Posts on goals
Wednesday morning as I read personal finance blog posts before going to work, I noticed a theme emerging. The beginning of one month always means another month has just ended, and people were assessing the progress they’d made in March – being accountable about the goals they’d set.
“Argh. Just no. I failed miserably on almost every front this month,” said Emily.
“I don’t want to talk about it and I’m so mad and disappointed in myself,” said Tonya.
It was easy for me to think, “Come on, Emily. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” And, “Tonya, try to focus on all that you’ve done so well!” But the truth is, their self-criticism resonated with me. You see, I made it my goal for March to give up sugar … And that lasted for about 10 days. I’ve been feeling a bit “Argh” and “so disappointed in myself” too.
What was going on here? Why so much sense of defeat?
Progress for long-term goal
I reflected upon my own disappointment, and I realized something: Giving up on sugar isn’t my main goal by a long shot. What is my main goal? Financial health – no question! My husband and I have been on a journey out of debt for almost 5 years now. That’s a L-O-N-G time! But look at what has happened since June of 2012:
- $21,000 in consumer debt – GONE
- $82,000 in business debt – GONE
- mortgage in June 2012 = $155,000 / mortgage now = $79,000
- emergency fund (to see us through 3-6 months without income) – FULL
- investments – modestly growing
“month after month after month …”
I decided Wednesday morning, “When I write my post tonight, I will not focus on my sugar fail. I’ll focus on continued success for my main goal: our money makeover.” It’s hard to keep a sustained focus on one goal for so many years – but that’s how real change happens. It’s how real change is happening for us. It’s easy to lose sight of the overall picture and how it’s being impacted because after years of effort, it stops looking like encouraging progress and starts looking . . . regular.
Every month, our goal is to max out on our mortgage payment. (We can double it as a maximum.) Each month, we have. Every month, our goal is to save a certain amount. Each month, we do. Every month, our goal is NOT to use debt to deal with unexpected expenses. Mission accomplished. And if it means doing without something saved and budgeted for – we do without it.
It’s important to remind ourselves of the victories that are repeated month after month after month … And it’s important to celebrate forward progress on a path – even when that path seems to go on endlessly. My sugar fail isn’t even close to the significance of what we do on an ongoing basis with our finances.
J.D. Roth on goals
Wednesday afternoon, I happened to see this tweet from J.D. Roth:
“Many people try to tackle several goals at once. You’ll get better results working on one thing at a time–”
The article he’d posted Tuesday, “The Power of Focus” speaks to what I believe is the sabotaging element for too many of us in our approach to goals. ” Instead of trying to change many things at once, I’ve learned to change only one thing at a time.”
If you’re disappointed with yourself because you haven’t managed to meet one goal out of many – or because you’re trying to fix every area of your life at the same time – try to find your focus. Roth quotes Gary Keller’s book The One Thing: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
I know what that one thing is for me. It’s the same thing that is was five years ago. I’m turning my money situation around. And it really is making so many other things in life easier. There’s more confidence in planning; more harmony in relationships; less stress from road bumps of the unexpected – which we have the capacity to absorb now. We’ve got great momentum. Now is not the time to switch gears or to let discouragement creep in. I’ll deal with sugar later. Now is the time to maintain the power of focus on this one thing – knowing that it will continue to ripple out to impact other areas of our life for the better.
Have you been letting yourself feel defeated? Is it possible that you have too many goals? Can you identify the one thing that deserves the power of your focus?
*Image courtesy of Max Pixel