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Get Out of Debt

Setting Goals for the New Year

It’s only November, my friends, but now’s the time to set your money and other goals for 2016. I’m a bit of an expert at setting goals. More accurately, I’m an expert and setting  and then failing at accomplishing those goals.  ????  So I thought I’d share with you today a bit about what I’ve learned regarding goal-setting mistakes and goal-setting successes. My hope is that this information will help you accurately set (and achieve) your 2016 financial and other goals.

It’s good, in my ever-so-humble opinion (LOL) to begin by writing down a list of the things you’d like to accomplish in 2016. I like to break my goals down into five parts:

Spiritual (and/or personal development) Goals

Financial Goals

Health Goals

Relationship Goals

Career Goals

This is a great time of year to assess your life in terms of those five areas (you’re welcome to modify the areas to fit your own life), determine where you’ve been and where you want to go in terms of those five areas of your life.  If you’re like me, you’ll grab your trusty notebook and make five columns, one for each of the above areas.

From there, you’ll work to assess and determine the goals or milestones you want to reach for each area. You’ll be putting down as many goals as you’d like for each area, but don’t get overwhelmed, because you’re going to be trimming down this list as need be.

Don’t Get Over-Goaled

It’s important to write down all of your thoughts and feelings about goals for each area, but it’s not always a good idea to work to achieve all of those goals. When we put down too many goals at once, it’s super easy to get overwhelmed and give up. This is why, after you write down your every thought, dream and hope for each goal area, you’ll want to sit down and have a serious talk with yourself (or with your spouse when it comes to joint goals) to identify what you really want out of the new year.

For instance, let’s say my list of health goals looks like this:

  • lose 10 pounds
  • participate in three triathlons
  • eat healthier
  • bike twice a week
  • run three times a week
  • swim three times a week
  • lift weights three times a week

Whoa, Nellie!!  Combine this list with the lists in the other four goal areas, and I’m going to get overwhelmed with goals real quick. This is why my next step should be to pare down my list to 2 or three of my most important goals. In the case of the fictional list above, here’s what I’d do:

  1. Drop the 10 pounds goal. If I follow the other goals the extra weight should come off automatically
  2. Create a realistic workout schedule that is in line with participating in at least one triathlon – since I’ve never completed a triathlon before, three is a bit lofty for a goal, and I can always add more races later if I feel I can reasonably fit it into my schedule.
  3. Define what “eating healthier” means to me and create a list of meals and snacks that fit in with that goal.

My list of 7 goals in this area is now down to three specific and reasonable goals for my lifestyle. By modifying the original list in this way, you are avoiding goal-setting mistake #1 and #2:

  1. Mistake #1: setting too many goals
  2. Mistake #2: not setting specific goals

This is especially important in the area of personal finance and money goals. When we first started out on our debt payoff journey in January of 2013, we set goals that were unrealistic for our income situation, we set budget goals that were way too strict and we set too many goals for the year. Although we did have success and drive our debt down during the year, we also spent a lot of time stressing every time we went over our way-too-strict budget and every time we didn’t meet one of our unrealistic goals.

SO, Goal-setting mistakes equal:

  • setting too many goals
  • setting unrealistic goals
  • setting unspecific goals

Goal-setting success equals:

  • setting 1 or 2 important goals in each goal area
  • setting realistic goals
  • being specific about how you’ll go about achieving those goals

By following the above steps, you’ll have yourself a nice goal chart for accomplishing a few things that will better your life over the short and long haul.

A Word About Rewards

I’m a firm believer in rewarding yourself for completing goals. After you’ve set your specific goals to paper and a path for accomplishing those goals, it’s a good idea to consider rewarding yourself along the way as you reach those goals. In the case of the health goals listed above, you might treat yourself to a little something for each week that you’ve stuck to your workout plan.

Some inspirational quotes for reaching goals: Goal-setting Quotes

In the case of a financial goal, you might make an extra deposit into your early retirement fund each time you reach a debt payoff goal or treat yourself to an at-home inexpensive celebration when you’ve stuck to your budget for the week.

Rewards help to encourage you to keep on trucking toward your goals, so make a list of rewards that will help you keep moving toward goal success, and treat yourself to those rewards when you’ve accomplished a goal.

When You Don’t Reach Your Goals

Sometimes – likely more often than not for most people – we set goals and don’t make it to the finish line. If that happens to you, don’t fret, and don’t give up. Forward progress is still progress. 

The very best of luck to you as you set your 2016 financial and other goals.


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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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