This blog talks about an area popular within the area of self-improvement and coaching, namely the process of goal setting. I’ll start by sketching out why it is important, before discussing some practical examples, with a focus on the money implications of your goals.
Counter intuitively in the mainly positive world of personal development and coaching, a useful gateway into thinking about why goals are important is to start with a negative definition. In other words, to come at the concept by thinking about what happens when someone has no goals? As the athlete and coach Bill Copeland commented “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field…"
If you stop and think about those around you, does the idea that many people are running around all the time not quite knowing where they are going or why they are in such a rush sound familiar? Might, in quiet moments of honest self-reflection, this even occasionally apply to you (disclaimer: I am also familiar with this tendency)?
So many of us are constantly busy with to-do lists, family pick-ups and drop offs, shopping, work, social lives, that there is little time to pause, reflect and plan.
This is where goal setting can help – and it works best like this: first you are encouraged to take a step back and consider your dreams and visions for the future. To work out and then work on what the financial coach Maria Nemeth describes as your life’s intentions. Examples might be that you want to be a successful business person; be financially independent; to be physically fit or to be a good parent.
Secondly, you identify a number of smaller goals which take you in the direction of these life’s intentions. This leads to the third and arguably most important element of goals – taking action to reach these goals. It is this potential for goals to motivate movement to change which makes the biggest contribution to our personal development and growth.
In order to make a connection between theory and reality it might help to think through a couple of examples. Let’s look first at being physically fit and healthy. One goal emerging from this might be to run a marathon, or swim 5k freestyle in the pool. Does this mean someone laces up their running shoes, heads out the door and immediately runs 26.2 miles? Of course not, they’d probably stop after a mile or so and give up, maybe even throwing a bit of self-blame into the mix “I knew I could never do it…”
That’s why those working in the field of goal setting encourage you to start small. So, for running it could be the couch to 5k, park run, 10k, half marathon and so on. An example with more obvious financial links might be the dream of financial independence. Again, this does not mean someone would immediately give up paid employment and move to a bothy in the country; rather they need a smaller series of stepping stone goals. Examples might be to live more frugally, say by aiming cut spending by 10% in month one, building up to 30 or 40 percent over time, then use the resulting surplus to build investments. They might also aim to re-skill so they could gain an additional flow of income. In both cases they would use small steps, almost mini-goals, to bring their dreams into reality.
Of course, there will be set backs along the way, indeed some commentators argue this is actually positive as it indicates you are moving out of your comfort zone and growing in a new direction. Recognising that obstacles will arise and developing strategies to overcome them is one reason working with a coach can help in clarifying your life's intentions and working out tactics and strategies for changes in money habits which allow someone to reach their money goals. This process has the potential to be tremendously positive and transformational – is it time to get out a pen and paper and work on your life’s intentions and money goals?