set a goal to achieve!  Having a goal in mind keeps my mind focused.  Without a goal set I would have just floated along in many cases.  My savings would be lower, my credit card debt still existing, my running much less, this site just a thought…

One way to accomplish a goal is to make it SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. (Thanks to Cash Money Life for turning me onto that concept.)

I also like to think in terms of short and long term goals. For example – The goal of saving up for a down payment on a home, while an admirable goal, may seem a bit too big to ever accomplish.  That could be a long-term goal.  To make it more achievable you can create a short-term goal of saving X dollars a month towards a down payment.  This way you see your small goals achieved which helps build up the confidence to achieve your bigger goal.

Check out this article on the science of setting goals.  When you set a goal you are actively engaging your brain to help you with your goal!

What goals have you accomplished?  What are your current goals and how will you achieve them?

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photo credit: Martineric

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Published or updated July 14, 2013.

Comments

  1. I’m impressed with the marathon! I agree, setting goals is extremely important if you want to accomplish specific tasks. Without a clear cut goal and a plan to accomplish it, you only have an idea of something you think you would like. Not very specific is it? ;)

  2. Very inspiring. I too would love to own a marathon someday and hopefully eventually qualify for the Boston.

  3. Great post FFB!

    I totally agree and would like to add 2 factors I have found to be crucial to attaining my own goals:

    1). Break long term goals into short term, measurable goals. (This may be part of S.M.A.R.T.)
    2). Make as much of the process of attaining the goals automatic as possible.

    #2 isn’t so applicable to training for a marathon, but when paying off debt or building a savings account, investing, etc… it is VERY effective.

  4. @ Patrick – I find when I just have an general idea for something it’s a little tougher to accomplish. The more concrete the better (though a general idea for a goal is a great place to start).

    @ Frank – Boston marathon? That’s crazy talk! Just kidding. I’d love to run another marathon. I didn’t get into the NYC this year, hopefully next year.

    @ Joe – Good point about breaking down large goals. Small, attainable goals can give the confidence needed to accomplish the larger goal.

    As for making marathon training automatic, there are aspects that can be automatic. For example I knew every Saturday would be my long run. I knew I had to have everything prepared before hand and get up early. I had one day set aside rather than hoping I would get to one day in the week for my run.

  5. I totally agree – it’s much more inspiring to achieve when there is a specific goal. I have a hard time staying focused, otherwise. It literally helps me map out how to get to that goal.

    Anyway … you running rockstar you … way to go on the marathon. Geez, I’m totally impressed. Makes my puny 5K coming up seem like a nap or something. But hey … we all gotta start somewhere … and a goal is a goal!!

    Terrific post – inspiring & helped us get to know you a little better!!!

  6. @ Dawn – Thanks for the kind words. All races are significant. Don’t let any distance fool you. A 5k would be run differently than a marathon (for me at least). Let us know how the run goes, and good luck!

  7. Sara at On Simplicity says:

    I keep saying *someday* on the marathon thing. What made you finally pull the trigger on that goal?

  8. @ Sara – I had a couple of friends that did it the year before me. I figured if they could do it then I could too. Honestly if you asked me if I would ever run one four years ago I would’ve laughed and said never.

  9. Setting goals is a good wzy to get through anything really – without them tasks look like they’ll never be overcome; especially when you have a large “mountain” ahead of you. That “mountain” can be training, saving, UNdebting, etc, but it’s still a good and simple way of showing how the task can be completed.

  10. @ Hank – So true Hank! The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

  11. Yes, goals are important, but someone I heard speak recently made a good point: the inner motivation to do something is just as or more important. Without passion, goals just fall by the wayside.

    Anthony’s last blog post..About

    • @ Anthony – I would hope that when someone makes a goal there is a real motivation behind it. I agree that if a person doesn’t care for the goal it will be difficult to follow through. The point is to make your goal a passion. I could never have run a marathon if I didn’t care for my goal of running it.

  12. I’d also like to point out that if you don’t have that fire in your belly to follow through on your goals, you can still be successful if you automate the steps necessary to achieving those goals. For example, if your goal is to have $5,000 in a savings account in the next 2 years, set up automatic deposits to an ING account every pay period and forget about it. In two year’s time, you’ll have met your goal with no more planning!

    Joe’s last blog post..Cramer’s bottom 5 picks for stocks to buy.

  13. Hehe… yeah, It’s the Ron Popiel approach to goals. ;-)

    Joe’s last blog post..Cramer’s bottom 5 picks for stocks to buy.

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