Own Your Future

The purpose of this blog is to spark an evaluation of your goals as an individual and as a couple.  As this year comes to a close and the new year approaches, ask yourself if you accomplished what you wanted to. Did you aspire to be a better person and collective unit together? After all, isn’t that what goal setting is all about? You may not have set any goals to accomplish this past year, and that’s okay but I will challenge you to do so going forward. Achieving a goal takes self awareness and persistence. Goal setting is an art and a science, let me explain. 

Dr. Gail Matthews a psychology professor at Dominican University led a study on completing goals. The objective of the study was to see if writing down goals and being held accountable led to a greater completion percentage of those goals. Goals in the study ranged from completing a certain project, increasing income, learning a new skill, and enhancing life balance.

The study consisted of 267 people and they were divided into 5 different groupings. Group 1 only thought about their goals. Group 2 wrote down their goals. Group 3 wrote down their goals, and wrote action commitments to achieve results. Group 4 wrote down their goals, wrote action commitments to achieve results, and sent their goal to a friend. Group 5 wrote down their goals, wrote action commitments to achieve results, sent their goal to a friend, and sent weekly progress updates to that same friend. 

Which group do you think was more likely to accomplish their goal? Group 5 had the highest achievement rate and the lowest was Group 1. The study concluded that accountability supported greater results (send weekly progress reports to a friend). It also concluded that public commitment increases the likelihood of completing a goal. The greatest conclusion is writing down goals increases goal accomplishment compared to not writing it down. 

Writing down your goals, increases your likelihood of success. Did you write down your goals last year? The evidence from the study might make you consider it now. Our brain is wired to store information and we often need a visual cue to extract what we know. Writing improves our brain’s ability to encode. Writing down the goal yourself increases your memory of the goal, similar to when you took notes in class. 

Your future

I once met a corporate executive that sent a year end review to his children. The review was to see how he performed as a dad over the past year. Yes, I thought this was strange at first. Why was this guy bringing his corporate style into his home? But then It made sense to me. How many dads truly ask for feedback from their children? His approach made sure he received transparent feedback while also being able to use their information to set better goals as a father for the year ahead. This executive incorporated SMART goals into goal setting for his family. I am also a firm believer in SMART goals and what the process stands for. If you haven’t used SMART in goal setting here is a recap and what you can use in goal setting going forward.

  • Specific: goal is direct, detailed, meaningful
  • Measurable: quantifiable to track progress or success
  • Attainable: realistic and you have the tools to attain it
  • Realistic: aligns with your mission
  • Timely: create a deadline

My wife, Natalie, and I can attest to the power of goal setting. Our goals in 2019 were to start a business and take a European vacation. We accomplished both because we wrote down our goals, held each other accountable and met weekly to see how we were progressing. 

Goal setting is fun because you can use your imagination and creativity. The hard part and the most important is creating a system and a process to achieve your goals. For us, it meant setting an expected dollar amount to fund our business and our travel. We laid out our fixed expenses such as rent, utilities and groceries. We then figured out how much we needed to save from our paychecks to achieve our goals. Any remainder between the two was the allocated toward discretionary expenses such as restaurants and clothing.

For example, say our monthly net pay was $8,000 and fixed expenses was $3,000. We had a difference of $5,000. Rather than going on a shopping spree, we’d earmark $3,000 of that toward our future business and $500 to our vacation. The leftover of $1,500 would be used for fun such as going out, and some months if we weren’t feeling so fun or as we closely approached our launch date we saved more away. Developing a goal and putting a systematic process in place is really what makes accomplishing a goal even more satisfying. 

My personal goal from last year was to run a marathon in under 4 hours. This meant that I had to increase my personal best time by 22 minutes. Most runners would say that’s not easy to do. For me, it was fun – after all it’s the pursuit that provides happiness, isn’t it? What I did differently this time around was began training at a 3 hour 45 minutes training plan instead of 4 hours. I provided myself with a buffer in case something went wrong. The training plan I developed was the roadmap to reaching my goal. It was the system that I followed daily to ensure success. I finished the Berlin Marathon in 3 hours and 52 minutes. 

Yes, I am proud to share our goals with you. As you should be proud to share yours with everyone too. That’s why I am writing this – not to boast but to show the value in attempting to become better. If you write down your goals and create a defined process you put yourself in a better position to live a life that’s meaningful to you.

So I have to practice what I’m preaching and share my goals for 2020.

  1. Meditate daily
  2. Positively impact 100 lives through my work in personal finance
  3. Finish my 5th marathon
  4. Read one book every other week

You now know that writing goals down, creating action commitments, sending to a friend, and sending weekly progress updates increases your likelihood of success. 

So what are your goals for the new year?

Written by: Dan Slagle, CFP® with Fyooz Financial Planning

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