To say exercise isn’t one of my hobbies would be an understatement. I spent a few months last year riding my bicycle pretty regularly, but apart from that I’m pretty sedentary. Last week I decided that it was time to start exercising again – soon enough my metabolism will slow down and I’ll start gaining weight.
Instead of exercising for the sake of it, I’ve decided to run an obstacle race in April 2014. Obstacle races are usually 5 or 10km and involve racing a course with mud pits, rope climbs and other hinderances. When setting this goal, I had to develop a plan to achieve the target. In doing so, I realised that many of the factors which contribute to good goal setting translate to your financial goals as well. Below are some tips to help you with financial goal setting.
Set a realistic goal
There are a number of obstacle races in my city in November and December this year. I could have chosen to compete in every one of these events, however I haven’t done any regular exercise in quite a long time. If I had chosen one of these races, I would have doubted my ability to achieve my mission. By choosing a realistic goal, I know that it is something I can actually complete – helping my motivation greatly.
Setting realistic goals with your finances is equally important. It would be great to save 90% of my income, but is it really possible? By choosing a more realistic goal (I save a minimum of 50%) I can actually reach my target. It’s much easier to make sacrifices if you know they are making a real difference to your goal, as opposed to fighting a losing battle.
Set a timeframe for your goal
My obstacle race goal has a set timeframe – April 2014. I know that I need to be fit enough to run the course by this date or I will have failed. If my goal was merely to run any obstacle race, I could put it off indefinitely and never actually realise I had failed. By having a timeframe, there is a limited time to make progress – increasing urgency.
The same concept applies with your finances. Paying off your mortgage might be your goal, but when would you like to have it completed by? How will you know if you are behind on your goal without a set deadline? This ties in with setting a realistic goal – choose a timeframe which is achievable to keep your motivation up.
Break it down into smaller goals
You can’t just roll out of bed on race day and expect to go well. You’ve got to have enough stamina to keep running, but you’ve also got to have the strength and agility to overcome each obstacle on the course. For this reason I’ve broken my goal into smaller parts. Before I can run 10km I need to be able to run 5km. Once again, set a timeframe for this smaller goal – I figure that half way through my training I need to be able to run at least half the distance. Once my stamina has increased, focusing on strength and agility will come next.
Rather than simply deciding that you will pay off all of your credit cards in the next 12 months, set smaller goals along the way. Perhaps you can pay off your smallest balance card in the next month, before focusing on the next card and so on. Achieving small wins along the way will do wonders for your motivation.
Take a break
In order for muscles to grow, they need to rest. If you exercise a muscle too much you will damage the muscle fibres and end up with an injury. For this reason I have scheduled rest days into my fitness plan. By not pushing myself every day, it will allow for my muscles to repair and grow as well as avoiding mentally burning-out.
Financial goal setting is similar. If you never take a break and reward yourself you can quickly become disheartened with your goal. If you’ve met your monthly savings target, reward yourself with a nice lunch or a movie. These small rewards won’t render your progress useless, but they will give you a chance to mentally recharge and stay motivated.