Lessons from setting goals

“What you focus on expands. So focus on what you want, not on what you do not want.” – Esther Jno-Charles

When it comes to finances, one of the key components in reaching our goals is focus. When you’re focused on achieving something, you have a clear motivator for achieving your goal and you have a plan to take you there, your chances of success increase dramatically. The challenge many of us face is that because only a very small percentage of human beings are “natural savers” most of us prefer to spend our hard-earned money as soon as it hits our pocket (or sooner, if we have access to credit) rather than tuck it away somewhere it can go to work to help us achieve our goals at a later date. Two years ago, I set some very clear intentions of what I wanted my life to look like when I turn 40 in December 2014 and, because of those intentions, I found myself setting goals that were quite big. I’d been setting goals for a while before I set those particular goals but this was the first time I’d set a goal that would take me more than a few months of hard work to achieve. This week, as I moved into the last year of that three year plan, I started reflecting on what I’ve learned so far; here are my top three lessons from setting goals:

1. You Need Less Than You Think You Do

Less really is more. In fact, one thing that’s become especially clear to me over the past six months, is that less is actually the key to more. As I’ve minimized and simplified my life, I’ve found that my desire to acquire more “stuff” has diminished and my purchasing habits have changed. I’m enjoying having space in my closet and when I find myself with some time to spare, I’m far less likely to spend it wandering around my favourite retail stores admiring all the merchandise. (It’s truly amazing how much less you buy when you’re not constantly looking at beautifully arranged store displays!) I still have a little further to go with my simplifying mission (which has included simplifying friendships, relationships and work commitments too) but it struck me this week just how far I’d come when I had to pack up my car for a move west to Alberta and everything that I wanted to take with me, fit into my (not very big) car on the first try!

2. When You Focus, Doors Open

When I look back at my life at the beginning of 2011 it is terrifying and exciting to realize how very different my world is at the beginning of 2014. So many opportunities have opened up, so many people have turned up at just the right moment and so many of the challenges I’ve faced have given me the skills (and the strength) to move forward into this new year with confidence. I truly believe that people find what they look for in life and that it’s much more rewarding to look for the opportunities than it is to look for the obstacles. There will always be something standing between you and your goal but it’s more likely to be a stepping stone than an obstacle. You just have to treat it as such and trust that even the darkest challenges will bring great rewards if you choose to tackle them. This is just as true for finances as it is for any other area of life such as friendships, relationships and career opportunities. I see it time and again with clients, friends and in my own life.

3. You Are Capable of More Than You Realize

We are often our own worst critic; tending to focus on the flaws that only we know about and convincing ourselves that no-one else ever suffers from them. It's a curious thing that when we look at others we see success and yet it can be so hard to recognize in ourselves. Accepting positive feedback from others and taking a step back in order to look at ourselves through the positive eyes of someone else is hard to do. The little voice in the back of our heads seems to be more comfortable our more negative viewpoint, but if we could just learn to trust and accept others' judgements of our abilities we might be very surprised to discover what we’re really capable of. Self-belief is important in achieving our goals but taking action is even more critical to success. When we choose to embrace challenges and choose to chase our fears instead of run from them, we are taking the first steps towards success. When we are willing to test our limits to see how far we’re actually willing to go in order to achieve our goals then the results can be truly amazing.

This week sees me leaving the city I’ve called home for the past 14 years and taking a 3400km road trip west to a brand new job in a city where I know only one person: my new boss! It’s a huge leap of faith but my new role is so exactly in line with what I've been envisioning for myself that I know that if I truly want to achieve the goals I’ve set then I have to take a deep breath and jump in with both feet.

Why not take some time this week to think about your own financial goals; is there something that you could do this year that would take you closer to making them a reality? As always, I’d love to hear your comments and stories.

Written by Sarah Milton

Sarah Milton is currently stretching her professional wings in Edmonton, Alberta in a role that allows her to combine her talent for writing and speaking with her training in the financial services industry. She is passionate about inspiring people to get excited about their money and empowering them to take control of their financial future. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @5arahMilton

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