“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
This statement, attributed to The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, sums up the importance of having intention, and taking action, in order to reach our dreams. It doesn’t matter what the dream is, how big or how small, Saint- Exupéry knows we won’t reach it by wandering around aimlessly hoping.
Setting a goal, charting a path to get there, and then sticking to the path, is the only surefire way to arrive. You may want to make those dreams come true sooner (a car, a course, a trip) or later (a degree, a new business, a home by the water). Either way, there’s usually an investment involved that will take some special planning. What are you dreaming about? How do you begin to chart your path?
Step 1: Write down your dream
About 5 years ago Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor of psychology at California’s Dominican University, led a study of 267 people – of all ages, from a wide range of backgrounds, representing six different countries – and found that people are 42% more likely to achieve their goals simply by writing them down. One explanation is that goal setting – an imaginative right brain activity, transfers over, through the act of writing, to the literal, left brain, so that you access the power of your whole brain to achieve results. Plus the act of writing down a goal often clarifies it for the goal-setter, and readies them to plan how to get there.
Step 2: Make it SMART
If we’re going to chart a path to achieve a dream, productivity experts agree that we need to make it SMART. The acronym stands for
- Specific – declaring “I’d love to learn to paint” is more specific than a vague “I wish I was more creative.”
- Measurable – how will you know when you’ve achieved success? “I want to submit one of my paintings to an art show” gives you a much clearer picture of what ‘learning to paint’ might look like to you.
- Attainable – be realistic: what is doable within financial, time, or geographical constraints? In this example you’ll want to choose an art show that you can attend, and that accepts works by new painters.
- Relevant – double check that this is your goal, and not someone else’s. Do you feel it’s worthwhile? Are you excited to get started?
- Time-Bound – it’s not a plan if you don’t have a timeframe. So give yourself a deadline. Then break down the steps it will take to get to your goal, and build a deadline to each of those tasks. Then you’ll know if your timing is realistic, or if it might need to be adjusted.
Now your dream is articulated clearly, and you have a goal you can plan for: “I want to feed my creative side, so I will commit to learning to paint, and work towards submitting one painting to our local Art Barn New Artist’s Show in March 2017.”
Step 3: Budget
Budgeting is much more fun when there’s a prize waiting for you at the end. We all know how easy it is to spend what we have, and how hard it is to save ‘just because’. When you have a concrete goal, a specific financial need, and a target timeline, a budget becomes a tool to achieve your dream, rather than a dreary exercise.
- The cost of what you want: Here’s where you get to shop around for art classes and paint supplies, to figure out the investment it will take to make your dream come true. This research is part of the journey, and an important step in sticking with your commitment, and keeping it reasonable. You may have to negotiate with yourself – buying basic art supplies before upgrading to specialty paints and canvasses, or a choosing a local class over an out-of-town retreat. That’s your decision – it’s your dream.
- The cost of what you need: List your monthly expenses – those ones that are already committed, and compare that to your monthly income to see what’s left over, or where you can re-allocate to invest in your dream. Small savings add up, and interest-earning investment products like term deposits and TFSAscan help savings add up faster.
- Start to bridge the gap: Start saving money before you have the chance to spend it. Set up pre-authorized withdrawals to start setting money aside regularly and consistently so you can afford each step toward your goal. Some financial institutions offer Mobile Alerts (we do!) so you always know what’s in your account, when deposits mature, or that your scheduled payments have gone through. These alerts can help you keep savings on track.
Step 4: Share your plan, stay accountable
Do you know what else Dr. Gail Matthews discovered from her goal-achievement research? That sharing a goal with someone supportive, and checking in with them on a weekly basis increased the success rate by a further 33%.
Optional Step 5: Help others meet their goals too
Whenever you do business with us, you enable a loan to a business down the street, bursaries for children at a school near you, a sponsorship, community centre classes, and many more local causes, events and programs. So while you save for your goals, you allow us to help our community meet its goals. That’s the power of local money.
If there’s a financial goal that you want to meet, or if you want help investing for an important life goal, we’d love to help you chart your path and stay on track! Get in touch to start the conversation.