One of my favourite professional speeches is entitled Goals to Gold!
I love delivering it to diverse audiences because of the visible evidence I detect each time, without fail, as different members of those disparate groups begin to realise – often for the very first time – that this isn’t all there is to their lives.
Not By A Long Shot!
They, as well as you and I, can and should dare to aspire to be, have and do much, much, much more.
I must warn you, though, I draw the line this side of the REAL world! That means I don’t believe achieving every conceivable goal is possible.
Of course it isn’t!
But a lot more grand, sometimes even grandiose, goals are attainable than we give ourselves credit for; although their final realisation sometimes doesn’t quite match our original conception. Consider what diva Madonna said back in 1992, “I have the same goal I’ve had ever since I was a girl. I want to rule the world.” (Perhaps Argentina, on the big screen, was a stepping stone for her?)
Big or small, the most effective first step toward achieving anything, as personal leadership guru Stephen Covey so succinctly puts it, is to ‘begin with the end in mind’.
This advice has direct relevance to financial planning, which is defined by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards as ‘the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances’. (You can learn more about the CFP Board and what it stands for here.)
In my opinion, the four most crucial words of that financial planning definition are ‘meeting your life goals’.
So let me ask you: What are your life goals?
I’m sure you can rattle off many small goals. Inconsequential ones like finishing this article before lunch, completing that project at work next week, or going on holiday in three months. I’m also certain you can list some significant goals with longer time horizons, such as achieving a great retirement for yourself and your spouse or funding your kids’ tertiary education or building a business.
Being able to articulate those goals is a great start. But what I’ve learnt from my consulting clients, over the years and across the miles, is that most people – even those with ‘loadsa money’ – have trouble defining great goals that genuinely, truly
them beyond self-imposed limits.
In the interests of full disclosure I must admit I’ve also had the intriguing privilege of dealing with a few clients who regularly set goals so grand – well… grandiose, actually – that I have had to rein them in!
By And Large, However, Most People Have Trouble Setting Sizable Goals
Why is that?
After a great deal of thought and observation, I’ve come to the conclusion that the two big reasons are – surprise, surprise! – environmental and hereditary.
Our Environment Shapes Us
Marine biology studies provide us with an interesting perspective on this phenomenon. If you put a young fish in a small aquarium, what usually happens over time is that the fish grows in size, BUT its maximum size at maturity is limited by the space available. It remains small.
But if you were to put another young fish from the same batch into a huge pool, it is likely to grow to gargantuan proportions in comparison to its relatively incarcerated sibling.
Similarly, people who are able to set huge goals tend to come from homes that were ‘spacious’ with encouragement.
Those who can’t set big goals often seem to have grown up in families where praise was absent or extended grudgingly.
Heredity Also Affects Us
But, personally, I don’t believe it comes anywhere near environment as being the key determinant of how people turn out.
The bad news is nothing can be done about the genes we inherited from our parents, or about the type of home or school environment that shaped us during our formative years.
But the – more important – good news is that an act of our will can override many aspects of ‘lousy internal programming’.
Human beings have a ‘divine spark’, for want of a better description, which allows us to make choices.
For instance, we can choose to exercise delayed gratification or to live it up today! We can choose to save and invest 30% of our income or to squander 120% of that income each month! We can choose, as adults, to invest 10% of our resources in our ongoing personal education or we can choose to stop learning the moment we leave school or university!
Which choices appeal to you? Why?
I have learnt that at the heart of every ‘good’ decision is a willingness to take the long view, to begin every task with the final end burned into our mind’s eye.
So, to help you, I will share a framework for goal-setting that should increase your chances of sticking to any crucial task longer than most others will.
That by itself, over time, WILL escalate the odds of your reaching each crucial goal you set for yourself.
You are free to use this recipe in setting major financial goals, but please don’t limit yourself. This algorithm (or recipe) will work with all types of goals, including physical, material, social, spiritual and professional ones.
There are three parts to this easy-to-follow framework:
1. Choose monster goals;
2. Take a long time defining these ‘Godzillas’; and
3. Think on paper, as you give yourself permission to run picture-perfect mental movies of an awesome future.
1. Choose monster goals – only big goals are worthy of our greatest attention, fiercest passion and deepest commitment. Only massive goals have that magical capacity to fire up your imagination for the months, years and decades of painstaking implementation required to achieve them!
2. Take your time defining these ‘Godzilla’ goals– once you embark on a programme of goal-determination, realise you will become – beneficially – addicted to the process. It will take you anything between 20 and 50 hours (and in some cases more) of concentrated thought and directed daydreaming to detect the big goals you’re willing to give your life to accomplishing. (For specific guidance on how to ‘dream’ effectively prior to goal-setting, read my ebook 5 Steps to a Saner Life – How to Escape a Lousy Present for an Awesome Future in the Success eBooks section of my site.)
3. Think on paper – write down each major goal as you decide upon it. Write them in the active voice, and in the present tense, and keep rewriting them. According to author-consultant Brian Tracy, our subconscious can only go to work on ‘factual’ statements in the present tense, such as, “I am a millionaire” or “I have achieved financial freedom”. If you feel uncomfortable stating things that are not true, then don’t think of it as lying to yourself right now but as telling yourself the truth in advance!
Also, for financial goals, put realistic present values or costs in implementing them now. Then roll them forward and take into account the ballooning effect of inflation on ‘actual’ future prices.
If you take all three steps, you will have begun the process of beginning with the end in mind. So, once started, don’t stop.
(For practical help on setting substantial goals that mesh with your deepest held values, read my ebook UNLEASHED! The Small Guide to Achieving Whacking Great Big Goals. Details can be found in the Success eBooks section of my site.)