Having Goals

When you have multiple goals, they often compete with one another. The desire to be financially independent will clash with ditching your job and going to film school. A plan to be out of debt and have savings is sabotaged by a steady stream of “small” purchases that are outside the budget. While remodeling a kitchen is an exciting goal, spending all the money that could go to it on kitchen gadgets limits the goal’s promise of fruition.

So, here’s what I think you should do. Look at the options. I know you love options. Think about them. Examine the reprecussions. What does this one look like five years down the road? How far down the road do you have to be to achieve your goals?

Today most people in the US live fairly healthy lives into their early 70s. Good genetics and a positive lifestyle can give you many more years. According to Reuter’s gambling can help as well.

So, if you are 40 look at your life. You don’t love your job but you make too much money to just quit. Your current lifestyle depends on that job. Do you love your current lifestyle more than you hate the job? Don’t say no unless you can easily make cuts in your lifestyle now to ease the transition.

If you can say no, then start looking at ways to trim the fat. Obviously commitments cannot be undone. However, you could drop the Netflix or the satellite, or both. If you half your salary you won’t be able to afford either. If you’ve been going out to eat a lot, stop. This isn’t an imposition placed on you by your financial position, but a choice you make to reach a place you would prefer to be. If you can’t make the changes when it’s an option, how are you going to deal with the reality of not being able to afford those things?

Perhaps you own a home. It is often a valued treasure, but it doesn’t have to be. Renting allows you to move around without having to wait for the market to catch up to your desires. If your house is large, you might be able to opt for a smaller one, but examine your family’s needs.

If your children are off at college and don’t appear likely to boomerang, a smaller and less expensive home might be a good purchase. If you’ve recently refinanced, however, this is going to cost you a bit. Also, the market has to be hot to move a home quickly. If you aren’t in a hurry, of course, you can put your house on the market and wait. But will you enjoy having your house ready for visitors at any moment, cleared of personal items which make it yours in an attempt to show it “designed to sell”? Also, the longer a house has been on the market, the lower the offering price is going to be from most savvy buyers.

If you are not willing to give up your lifestyle, before you have to, then you aren’t going to like having to give it up later. Often this leads to debt, trying to live at the level you prefer rather than the level you can afford.

What if you’re bored? First, realize that everyone is bored sometimes. No one loves every second of their lives and you are not going to be the exception, even if you change your life around to be something totally different.

If you are bored, what simple steps can you take now to undo that boredom and put some challenge back in your life? One thing would be to take a class in something you are not skilled at but would like to be. Maybe take several. Look for weekend classes or seminars in something you enjoy as a hobby or would enjoy as a hobby. Take those.

Change up your life in some other way. Take up weight lifting if you don’t do it now. Or begin to ride your bike. Commit to some early morning walks with your wife, even though you’d rather sleep till you have to get up. Move the furniture in your house around, maybe even shift a whole room. And don’t just go for something “reasonable.” What would happen if you switched your bedroom and the living room? Or your living and dining rooms?

Talk to your spouse about their view of yall’s life. You may find that they are making assumptions about what you want and you may be thinking they want one thing when something else is a priority. There are many things I would like to buy, but I have two problems. One is that I don’t like debt. The second is that my husband’s priorities are different from mine. I rarely purchase something unless there is extra money, while my husband purchases things and we “find” the money. Try acting from your spouse’s worldview for a while. It will be a struggle and not any fun, for either of you, but it will definitely be a change.

Another aspect you should examine is where are you in life. If your children are gone, you have a lot more flexibility to do things because you have fewer financial responsibilities. If your children are small, then adjustments will be easier for them now, even if they aren’t easier for you and your spouse. They’ll just assume that how life plays out is the way it supposed to be. If, however, your children are in their early teens, you have only a short time until college. While it is true that a child can pay for college and there is financial aid for people with less money, this is harder than having the money for college yourself. Maybe you need to plan on making the major changes ten years down the road. Look for smaller ones you can make now.

Realize that competing goals will crunch into each other. Prioritize what you want and stick with those priorities. Let’s say you want to attend film school, remodel your kitchen, and spend money on gadgets as you desire them. Those are three goals competing for your money. You are not going to be in a position to attend film school if you do the second and third. You won’t be able to remodel your kitchen if you attend film school or spend all your money on gadgets.

You will have to clearly differentiate between a goal and a dream. I dream of looking drop dead gorgeous. I have a goal of losing 15 more pounds of fat and gaining 5 pounds of muscle. I am not planning on plastic surgery, which is what it would take to make the first a goal. However, I am eating right, exercising, and lifting weights; that makes the second a goal and not a dream.

If you aren’t willing to PERSONALLY invest in getting it done, it is a dream not a goal. Dreams are fun. You can spend days, weeks, months, even years perfecting a dream. But it is never going to happen because you aren’t doing what it takes to get it. Dreams can, however, get you out of the monotony of your every day life and make the future seem more exciting.

If you are willing to change what you are doing, and not expecting others to make what you want possible, then it is a goal.

If you have a spouse, you have to have the spouse on board to accomplish a goal. After all, if you want film school more than a kitchen remodel and your spouse doesn’t care about film school or a kitchen remodel but is planning on driving a hot red Jaguar or a silver Mazda RX-8, you’re going to have troubles. You may come home with the applications to USC filled out and find a new car in the garage and four years’ worth of payments that you’ll now have to juggle on a student’s salary.

Sit down and talk to your spouse. And listen to what they have to say. Don’t make a list of the five things you want and have them make a list of the five things they want and then say, “Okay. Let’s do my number one first.” They may help you with your number one because they love you or they’re a doormat or simply because they would rather not fight, but that’s not someone who’s totally in your corner. When you are making big changes, you want someone who made the choice with you, not someone who will say, “Well, this is what you said you wanted. Live with it.”

Another thing to do is to examine your last few big goals and/or purchases. Whose did you get? Where has your money and time gone? If you’ve been giving in a lot, if your spouse has been getting the priority, maybe you can talk to them about this and make your dream into a family goal. If, on the other hand, your dreams have been becoming realities without too much work on your part, maybe their dreams and goals have been shunted aside. While it might take effort on your part to elicit what they want, realize they do want it and help them get it. Maybe part of your problem is that you are focusing on yourself and not on your partner. Too much narcissicism will kill anyone’s joy in life eventually. Look at Hollywood for obvious examples.

I have one more comment on goals. Forget realistic. Sometimes the best goals are not realistic. They’re fantastical. And that makes the challenge of achieving them a high that few people experience.