May 28, 2013 | Posted in:Goals

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Crazy Tom Cruise - Goals - Johnny Moneyseed

Believe it or not: Tom Cruise set a personal goal to become the craziest person in Show Biz. Achieved!

Whether you’d like to believe it or not, I think that most people are generally pretty good about setting and completing goals. However, these “goals” that people are so good at don’t really deal with improving their finances, relationships, or physical fitness (ie, things that actually matter). They’re typically more like shopping lists, or “to-do” lists.

More times than not we’re creating to-do lists that help us complete mundane tasks that have little to no long-term impact on our lives. We’re really good at filling our nights, weekends and even our time at work with B.S. that could be spent on productive activities. For example, people spend more time complaining to people about being broke than actually doing something about it. You know those people who love to complain about their lives to anyone who will listen? What if they could re-direct their energies into creating a strategy to remove themselves from their pit of hopeless despair (their words, not mine). These people simply need a little goal-orientation in their lives.

So how do you set a meaningful goal and follow it through to completion? You create a mission statement which will act as the blueprints for success. It’s pretty easy to write “become a millionaire” as a goal. It’s a pretty meaningless line item when you write it like that. How does this sound instead: I plan to become a millionaire within the next ten years by creating a rigid savings plan. I will put $x into these funds every month, re-assessing my strategy every three months. Who do you think is going to be more successful in their attempts? My bet is on the more thorough goal-creator.

It’s imperative that you understand the difference between goals and to-do lists. A to-do list will contain very short-term items that don’t usually have a very significant impact on your life. Grocery shopping would go on this list. Grocery shopping is important, but will a single shopping trip change the course of your future? Meh, I wouldn’t count on it. You don’t need a mission statement to convince yourself that you need to go shopping. You know how to do it; you know you’ll do it. You can add things like buying stamps, or mowing the lawn to a to-do list as well as their impact is almost nil.

In contrast, a goal is by definition “something that somebody wants to achieve”. Do you feel a sense of achievement when you walk out of Safeway every weekend with your Doritos and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s? Probably not. But, would you feel a sense of achievement if you paid off all of your debt? Hell yes you would! Would you feel a sense of achievement if you knew that you’d successfully rekindled a personal relationship? Of course, sucka! Goals are big. They’re something to base your life around and something to live for. Without clear and concise goals people get caught up fussing over the mindless and the mundane. Without big goals, insignificant things seems important. These petty things are distractions and they shouldn’t be the focus of your day.

I would recommend that you take about 30 minutes each week to devote yourself (and your significant other) to planning your future. Choose whatever frequency works for you, but make it a regular part of your life. My wife and I tend to re-write our goals out whenever we’ve completed all of our short-term goals (about once a month).

After you’ve written out a solid list of short-, mid-, and long-term goals you’ll want to set priority levels for each individual item. This can be accomplished by setting deadlines for each goal. A proper goal shouldn’t say that “you want to become a millionaire eventually”, you’d say that you “will become a millionaire in ten years”. With these words, you can literally trick yourself into completing goals, just by writing your goal statement the way a lawyer would: with no loopholes. Using words like “will” and “by” empower you to complete your goals. Psychologically, you might feel a need to follow-through on your goals when you say that you “will” accomplish them.

Once you’ve written all of your goals out you’ll want to see how your day-to-day activities either help or prohibit you from achieving them. You might reconsider spending your entire night after work watching TV if you have greater plans to accomplish something. Maybe you want to have a deeper connection with your family? You could have a family dinner then go for a walk every night. Maybe you want to learn a new hobby or skill? Maybe you want to be able to run 3 miles in under 24 minutes? You’ll never regret spending 1 hour a day working out (unless you’re mauled by a wild animal during your work out). The point is: Are the things that don’t really matter taking up more of your time than your goals?

Not every goal that you set has to be completed. Your life could change before the completion of a goal, and make the goal seem either pointless or redundant. Here’s a personal example: After we bought our house we were planning on renovating the crap out of it. It was brand new when we bought it, but there were a few touches that we wanted to add. It was our goal to change out the hardwood, add a stone patio and a fourth bedroom, along with some other things. Then, we decided to rent our house out. All renovations took a backseat, because it no longer made sense for them to be a priority.

Life changes constantly. The things you want today, you may not want tomorrow. That’s why I stress that goals should be written and re-written every 3 months. That’s a significant enough amount of time to say either “Yes, I still want to do this” or “No, let’s modify or remove this from our list of goals”. Here’s a financial example: If you were investing money heavily into an industry that was on the verge of becoming obsolete, you probably wouldn’t keep dumping your money into it, would you? No, because the priorities have shifted in the market, and so should yours.

The bottom line is that setting and actively pursuing goals will help you become a more productive and more well-rounded person, employee, husband/wife/parent, etc. A goal-oriented person will have a better chance at success in their industry, leading to higher compensation and a more comfortable office chair. At home, you’ll have better relationships with your family and friends. You’ll eat better and be in better shape if those are the things that you care about, or want to start caring about. And all it takes is about 30 minutes per month.

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22 Comments

  1. Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle
    May 28, 2013

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    I have failed at every New Year’s resolution I have ever made but they have always been wishes, hopes and dreams instead of goals but progress has been slow so I need to consider a different approach.

  2. Mr. 1500
    May 28, 2013

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    “For example, people spend more time complaining to people about being broke than actually doing something about it.”

    My rule is that I’ll listen to complaints, but only if you’re willing to throw out solutions too.

    “Life changes constantly. The things you want today, you may not want tomorrow. That’s why I stress that goals should be written and re-written every 3 months.”

    Good point. Being as flexible and open minded as possible will help you out. Try to think differently about things in all parts of life.

    I don’t like to be tied down or restricted. You never know when the next great investment will present itself. The crash of 2008 was a hard time for many who were unprepared. For others, it presented fantastic opportunity. Homes in Florida, Arizona and Las Vegas were selling at a fraction of what they cost a year or two earlier.

    Wow, I’ve really gone off on a tangent, so I’ll wrap up with one of my long term goals. I’d like to have 3 or 4 pieces of real estate by 2017. To accomplish this, I’ll keep at least $80,000 (more if interest rates start going up) in liquid investments so I’m ready to make a move at any time.

    • Johnny Moneyseed
      May 28, 2013

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      I’d say that’s a pretty necessary tangent in relation to the context of the post. Investment opportunities come and go, so you should be prepared for anything. On the other hand though, sometimes you’ll come across what seems like an amazing opportunity, but it’s only because it’s new and shiny. Even it’s it’s nice, new and shiny, if it doesn’t fit into your plan, it probably isn’t worth investing in.

  3. Matt Becker
    May 28, 2013

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    It’s a great point about writing out specific goals with hard numbers and time frames. I would add that a great way to start is, in addition to the big-picture goal, add one small and specific goal you can accomplish immediately that will get you one the right track. Want to be a millionaire in 10 year? Take the time today to set up a monthly automatic transfer to savings. Want to start a blog that reaches 50,000 people per month? Spend 5 minutes at a specific time every morning just writing. The big-picture goals are extremely important, but the small first steps are just as crucial.

  4. CashRebel
    May 28, 2013

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    I love updating my goals. Sometimes its when I complete them and sometimes its when they are rendered obsolete. Its really convenient having a blog so you can have a whole page dedicated to goals.

    • Johnny Moneyseed
      May 28, 2013

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      Great point Ross. Having a blog pretty much forces you to complete your goals or you just kind of look like a dick haha.

  5. My Financial Independence Journey
    May 28, 2013

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    I usually write out specific goals every year or after a major life change. My life is pretty static so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to rewrite them every 3 months or so.

  6. Kurt @ Money Counselor
    May 28, 2013

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    You make some good points about how to set a goal. Following the SMART principle works pretty well: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.

    • Johnny Moneyseed
      May 28, 2013

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      I forgot that there was a sweet acronym that describes how to set realistic goals. Thanks Kurt! If I had to pick the most important attribute out of those 5 it would be: attainable. People love setting unrealistic goals, that’s why I always use that millionaire example. Becoming a millionaire isn’t an option for most people (well, it is, but most people don’t have the discipline to invest and let their money grow).

  7. KC @ genxfinance
    May 28, 2013

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    There is so much than anyone can do, can achieve if they only believe and know that they can do it. Sometimes the only thing that’s holding them back is their own self.

    • Johnny Moneyseed
      May 28, 2013

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      People also hold themselves back by focusing on the insignificant. It can be really hard to see that you’re wasting your day/week/life while others are out achieving great things.

  8. E.M.
    May 28, 2013

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    I agree that having goals and re-evaluating them periodically is a good idea. Setting smaller goals to lead up to a bigger goal helps to keep the momentum going. It’s hard to go all-in on something for some people. Plus, as you said, things could change along the way, and being flexible in modifying your goals is important so that you don’t get discouraged. If you have one big goal with no plan in mind, you might find it difficult to focus on it.

    My biggest goal right now is paying off student loan debt, which isn’t going to change any time soon, but I can definitely tweak this by paying more toward it when I am able to.

    • Johnny Moneyseed
      May 28, 2013

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      Using your own idea, you could break your student loan debt into manageable chunks, so every time you hit one of your milestones you’d feel like you’ve achieved something big. You could set multiple goals to help make the process more fun: $1000 paid off, $3000 paid off, $TheRest paid off, etc.

  9. The Phroogal Jason
    May 29, 2013

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    Since 2005, I’ve written out goals (more like tasks) for the year that will help me get closer to the lifestyle and experiences I want. I have a clear mission statement for myself and that’s helped me define what’s important in my life. What adds to the richness of it. I tend to tell people that getting out of debt isn’t a “life goal.” Being financially independent is and that means tackling the task of paying down your debt, changing your spending habit and saving money.

  10. #Broke Millennial
    May 29, 2013

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    I find it really admirable that you and Mrs. Moneyseed sit down on a regular basis to reassess your goals. Setting timelines really helps me, even when I fail to meet them, especially for job searches. I like setting limits for how long I’ll spend in a job situation until I need to look for my next move in or outside the company.

    P.S. If I start working out an hour a day and get mauled by a wild animal, I’m blaming you. Then again, in NYC the only animal likely to maul me would be a squirrel…

    • Johnny Moneyseed
      May 29, 2013

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      It’ll probably be one of those crazy looking black squirrels. I’ve only seen those in Baltimore and New York City.

  11. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer
    May 30, 2013

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    Great post, JM. I’m with Mr. 1500 too: Don’t complain unless you’re willing to listen to/consider solutions. The other great thing about having good goals and attaining them is it makes a person more eager to set and achieve more goals.

  12. MakntheBacon
    June 5, 2013

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    Well written post! I find sometimes people only think goal setting is for your career and don’t think it can apply to other aspects in your life.

    I totally agree with everything you said in your last paragraph. I feel I am more productive and a more well-rounded person because I do set mini and major goals for myself. I felt I have achieved a lot and am less fearful of failure.

    Thanks for the reminder to review my goals! :)

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