In today’s episode, we discuss the things you need to do to make 2020 great. Yes, we are talking about setting your goals but also a process that you can use all year long to make sure you have the best chance for success.
- Learn the most important thing you must do in order to set yourself up for success
- Why it’s important to write supporting details about your goals
- Why a process is important to your success
- The process I use to keep me on track all year long
What’s a SMART goal?
Welcome to agile finance radio. I’m your host Jason stump, and our goal is to help you Win with money, gain at life, and retire with confidence.
In today’s episode, I want to talk about one of the most important things you can do to move forward in your career, your finances, relationships, and ultimately get more joy out of life.
And yes, I’m talking about setting goals. Stay with me here because we’re going to talk about things that can actually help you make progress and the process that will keep you focused and more likely to hit your goals.
And I know you are probably tired of seeing the TV commercials of everybody getting fit and all the overly enthusiastic social media posts of people that are going to change the world by riding their bike or giving 2000% effort. Well, me too because I know that’s not what moves us forward.
Those extremes are what causes people to fail. So on one hand you have the folks that just say, you know what I’m just going to see what happens this year. If it was meant to be, it will happen, right? These are the people that are like most people that basically are satisfied if they are comfortable. They get to take a vacation and they have time to be with some friends and family, and have just enough money to meet their expenses with maybe a little extra.
They might think about goals or new years resolutions and say things like, I want to lose weight or eat healthier or make more money. Those aren’t goals, they are basically wishes. There’s no substance behind those statements and that’s why at the beginning of February most people are back at their same routines and have given up on what they wanted.
Then you have the other extreme, those individuals that are Pollyannish and boiling over and are going to accomplish 40 great things, and it’s going to be a Hallmark movie year. I’m exhausted just thinking about it and I like Hallmark movies. If you try to tackle too much, you’ll be in the same boat as the "leave it to fate" folks.
There has to be a middle ground where your goals resonate with you, they have purpose and a strong "why" behind the reason that’s it’s a goal. Then, those goals have to be backed up with thought and details on how to achieve them.
Ya know it’s been said that:
A goal without a plan is just a wish
So how do you become one of those individuals that actually can consistently go to the gym all year (or achieve anything else you desire)?
Write Your Goal, Increase Your Success
Well, one of the things you can do is write your goals down. Studies have shown that just by writing down your goals your drastically increasing your chances of achieving those goals. Get this, by up to 40%! The sad thing is most people won’t actually take the time to write them down.
Here’s a quote that I came across:
Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips
I love that quote and there is so much wisdom in it. First, there is power in our spoken word. Don’t believe me, go yell at someone or better yet praise and see a difference it makes. You verbally saying your goals and then writing them down is reinforcing them in your brain. Your brain is just like a sponge and it will believe and do what you tell it. Do it enough, and it becomes autopilot (aka a habit).
So here’s what you can do to take these steps to be one of the few that actually reaches their goals.
- Reflect on the past year. We can learn a lot just by looking at the most recent past. Think about the things you accomplished and celebrate those wins. Why were you successful? Now, think about the things that you wish you would have done. Why weren’t you able to achieve those goals?
Don’t spend too much time reviewing the past. It’s done, and you can’t change it. Learn from it, understand the patterns and cycles that you tend to navigate toward, and identify what you can do to make the course corrections for your next goals. Soren Kerkegaard said:
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
What do I want? Grab a pen and paper and start listing the things that you want. Whatever comes to mind. Ask yourself, what would it be like if I could __________ (fill in the blank). Next, ask yourself the following once you have those things written down:
Why is this goal important to me? (Right, it has to mean something or you’re not going to do it).
What happens if I reach my goal? (The result has to be worthwhile or else you’re not going to endure).
What’s the consequence of not reaching my goal? (So not doing it could have a big impact on things that matter most to you).
Make your goals what I call SMARTish. I like the SMART mnemonic acronym to write down my goals. And if don’t know what that is just ya know Google "SMART goals," (click the link to read the definition before you proceed.) It is basically Specific, Measurable, Action or Attainable, Reasonable, and Time boxed. there are some different variations of this, which is why I call it SMARTish and you can use what resonates with you.
Out of the list of things you want, select no more than ten goals and apply the SMART technique to those. If you do more than that, then you’re going to be one of my 212ers and burn out. I would recommend a combination of achievement and habit goals that focus on multiple areas of your life. SO here’s are a few examples.
- Lose 20 pounds by June 1
- Increase my income by $10,000 by Dec 31
- Read one book per month on personal development
Notice that the goals are very specific. They’re measurable and have a timeline. They are also easy to read and feel actionable rather than just a wish. As opposed to ya know goals that sound like this:
- I want to lose weight
- I want to make more money
- I want to read more
See the difference? And you can actually feel the difference when you speak it out loud.
What are you willing to give up? So there are many things vying for our attention and if you’re not purposeful with your time and spending it on what matters most, you’ll be spinning your wheels while trying to reach your goals. So in order to do the important, you may need to say no to some of the things that you like.
You may need to let go of, I don’t know, sports, TV, eating out all the time, a good job or maybe some bad relationships. I don’t know what’s holding you back, but there is usually something that we need to let go.
Make Your Goals Uncomfortable
When thinking about your goals you need to be a little bit uncomfortable when you’re writing them down, so they need to stretch you. Doing things that are only in your comfort zone won’t lead to the success you desire. And at the same time, the goals can’t be so far out there that they’re not even achievable. For example, I love to play tennis, but I can’t have a goal to play on the ATP tour next year. It’s just not going to happen. However, I can set a goal to improve my serving percentage, right? And then I can back that up with action.
So how do you know if you’ve set a good goal? Well, it should make you slightly uncomfortable when you read it with a little healthy fear and doubt creeping in. You shouldn’t feel like, "Gosh, I’ll never be able to achieve this," right?
So however, I’m not opposed to setting big, personal BHAG’s, right.-Big Hairy Audacious Goals-(From, ya know, one of Jim Collins books), or WIGs, which is from another book, which are Widely Important Goals. I have a specific ya know lifetime goal that’s just huge. I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish it but it’s there, it motivates me, and it’s a worthwhile pursuit for me. But if you are starting out, let’s do something that stretches you, but is also something that you can win at.
Right, we need accomplishment and we need to win and that creates our energy and momentum.
The good book says:
Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind -Proverbs 21:5
So I hope you can now see that it takes thought, planning, and a commitment to achieve our most important things in life. So resolutions, they just aren’t enough. Writing them down is just the beginning, right? But, you need something else, so let’s talk about the process I use to keep me on track to achieving my goals.
Let’s face it. We all get distracted and lose focus on what’s important, right, that’s just part of life. The new and shiny things are always more exciting and to get our attention. The best way I’ve found too succeed at my goals is to have a process that routinely reminds me of the essential things I should be doing.
Are Your Goals Written For Success?
So the first thing is, which we just covered, is you’ve got to write your goals down. So if you haven’t done that hit pause, go write them down or promise me that when you’re done with this you’re going to go do that because if you don’t write them down, then there is no use continuing. That’s the critical part to being able to see success.
Plan Weekly First
All right, the next thing is think about your goals and think on a weekly basis. So plan weekly first. So each week, I start out thinking about two or three big things that I want to accomplish specifically related to my goals. I like weekly because it allows for flexibility to schedule the tasks when I have the best chance of getting them done. Ya know these weekly items usually have multiple tasks associated with them that I’ll plan throughout the week and accomplish those in my daily routine, which leads to the next part is establishing a daily routine.
Establish a Daily Routine
Now I’m human just like you, and I forget things. It’s no different when we are talking about our goals. The best way not to forget is to keep your goals in your face and the front of your mind.
Ya know several years back, I read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, it’s a great book, and it helped me to establish a routine that sets me up for success each day. It makes me focus on things that are important to me like um reading the Bible, exercise, nutrition. I have eight things on that list, and one of those is to review my goals.
So every morning I read through my goals and it takes less than a minute to get through the list. When I read them, I’m thinking about what task I need to do next to move forward on that goal, and I’ll write those down for future reference. I’ll also go back and review what my "big" tasks were for the week and make sure that I’m focused on the right items for that day
Out of those tasks, I’ll choose two or three and put them on my daily task list of things that must get done. So if you’re like me, you have a zillion other projects and tasks that you have on the list as well. However, this is critical. You have to schedule the time to do things that support your most important goals. So if you don’t own your calendar and do that, someone else will fill your time. Take small bites each day, and before you know it, you’ll be making significant progress.
Reflect Weekly On Your Goals
Well, the next thing to do is to reflect weekly at the end of the week, usually Saturday or Sunday for me. I’ll review my goals in detail and also reflect on my motivations for the goal to keep me excited and understand why it’s essential and what’s at stake if I don’t accomplish the goal. Remember how we wrote those goals down, it’s not just about writing the goal, but it’s also writing down the supporting parts of that, is why it’s important, ya know, what’s at risk if I don’t accomplish it.
So during this reflection time, I’ll look back at the big items I wanted to accomplish for the week and examine how I did. If I failed at getting something done, I’ll review that and analyze it to see what I need to do differently or what I need to change to succeed and maybe it was nothing. Ya know maybe life just happened that week and I’ve got to make up for that in the next week.
I remember when I first started this process I would make too big of goals for the week. I quickly realized that I needed to plan a little better and break those tasks down into smaller tasks. And without that reflection, I wouldn’t have been able to make the corrections.
So after the review, I’m back to planning the next few things, right so I jump back into the weekly plan. Plan out my next two or three big things and then for each day I’m planning the two or three big things that I have to do that day in order to support my weekly goals.
Pause Quarterly to Renew
One of the other things that I also do is I take a break quarterly to renew. So not only do I check in daily and weekly on my goals, but I also take time quarterly to think about the bigger picture and here’s what I typically ask during that time frame:
- How’s my progress going?
- Have I accomplished any of my goals?
- Do I need to make adjustments to clarify any goals?
- Do I need to remove any goals?
- What do I need to stop doing?
- What do I need to start doing?
- What do I need to do more of?
I usually like to get away from a usual environment to do the quarterly review. Sometimes, I’ll schedule a trip for a couple of days to do some other activities to clear my mind and get ready for the next quarter.
And life happens, and we need to be okay with making corrections as needed, right. So I always try to ask if my goals are still relevant and focused on the right things for this period of my life. If not, it’s okay to stop and reset. Ya know there’s nothing worse than accomplishing the wrong things. So I remember, actually just last year, well I guess technically 2018, so I spent a lot of time looking at a certain opportunity and realized the amount of money and time that I would have to put in to that would mean sacrificing some of my other goals and I wasn’t willing to do that, so I had to put a pause on that goal, and I took it off my list. And I did that mid-year and that was okay because the more important things came to the top and I knew where I needed to focus and where energy needed to go. So it’s okay to remove things from your list if it doesn’t meet what your needs are for your life moments.
One of the important things to do after going through this process and making progress on your goals is to celebrate. If you’re like me, you like to accomplish things, check them off, and move on to the next task. However, celebrating our accomplishments is just as important.
I’ve struggled with this, but thankfully my wife loves to celebrate, right. She doesn’t just have a birthday; it’s her birthday week! So celebration encourages us and others and gives us the confidence that we need to press on. It can be a source of refreshment and renewal and time to share with others.
The celebration doesn’t have to be big. For example, back in 2017 I passed the CFP exam, the Certified Financial Planner exam, so it’s a big deal for financial planners ya know like me and only 60% pass it on the first try, so that was something that one, I wanted to accomplish because it helped me get over my mindset of making sure that I knew my stuff, which I did, and it allowed me to have a goal that stretched me but still gave me an opportunity to succeed. And we had a simple family gathering after that and just celebrated with ice cream, right, the kids loved it and it was a good time.
Your accomplishments are worth celebrating!
Some final thoughts as we start getting close to wrapping up our topics on goals. So, achieving our most important goals it takes much work. Many factors can impact our goals, but if you have specific goals that you are emotionally connected to and a process to follow, you’ll be one of the few that will accomplish what you set out to do.
You can do this!
Just start the process. It may take you a little time to get in the flow, but after a couple of weeks, you’ll start to get in to the groove.
If you have trouble or get discouraged, don’t give up, get help. We are not perfect people so give yourself some grace. Our success is largely based on our habits and routines. Learn how to improve in that area by setting triggers that will remind you about your goals.
So for example, if you want to exercise, set out your gym clothes the night before. That will trigger your mind to say, hey you said you wanted to exercise more and that will help reinforce the action needed behind that goal.
Ya know read books like Atomic Habits or The Power of Habit, Miracle Morning, ya know for knowledge and inspiration on how to get better at creating those positive habits. And confide with your spouse or a trusted friend that can help keep you be accountable.
Be bold, be different, and take action. It’s your life, make the most of it by focusing on the purposeful things that you were made to do and accomplish.
Well that wraps up this episode of Agilefinanceradio I hope it inspired you to think about your goals differently and to help you with the process of actually achieving your goals.
Listen in next time as we discover more ways to help you win with money, gain at life and ultimately retire with confidence.