The smart investor knows how to invest in her own future. And she knows that investing begins with a plan, a series of goals. Many of us have tried setting goals, and have become frustrated because they never seem to get done, or they don’t seem to lead to anything. But the truth is that without realistic, achievable goals, no plan will ever be accomplished.
So how do successful people set goals that are realistic and can actually be accomplished? Here are a few tips that are tried and true.
Goals should be written.
We all think and talk about where we’d like to be and what we’d like to do differently. In some sense, that’s easy to do. It’s a lot harder to sit down, in a quiet place, by ourselves, and commit to paper exactly what we want from our lives. But the truth is, we cannot achieve a goal if we cannot even articulate it. And written language requires the clearest articulation of our goals. So write your goals down, and as you do so, think about what it is you really want.
Goals should be dated.
So you say that five years from now, you’d like to have your house paid off, but you’ve been saying that for 15 years. It’s a kind of safety net, never committing goals to paper, never setting a definite date for completion, but it’s also an excuse for never accomplishing them. Date your goals, and hold yourself accountable to the dates you set.
Goals should be clear.
What does it mean to be financially independent? If you don’t know, chances are you never will be. Take the time to clearly define what you mean by each of your goals, without loose talk or ambiguities.
Goals should be measurable.
It’s all well and good to say that you want to be a real estate investor, but what does that mean to you? For some people that means owning and renting one property other than their primary residence. For others, that means buying, rehabbing, and turning over 10 deals per year. The same with being wealthy. One man’s luxury is another’s poverty. What is your yearly income goal? What is your baseline necessity? What constitutes “wealthy”? Without such clear parameters, how will you ever know if you’ve accomplished your goals? It could be that you already are where you always wanted to be.
Goals should be focused towards a mission.
A mission is a goal with a purpose. As nice as it sounds, for most of us, the simple fact of having a million dollars is insufficient. That’s just a goal. But what’s the purpose?
What do we intend to do with that money? Why do we need a million as opposed to a generous yearly income? How would our lives and the lives of our family and friends be transformed by such wealth?
Thinking about a mission as opposed to just a goal will give you purpose and direction. It will invest your goal with meaning, and make it that much more real to you. It will also make it more imperative that you actually accomplish the goal instead of just dreaming about it.
Goals should be an extension of personal values.
Have you ever seen a hamster running in a wheel? Have you ever wondered why he bothers? Quite simply, a rodent is not smart enough to figure out that the wheel he’s on goes nowhere, and that all of his effort just brings him right back to where he started. The same thing can happen to people when we try to set and accomplish goals with which we simply disagree. A nature enthusiast probably isn’t going to feel really comfortable developing a wooded property into a shopping center. Someone who takes care of several aging parents may not want to transform an assisted living facility into luxury condos. So don’t. You may find out that you just don’t have the heart to stomp all of your competition into the dust and step on everyone you meet in order to get ahead. Good for you! So revise your goals so that you can stay true to your personal values while you accomplish your dreams, and make your better world a better world for all of us.