Is achieving financial success one of your New Year’s resolutions?
Typically somewhere between the middle of January and the first quarter, many of us lose steam on our resolutions. It’s not that we no longer want to achieve this goal. More likely, it’s that we haven’t instilled the processes to support us and we’ve lost the sense of urgency which helped motivate us initially. After all, new habits are hard to create.
Anytime I want to focus on creating a new habit or positive change, I like to envision reaching my goal and how I will feel at that point. I think about each goal like a long car trip, so before starting up the engine and stepping on the gas, I have to know where I’m going. I also have to know who’s coming with me, if I have enough gas and how to handle the unexpected. When I can visualize it, I know it will happen.
Once I have a clear vision, I set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound), which helps me develop my milestones to achieve my goals. I think about how I will reach my goals, not just what I want the outcome to be. The trick with SMART goals is to make them just stretchy enough that you won’t feel like a failure when your situation changes or you fall a little behind, and to ensure they’re not too comfortable so that you continue to push yourself to reach your destination.
Now that we have set a goal and have visualized the path to reach it, making a plan and sticking with it is the key to success. Here are a few tips for when the going gets tough:
Know Your Money Motivations
While the beginning of the year can be a fresh start and inspire us to be ambitious, we commonly don’t plan the consistent activity required to reach our new goal. And, if those activities are piled onto an already full plate, the goals become less inspiring and can begin to feel like a burden.
Yet, if we focus more on what the goal means to us personally, we can maintain our vigor until we reach it. For example, I often speak about building financial independence to increase confidence, freedom and flexibility to live the life you desire. And in my workshops, I ask people to think back to their worst money stories. For example, in one workshop, a female executive recanted her brief experience of homelessness when she was younger. That memory is her motivation and driving force to work hard, elevate her career and save money so she can persevere when experiencing a setback.
Know Your Plan
With a blank calendar in front of you, it can be easy to overestimate how much activity you can handle. What life responsibilities do you have to make room for, and how much time will you take to reward yourself? Are you planning any down time, anticipating family responsibilities or dreaming about a nice vacation? Remember that the money you make is ultimately in service to those things, so you will need to dedicate time to them as well.
For example, if you have been thinking about retirement and do not know where to begin, align your goals with actionable steps such as downloading your pay stubs and evaluating your budget.
Know Your Capacity. Give yourself grace.
I’ve commonly referred to the book The Four Agreements when considering capacity, as the last agreement is “Do what you can given what you have.” In anything you do in life, you must have the motivation and resources available to achieve it. Making your goals “achievable” means being realistic about the hours you can work in a week and the time you need to live a satisfying personal life. When you hyperfocus on achieving a goal, you may stretch beyond your capacity; over time, that can lead to burnout, exhaustion and even resentment of the plan you created. Ensure you’re “stretching” yourself, but also consider the time you need to rest and recover on your journey. As marathon runners would tell you, “you need to pace yourself as you are running.”
Keep Yourself Accountable
Accountability is something you need to plan. I encourage my attendees to look at their numbers monthly or weekly. Identify a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your financial goals and focus on the activities that drive your desired results. For example, maybe you would like to save 12,000 this year in your retirement account. Each month you will need to save $1,000. Your income is 120,000 annually. This means 10% of your income will be deferred into your retirement account. Set it and forget it and you are truly honoring “pay yourself first.” Control what you can control.
Finally, I recommend finding an accountability partner. A study from the American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) found that if you share your goal with someone else, you have a 65% chance of achieving it, and if you set an appointment with that person to check your progress, your chances increase to 95%! For best results, I recommend you choose an accountability partner who is nosy and a little pushy! As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we spend a lot of time by ourselves and in our heads. Sometimes getting a wake-up call from a friend can be the motivator you need.
So as you embark on your next big goal, whatever it is, remember these tips to set yourself up for success:
- Have a plan to achieve your goal
- Each time you want to deviate from your plan, keep your eyes on your motivation
- Do what you can given what you have
- Have an accountability partner
If you’d like to learn more about how you can gain financial confidence, expand your network and grow your business, be sure to sign up for “Tang Talks,” my monthly newsletter full of insights, tips and tools to help you achieve your goals.