A New Way to Think About Goals

Goal Setting /
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 Are you a goal setter?  I certainly am.  Long-term goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, daily goals.  I have goals for every occasion!  Admittedly, I’m a goal-setting nerd, and I enjoy reading about goal setting and discovering new goal-setting techniques.

Recently I realized, after listening to a podcast discussion about goals and goal setting, I practice a particular technique with my financial goals, but I hadn’t really noticed I was doing it.  I also realized this technique could be extremely instructive for others in terms of reaching financial goals.

Move the goal post!

The idea is simple: As you approach the finish line for your financial goals, move the goal post further away.  Moving the goal post may also be beneficial for other goals in your life, such as weight loss and fitness goals, but I have used this technique almost exclusively for my financial goals.

Let’s look at an example.  I’m forever advocating the need for an emergency fund.  Since experts generally suggest you aim for three to six months of your living expenses, the sum you need to save can become rather large quickly.  As a result, many find the goal too overwhelming and give up in despair.

Don’t give up!  Instead, start really small.  Begin by establishing an attainable emergency fund goal of just $500.  As soon as you close in on your $500 target, and you’re confident you’re in the home stretch, move the goal post.  Now aim for $1000.  Momentum is a beautiful thing.

It’s essential you not think of this like a punishment, like the never-ending Sisyphean goal.  Instead, recognize and celebrate it for what it is.  You are gaining momentum, building healthy new habits.  Once you are certain you’re going to hit your initial target, pat yourself on the back.  And then move the goal post.

Financial goals are never-ending

It’s a given that financial goals will continue to arise throughout your life.  It would be ideal if we could establish financial goals for three things, achieve them and say we’ve arrived.  Save for an emergency, get out of debt, save for retirement.  Check.  Check.  Check.  Boom!  Done.

But life isn’t like that, and our finances are no different.  Once you have some goals handled, others will inevitably pop up.  As your income and expenses grow over time, so will the amount you should have in your emergency cushion.  Likewise, most people don’t get out of debt and never take on debt again.  Each new debt-driven situation requires effort to pay debt down quickly to return to debt-free status.  And saving for retirement isn’t the end of that story, either.  Once you begin your retirement, your goals and focus change from an emphasis on savings to management of your spending.

Life changes and so do goals.

Because life is always in flux and throwing us curve balls, being nimble is the best skill you can acquire.  With all life situations, it’s wise to evaluate all your options, have a backup plan, and look for opportunities.  Your financial life is no exception.

Planning to move the goal post

You can approach this goal post strategy in two ways.  One way is to create the goal and move the goal post once the goal is achieved or nearly achieved.  Alternatively, begin by reviewing your current goals and create a plan that includes moving the goal post at a specified time or milestone.

Each approach has its benefits, so the way you move your goal post boils down to personal preference.  Some people (like me!) love to set goals.  As a result, pouring over goals and creating a plan to make the goals more challenging along the way is appealing to me. If that isn’t your preferred approach, just work steadily on the small goals you set.  Then use the goal-post-moving technique to build on your financial well-being.

How about you?  Do you have a favorite method for setting and achieving goals?  Share your techniques below.








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