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In today’s fast-paced world, we want it all and we want it right now. Whether it is experiences or possessions we seek, we are in a hurry to satiate our desires. Each new experience provides momentary relief, until we begin craving the next big thing. So we quickly set new goals after achieving others.
This is not necessarily a good or bad thing on its own merit. Goals are great, and we all should aim for progress. After all, if you aim for nothing, you just may hit it. However, in an effort to better ourselves through a perpetual growth-mindset, we have uprooted contentment from our lives in alarming fashion.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I find myself in an unhappy mood or place in life, it is because I am not progressing. Tony Robins suggests that happiness is rooted in progress, and I am beginning to think that he is correct.
However, it would be an oversimplification to state “progress = happiness.” I’m no mathematician, but it seems a better equation might be “progress + contentment = happiness.” Yet the balance between progress and contentment can be very difficult to navigate.
Most of us don’t try to manage this balance, instead opting to chase the next achievement on the horizon. In chasing “the next,” we are aiming for target. But is the target always meaningful, worthy, or worthwhile?
Chasing the Wrong Goals
Last week, I started a third round of co-facilitating of Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey’s popular personal finance course. In the opening lesson, Ramsey makes light of a road trip he was on with his wife. Ramsey was speeding along on the freeway at 75 mph, as the story goes, when his wife pointed out that they had been traveling in the wrong direction the entire time. “Yes, but we’re making great time,” Ramsey retorted.
Our goals are often just as misguided as Ramsey’s road trip toward the wrong destination. We become consumed by the efficient pursuit of our goals we give too little thought to the final destination. After all, the end destination is far more important than the journey itself, in most cases.
The Right Balance
So where does our propensity for chasing targets speedily and chasing the wrong goals intersect? Often, there is a cause-and-effect relationship.
We would rather be chasing something rather than taking the time to figure out what is most worth chasing. In this sense, perhaps our goals are sometimes misguided.
How to Set Better Financial Goals
Ultimately, the path toward setting better goals is rooted in understanding what we wish to achieve. This sounds so simple, yet we are all guilty of aiming at the wrong target from time to time. Sometimes the mistake is discovered early enough, and other times far too late. This can be especially true with financial goals.
I recommend asking yourself the following questions and exploring the answers in an in-depth manner in order to set better goals.
1. What are your current financial goals? List both long and short-term goals.
2. What are your primary values?
3. Do your current financial goals align with your values?
4. Do your short-term financial goals align with your long-term financial goals? Lack of alignment may be indicative of problems.
5. How do you measure progress with regard to financial goals? Do you cut corners to achieve progress?
6. What new goals are indicated by my list of values? Which existing goals should they replace, if any?
Admittedly, some of these questions are easier to answer than others. My wife and I are working through the answers to these questions right now, as we anticipate that some of our goals may be changing a bit in the next few years.
By asking ourselves these tough questions and engaging in an honest dialogue, we are increasing our odds of pursuing the right goals, i.e. the goals which are right for us. As time presses onward, these questions and the ever-changing answers will provide us with a framework to wisely manage the components of our financial picture.
How do you establish your financial goals? Have you ever experienced frustration in goal-setting?