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Nicole is back for another guest post! Today’s topic is goal setting and she knocks it out of the park! Nicole Tombers is a Physical Therapist and writer in Palmer, Alaska. She is an avid reader with a love of learning and a growing interest in educating others. Nicole enjoys eating good food, traveling, and exploring Alaska with her husband Brad and dog Tim. Remember to check out her blog at Door No. 2! I hope it gets you started on your next adventure! Enjoy! ~ Jamie

We all want to live a beautiful, fulfilling, purposeful life.  

None of us wants to come to the end of our days and look back wishing we had done things differently.  The only way to to avoid this feeling of regret and of a life wasted, it to live with intention; and that means setting goals.  

Often goals begin as dreams, but unless you want those dreams to remain glittering orbs just out of your reach, you’ll have to do some work.  

Step 1: Dream

What is it you want your life to look like in a month, a year, 10 years?  Goals can be used to address any area of your life, whether it be diet, fitness, financial, marriage, parenting, career, hobby, travel, family, emotional, or any number of other things.  

As you get better at it, you will likely be working on several different goals at one time. However, if you’re new to goal setting I recommend starting with just one or two things.

It can even be something that you are already working toward in one way or another – for example, if you are reading this finance blog you are likely thinking about paying off debt or saving money for something in particular.  Start there.

Goal Setting Lets You Build the Life You Want
When you set goals, you get to be the captain of your ship. Goals give you direction.

Just the act of setting an intention to it may suddenly change the energy that you place behind it.

Step 2: Write it down

As a Physical Therapist, goal writing is a part of my every day.  For each new patient I see, I have to determine what is limiting them, and then set goals to be accomplished over the course of their care.  

Each treatment session is completed with those goals in mind, and the only way to get insurance to pay is to demonstrate continued progress and to justify that the activities we do each visit are necessary in order to reach the goals that have been outlined.  

Tips for Creating a Strong Goal

The key components of the goals I write as a therapist are just as important when writing personal goals. Here are some of the questions I ask when I create goals.

In the physical therapy world it looks like this:

WEAK GOAL: The patient will improve range of motion.

STRONG GOAL: The patient will increase right shoulder range of motion to at least 150* of flexion in order to be able to wash her hair, in 4 weeks.

For a personal goal, it may look like this:

WEAK GOAL: I will save money.

STRONG GOAL: I will save $8,000 in order to buy a new car in 6 months.

For personal goals (and physical therapy goals too), the “why” is of utmost importance.  There has to be a reason, and it has to be a good one in order to keep you engaged.

If you have a general idea that you’d like to save money but haven’t identified why that is important to you (so that I can replace my car, so that I can buy a house, so that I can retire with dignity, so that I can go on vacation, etc), it’s going to be very difficult to make the small decisions to forgo buying something you want in the moment in order to achieve the ultimate goal of having saved money.  

Step 3: Visualization

When preparing for a big event, the best athletes, performers, speakers, and leaders engage in visualization.  Taking a quiet moment to mentally run through everything you are about to do and visualize the result you want is just as important as the hours of practice you put in or the small steps you take.  

People like Michael Phelps and Lebron James will tell you that visualization and mental practice is a key component of their success.

In their book 10 Minute Mindfulness: 71 Simple Habits for Living in the Present Moment, Scott & Barrie Davenport recommend beginning this visualization practice by sitting comfortably and taking a few deep breaths to clear your mind.  

“As you visualize, picture yourself reaching the goal first. Visualize it as if it were a movie and you are the lead character. Picture exactly what you are doing, how you look, who is around you, where you are, and how you feel.  Get as specific and detailed as possible.”

They then recommend backing up and rehearsing all of the action steps you need to take in order to reach that place; walk through the whole process in your mind, ending again at the ultimate outcome.  

Not only does this get your mind in the right place in order to tackle the steps needed to reach the goal, but it forces you to believe that you can, in fact, do it.

Step 4: Baby Steps

Some goals are more short term (to be accomplished today, this week, or this month), and some are more long term (to be accomplished over years or decades).  I recommend working with one or two of each at a time, so that you can get a sense of accomplishment in the short term while continuing to work toward something bigger.  

Goal Setting Lets You Build the Life You Want
If there are no footprints to follow, start anyway and create your own path.

The long term goals in particular will always have a series of steps or actions that will lead up to the ultimate achievement. Sometimes the steps along the way to a far-off goal, are short term goals in themselves.  

For example, if your long term goal is to pay off all of your debt, a short term goal may be to pay off that car loan. Either way, it is important to identify the steps that you will need to take in order to achieve your ultimate goal.  

All the steps together may look impossible, but usually the individual steps themselves are easily manageable – it’s sending off an email, doing a little research, practicing a skill for 30 minutes today, setting a budget, saying “no” to that piece of chocolate cake.  

It’s a game of persistence rather than sheer strength. It’s a question of “what small thing can I do today that will take me a little bit closer to my ultimate goal?”

Step 5: Celebrate Success

Meeting any goal, large or small, is a reason to celebrate.  Often the completion of the goal itself will give you a sort of emotional high and a well earned feeling of accomplishment, but you may also want to reward yourself in some external way.  

This is important because it will a.) give you a moment to pause, take a breath, and recognize what you have accomplished, and b.) give you the motivation and incentive to move on to the next goal.  

My default reward is often food related, but that doesn’t always serve me well and may end up making me feel worse afterwards. So I have begun to look for other rewards that really leave me feeling refreshed and proud.  Here is a great list of rewards in various categories, including many options that won’t break the budget.

Two Final Thoughts:

1. Don’t be afraid to dream BIG.  

All too often we have an idea about something that would be really amazing, but we don’t even consider it because it seems impossible.  

I encourage you to CONSIDER IT. I have heard so many people say things like: “Gosh wouldn’t it be nice to retire at 45?” or “wouldn’t it be nice to visit Europe?” or “wouldn’t it be great if we could live in a house like that?”.  Unfortunately it’s usually followed by some version of: “haha yeah. Right. Must be nice.”

Whatever that thing is for you, I encourage you to pause and really think about what it would take to get there, because everyone who is already doing that thing had to take some steps to get there.  Sure it may take some work and some planning, but if that’s what you want then don’t be so quick to count yourself out. You are worth it.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail.  

Unless you’re some sort of superhero, you’re not going to achieve every goal you set for yourself.  And that’s OKAY. Sometimes our priorities or beliefs change over time and the goal we once set no longer applies to the life we’re living. Other times we realize the goal was loftier than we originally thought and we have to adjust our expectations. And of course, sometimes life happens and our work gets paused for awhile.  

YOU are in charge. If a goal needs changing, change it. Go another route. Come back to it later. Even pitch it altogether. Your worth is not locked up in achieving a specific goal, it is simply a tool to help you live your best life.  And “failures” are just learning opportunities to guide us along the way.

Let Me Know in the Comments

What goals are you currently working toward? What do you do to celebrate your successes?

Our budget and goals changed our lives. I hope it can change yours too. Tap the giant picture of my face to get your budget spreadsheet and debt log today.

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Goal Setting Let's You Build the Life You Want

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