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First step in achieving greatness: write down your goals!

January 1, 2012

He did it! A sub 4 minute mile.

In the early 1950s no one had ever run a mile race under four minutes. Some people thought it was impossible. There were a few who thought the human body couldn’t handle it and the heart would explode in the effort (although many of these ideas came from journalists to add drama).
Enter Roger Bannister, a successful runner and medical student. He showed promise and had good success in the late 1940s and early 1950s. When it was time for the mile in the Olympics, he thought it was his chance to be the best in the world.
Bannister finished a disappointing fourth in that race. At that point he had a decision to make: he could either quit running entirely or pick up his intensity. He decided to make a goal of running a mile under four minutes. He picked up his training, and in 1954 he achieved his goal.
He came up with a goal, wrote it down, and worked hard to achieve it. He did not lose site of it. The goal gave him a direction, and he provided the hard work to get there. This is a combination that tends to work in a lot of situations.
The same is true with personal finance. Generally, you work, you get paid, you spend your money and the cycle repeats itself. If you do not spend time to think about what you want, you will not get it.
One of the first things you need to do to become a great wonder with your finances is to come up with a goal. You generally need certain factors to make it effective.
SMART goals give you a format to come up with effective goals.  SMART goals meet five criteria:
First, they are specific. Your goal might be to pay off your debts, retire early, own a vacation home, pay for your children’s college, be financially secure to spend more time with family or travel the world.
Second, they are measurable. You may want to retire by 55, own a vacation home in Arizona, save $50,000 toward college, or work fewer hours to have more time. Each of these goals allow an individual to see if he or she reached them.
Third, they should be attainable. Besides having the goal, you also need to think about the path you need to take to reach the goal. This will give you the map to get there.
Goals should also be realistic. If you are making $50,000 a year and do not see any immediate major pay increases, you should not have a goal of being a millionaire in five years.  It is not realistic. Take some time to look at the numbers and see what is possible. A goal that is out of reach can be more discouraging than encouraging.
Finally, goals should have a timeline. Give yourself a date by when you want to have your goal reached.
Once you have your SMART goals in place, there are a few things that will help them stick. Write them down and place them someplace where you will see them on a daily basis. Many people trying to get out of debt post their debt balances and progress reports on their fridges for daily reminder.
Also, find some accountability partners. It can be tough to try to reach your goals alone. Find someone else you trust who will give you the encouragement and discipline you need to get to your goal.
You may not want to run a four-minute mile, but by taking some time to write down where you want to go financially, it will help you decide how you use your money. Some of the daily purchases you now make may become a thing of the past as you look toward longterm goals.
Bannister retired shortly after running the four-minute mile to work on his career in medicine. He went on to become a distinguished neurologist before retiring in 2001. It is obvious that he used goal setting in his professional life as well.
If you are having difficulty getting any traction on your financial plans, it might be time to set goals or re-evaluate your goals. Goals are the map to get you to where you eventually want to be. It may be difficult to find the time to write some well thought-out financial goals, but you will not receive the benefits of doing what you want later in life unless you have goals, work hard and stick to them to achieve them.

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