One of the most phenomenal experiences happened to me when we were on vacation in Hilton Head, SC. I was running on the beach. I mapped a five mile run. I kinda knew where the 2.5 mile turn-around point, an inlet, would be, but I wasn’t exactly sure where I was headed. I started running and every so often asked myself, “Is that it? Is that the halfway point? Is that my goal?” I would see a spot on the horizon a few hundred yards away and think, “There, that’s where I’ll turn around.”
It was hot and humid. I ran past beachfront homes (one of our goals). Walkers, runners and bikers were everywhere. The ocean glistened black. It seemed like I already ran three miles when I ran by a walker and asked him where the inlet was. He said I had another mile to go. It was only 2.5 miles, but it took what seemed like forever to get to the inlet. I, then, turned around and headed back. Running back was a breeze. The condo building quickly came into sight and just like that my run was over.
What? Was I really this close? Why was the second half so much quicker than the first? Was my mind playing tricks on me?
What happened was the “return trip effect”. Humans are often overly-positive when we start something and become negative when it doesn’t go as quickly as we thought, especially if we don’t have an accurate plan or have a plan, at all. This is like my run on the beach.
Setting out to achieve life goals, too, is exciting, but becomes daunting almost as soon as we start. Committing to pay off debt is an exciting goal. Deciding to buy that dream car gets the blood pumping. Then we think about what it will take to make those dreams come true and things get serious fast.
This is why a clear and realistic plan is necessary. If you know exactly where you will be financially at every point along the way to your goal, in hindsight it will go by more quickly than expected. When John and I set out to pay off our $51,000 worth of credit card debt we were excited and fueled to start. To our benefit, we created a detailed and realistic plan. Because of this, we paid off our debt in two and half years. Now, in hindsight, those two and a half years flew.
If you want to create a habit of success, if you want to be a doer, someone known as an achiever, get in the habit of creating plans to achieve your goals. Unless you know where you really want to go financially and have a plan, you can’t efficiently get there. It’s with this frame of reference that I encourage each of you to set feasible, achievable goals, create plans and work for them.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If paying off $100,000 in debt seems monumental, then shoot for smaller, more achievable goals such as paying off $10,000. Pay off $10,000 and then set a goal of another $10,000. Before you know it, you’ll pay off $50,000.
If getting a new job seems impossible then set the goal of sending out twenty resumes and making ten contacts. Every small goal leads to the ultimate goal. See your successes as steps and take each one. Make every day, week or month another step in your long-term plan to success.
As a personal example, one of my desires is to buy an Audi S4. I’ve wanted one for years, but it’s been an elusive goal because shelling out $25,000 to $30,000 (buying used to avoid the initial depreciation) seems insurmountable. I decided to change that in 2015. I’ve set up a plan to save for my Audi S4. I have a separate account solely for saving for my new-to-me car. A predetermined amount of each of our paychecks is automatically deposited into my Audi S4 account. To date, I have well over $3,000 saved. My dream looks seriously achievable in 2016. Every month, when I create my monthly balance sheet, I get excited seeing the balance has grown and knowing the day that I buy my car draws nearer. It has gone from an elusive goal to an achievable goal.
My advice to you is to clearly chart your path, run the beach one step at a time and get to the inlet. Make your small successes add up. We did! You can, too.
Share with us below some of your small steps to your achievable 2015 financial goals.