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 SMART – Specific, 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?