With 2020 staring us in the face, it’s time to review goal setting and the systems you can put in place in order to reach those goals.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
That said, let’s look at systematic ways to approach goal setting and actionable tools you can use to smash those goals.
How to begin
- Large/Lifetime goals – These are things you want to accomplish throughout your life. They can be philanthropic, health, financial, etc. Figure these out first.
- Short-term – Now that you have your long-term/lifetime goals determined, you can break them down into shorter-term goals. Consider these stepping stones, and a lot of these will change as you age. For example, your philanthropic goals. There may be causes you care deeply about now, but that can change.
- Actionable steps – Once you have your lifetime goals broken down into manageable targets, it’s time to create steps to get there and I’ll illustrate that using the three examples above.
- Philanthropic – Research causes and charities. Pick the ones you most identify with. Review your budget to find out how much you can give. Do a little more research to find out if your donations are tax-deductible (most, if not all, should be).
- Health – Establish the specific reason you want to be healthier (for yourself, your partner, your kids, grandkids, etc.). Research a diet that could work for you. Research an exercise regimen that could work for you. Consult experts (i.e. nutritionist and personal trainer).
- Financial – Create a budget/spending plan. Cut expenses. Save for emergencies. Insure you and your belongings. Save for retirement.
Here are a few articles I’ve written in the past about financial goals:
We can think of systems as the sub-category of actionable steps. A routine is another word for it. When it comes to goals and habits, you can’t rely on will power. You have put a plan in place to do the work for you.
Take exercising for example. You need to create low barriers for yourself. Wear your gym clothes to bed or have your bag packed the night before.
If you go to the gym, put your bag and your keys in a place where you have to pass them to get to your car.
If you exercise at home, have your routine and your equipment laid out and ready for you.
For example, if your saving for a down payment, go to your banking app and transfer $1 from checking to savings every morning (or whatever amount is realistic for you).
When that becomes second nature, bump it up a dollar a day.
Another thing that James says is, “People ask me all of the time, how many days does it take to create a habit? My answer, all of them because if you stop doing it for one day, it’s no longer a habit.”
External versus Internal
This section is speaking specifically to mental health versus other goals. You could also consider physical health as an internal goal, but for this article internal relates to mental health.
There are several things you can do to work on your mental health. See a therapist, exercise, and start a journal. Those three are low-barrier, easy things you can implement into your day to help.
Meditation, medication, and other forms of mindfulness training/practice can also help. There’s a podcast that I listen to regularly called “10% Happier” that will help you with establishing a meditation practice.
Do some research about this. Meditation can and will take many different forms, and not each modality will be right for you. Reading has also proven to have meditative benefits.
It really is up to the individual as to what they consider, short, medium, and long-term, but my definitions are as follows: Short-term – less than 3 years. Medium-term – 3-15. Long-term – 15+.
My definitions are almost entirely based on the investability of those assets for that specific time period.
- Short-term – Emergencies, a new car, what have you. This is money you will need soon, so risking it in the stock market is out of the question. High-yield savings accounts should be your go-to in this scenario.
- Medium-term – Things like down payments for a house or sending your kid to college. What you’re saving for will dictate the vehicle that you use. If it’s saving for college, a 529 or a Coverdell ESA should do the trick. If it’s for a down payment, your best bet is usually a taxable brokerage account, as there are no fees for early withdrawal.
- Long-term – This should be strictly focused on retirement. Assets should be in a retirement account(s) and invested (investment selection should be based on risk tolerance and time horizon).
Once you’ve established your short, medium, and long-term goals you can break them down into actionable steps as we talked about earlier.
Wrapping it up
Each New Year brings about resolutions that we hope to achieve. Whether it’s getting in shape or paying down debt, your barometer for success should be progress and consistency.
Are you in a better place than you were on January 1st? Do you have more saved? Are you still committed to the goals you set in the first place?
Yes. It feels great to set a target and hit it, but as far as I’m concerned, if you’re better than you were yesterday, that’s all that matters.
Take it one day at a time and keep your eyes on the prize. You got this!