Goal Development

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Your budget (or spending plan, if you find that a less imposing phrase) is an important guide that can help you achieve amazing results, if you use it properly. Whether you have a lot of money or just a little, a true measure of your financial success is your ability to use a spending plan to meet the goals you've set for yourself and your family. Imagine for a moment that your financial goal is a destination you could travel to by car. To reach it, you'll need to make efficient use of your money as you prepare for the journey, and you'll need to set aside certain resources for use along the way. You'll get a tune-up, check the tires, pack some food, etc., and you'll also figure out how much money you'll need for gas and tolls during the trip, all before you leave the driveway. Achieving your financial goals should work much the same way, because attaining them depends on thoughtful preparation.

In addition to getting you where you want to go in life, goal development has benefits beyond simply achieving the goal itself. Properly developed goals can be incredibly motivating, and, as you get into the habit of setting and achieving them, you'll probably find that your self-confidence has increased, as well. By constructing a strong goal development routine, you can measure and take pride in the achievement of the goals you've set, in turn helping to ensure future financial successes.

The Seven P's of Goal Development

The goals that you set need to be plausible, and your plan to achieve them must be precise. To meet your goals, you must prioritize their importance, and properly prepare for the steps you will need to take for their achievement. Throughout the process, remain positive and maintain the appropriate passion to reach your goals. Finally, gauge your progress on performance and not on outcome.

Plausible

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It is important to set goals that you can achieve. There are few things in life more frustrating or disappointing than not meeting the benchmarks you've set for yourself. Therefore, your goals need to be realistic. For example, let's assume you want to purchase a new home within two years, and that you'd like to pay for it in cash. The particular home you're interested in is selling for $300,000. Your current employment as a dishwasher allows you to pay your bills, and you do have some discretionary income after developing your Spending Plan, but you would probably have a better chance of hitting the lottery without a ticket than you have of buying this house in cash. In this case, your goal is inconsistent with the reality of your circumstances.

Setting unrealistic goals can be harmful. You may begin to lose hope of ever achieving your dreams and give in all together. By developing plausible goals, you will not only increase your odds of meeting them, you will also help yourself maintain a positive outlook on the future.

Precise

The more specific your goal is, the more realistic your chance of success. By making the goal specific in nature, you'll "own" it. For instance, let's say your goal is modest: you'd like to buy a new couch. Instead of simply establishing the goal, go out and find the exact couch you intend to purchase. Once you've seen it and had the opportunity to take it for a test ride, you will form a personal connection to your goal. You won't simply be saving money for a couch; you'll be saving for your couch.

Prioritize

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We talked earlier about short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals are those that can generally be accomplished in under 12 months. Anything longer can be considered a long-term goal. But while categorizing your goal in this way is necessary, it's more important that you develop the order in which you'd prefer to achieve them. This allows you to avoid feeling overwhelmed when you have multiple goals and helps you focus your attention on the most important ones.

Preparedness

In order to meet the goals you've set, you need to be prepared. To do so, you should ask yourself some questions:

  • Why is this goal important to me/my family?
  • How much money will I need to reach this goal?
  • Will this fit comfortably into my Spending Plan?
  • Have I established a realistic timeframe for reaching my goal?
  • What additional information do I need to achieve this goal?
  • What help, assistance, or collaboration do I need?
  • What financial obstacles could block my progress?

A good way to help prepare yourself to accomplish your goals is to create a "Goal Book." Commit one page to each goal that you set. Write out the questions listed above, along with your answers for each. This will help you to better visualize your goal and help you to determine how plausible each will be to attain. If you find it helpful, place a picture of your goal on the page as a way to "own" it. You can also track the financial progress you make toward completing your goal on its designated page. For example, if the couch you were looking to purchase costs $1,000 and you commit $25 of each paycheck toward its purchase, write down each deposit and subtract it from the total price. Remember, achieving your goals can be very empowering. Your self-confidence should get a boost every time you review your progress.

Passion

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Anything worth having is worth working for. Each goal you set is important to you, and the passion that drives you toward the fulfillment of that goal is important, too. Just imagine how you're going to feel when the goal is finally reached. A sense of accomplishment is one of the most powerful feelings that a person can have.

Always keep the achievement of each goal in mind. If you ever find your motivation weakening, go to your "Goal Book" and read the pages you've dedicated to each of your goals. It should re-ignite your passion for achievement and provide you with the energy and attitude lift you need to persevere.

Performance

At times, individuals can lose their enthusiasm for reaching goals that are far off in the future. To help maintain a positive outlook, establish financial milestones for each of the goals that you have. For instance, if your intention is to set aside $1000 for a couch you're looking to buy in eight months' time, check yourself at each monthly milestone to be sure you're on track. Periodically acknowledging your progress will help keep you moving forward.

In Closing

No matter how much we wish it were otherwise, one of the few constants in life is change. Such unpredictability invariably leads to the development of additional goals. That's why it's important to revisit your objectives regularly. Not only can you review your progress, you can examine the appropriateness of your goal to your changing circumstances.

Also, remember that life happens. Things may come along that temporarily prevent you from reaching your goals, but it is important to get right back on track as soon as you can. By developing a solid Spending Plan, establishing an Emergency Fund, and remaining committed to your goals, you can live a happy and rewarding life.