Reaching Your Goals – Guaranteed, Easy and (Almost) Free

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

reaching your goalsIf you want a better credit score, better investments or even just a better understanding of how money works, there is one thing you can do. If you are ready to start reaching your goals, write a letter to yourself.

I stumbled on this idea last night while I was listening to a (very nasal) high school kid speak at a graduation event. Although I wasn’t particularly inspired by this youngster’s voice, I was inspired by many of the things he had done.

His secret?

He was instructed by his camp counselor to write a letter to himself describing what he wanted to achieve over the next year and how he was going to do it. He gave the letter to his counselor who promised to mail it to the boy one year later.

Sure enough, when our poorly placed orator opened the letter a short 12 months later, he discovered that he had indeed achieved much of what he had dreamed of getting done.

Do I believe that you can manifest anything in your life just by thinking about it? I certainly do not. In fact, I think that such a mindset is dangerous…but that is the subject for another post.

But dreams and goals are important. So is achievement – especially in difficult times. That’s why this letter is so important.

1. Define your top three goals for the year.

Obviously, these goals should be realistic and achievable but they should be a bit of a stretch too. Your goals could including trying to get out of debt, saving more, learning about investing…whatever. If you have more than three, list all of them and assign a number between 1 and 5. If your goal is super important, give it a 5. If your goal ranks about even with watching another episode of SpongeBob…give it a 1. List those goals with the highest values attached.

2. Why is each goal important to you?

Your letter must include this information because that’s where you’ll find your motivation. When you are very clear on the why, the how will present itself. You’re going to encounter obstacles along the way. You’ll need extra gas in your tank, and being clear on why a goal is important to you will give you just the juice you need.

3. Detail your road map.

How are you going to get it done? What are the specifics? Add as much detail as possible. What resources do you need and how are you going to get them? Who must you add to your team in order to reach your goal? How are you going to find your team members?

4. What is the next best step?

I read somewhere that every great journey begins with putting one foot in front of the other. What is the most important next step you need to take? When are you going to take it?

Let’s go through a simple (but important) example of one of my goals:

1. One financial goal I have is to save 15% of my gross income before I spend a nickel.

2. This is important to me because it enhances my family’s financial security. It sets a good example for my children and my clients.

3. The road map I will use is: a. continue to track my expenses using You Need A Budget; b. share the findings with my family every month; and c. most important, set up an automatic withdrawal from my account every month to make the savings/investment plan automatic.

4. The next best step is for me to call the custodian for my brokerage account and have them set up the automatic investment plan. I will do this today….probably before you read this post!

That’s it. Your letter will probably take you less than 15 minutes to write, and for the price of a postage stamp, you’ll have a well-thought out plan for the next year that you have committed to. Either mail it to yourself now or ask someone you know and trust to mail it to you in one year.

Just knowing that you have tangible goals and a timeframe will add a new dimension to your level of success. You may not achieve everything you want to achieve but I guarantee you’ll go much further if you follow this exercise.

Have you ever tried something like this? Are you skeptical? Even so, are you willing to give it a try and prove me wrong?

 

photo by PedalFreak, Flikr

 

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Neal September 16, 2009 at 11:37 AM

Susan D,

Sounds like you and your husband are really focused. Good for you. Here’s to your success and hard work!

I think having both on the same page is a huge issue. Probably the most important issue.

Reply

Susan D. September 16, 2009 at 7:35 AM

My husband and I live by this theory. When we were married, we had $500 to our name..that’s it!! We set goals, we inherited our first little house, it was a real dump, we had three kids. We rehabed the house and sold it for $30,000 over our rehab costs. We bought house #2, another dump, fixed it up, sold it for $35,000 over sticker price. We always considered the time working on the houses as our “part-time jobs” We are now building the house of our dreams and sending 2 kids to college. Our next goal….early retirement.

Reply

Neal June 29, 2009 at 6:36 AM

Cool. I’d love to hear about your success scsigirl!

Reply

scsigirl June 29, 2009 at 4:41 AM

Thank you for sharing this great idea. I printed my letter and slid it under the plexiglass of my desk blotter as a daily reminder so I can stay focused on my goals.

Reply

Susan June 1, 2009 at 9:38 AM

This is exactly what I needed to read today on Payday, June 1. It was a great kick in the pants, I’m saving this to my Favorites, worth re-reading. Thanks so much.

Reply

ObliviousInvestor May 26, 2009 at 6:24 AM

It’s amazing what the act of physically writing down a goal can do for you. It has an undeniable mental impact.

Reply

Neal Frankle May 26, 2009 at 6:41 AM

Agreed. It’s so simple so many of us fail to do it. Have you mailed your letter to yourself Mike?

Reply

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