When you were a kid, there were probably moments in life you couldn’t wait for. You know those times when you had butterflies in your stomach and couldn’t sleep at night because you were oozing with excitement and anticipation of that summer vacation, trip to Disney World, Christmas morning, or that big movie premiere.
When we become adults, those moments happen less often. Sure we look forward to a much-needed vacation or a music festival (and some of us still get excited about new Star Wars movies), but it’s not the same as that childhood exuberance. The thoughts don’t quite consume us.
Maybe it’s because we don’t dream as much as kids, using our imagination to visualize things in life. But it’s time we start doing it again. In my previous post, I discussed the importance of identifying your ideal life. It’s the first step in financial life guidance, and our way to get you dreaming again.
Once you start imagining your ideal life, it creates a spark in you! You start to dream about it more, and it consumes your thoughts. Now it’s time to build on that momentum by feeding the fire within you.
The next step in the goal-setting process is to create a physical goal, which will help make your dream a reality.
Start kindling the fire
Now that I’ve sparked your imagination of what life could look like for you, it’s time to take practical steps toward that ideal life by feeding the fire.
As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, I’ve started my fair share of campfires. When you start a fire, you want to make sure you’re adding the appropriate amount of fuel to it. When a fire is small and just starting out, you don’t want to add a big log to it because it’s not going to catch and you will extinguish the flames.
You want to add dry twigs and sticks, fuel that will catch flame and burn quicker. Sure, you’ll go through those more quickly, but your fire will grow! The same can be applied to reaching your ideal life. While your “ideal” or “vision” is still small, you want to set the right goals (small, attainable) to fuel yourself forward.
For me, exploring the outdoors is a huge part of my ideal life. I live in suburban New Jersey, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities to experience this ideal in my daily life. I can do something drastic like uproot my life and move to upstate New York to live in nature, but that would be too extreme. It would be like adding a big log that could totally quench the fire.
Instead, I can identify small goals to get me started on living my ideal life.
For example, I can go trail running once a week for a month at the local park. It doesn’t matter what day I do it, or what distance I run, as long I get started. It’s a small, manageable goal that adds fuel to the fire and nudges me toward my ideal life.
With consistency, those weekly runs can get me in shape for a trail running marathon or big hike. So when it's’ time to add a log to the fire—a bigger challenge or goal—I’ll be prepared to handle it.
A young couple I’m counseling now wants to buy their first house in three to five years, but they don’t have any money saved for a down payment. Their fire is very small. But they have an identifiable goal. So we’re setting small, practical goals that they can to hit en route to their larger goal.
Since they know the approximate cost of the type of house they want, we can figure out how much they need to save on a monthly basis for the next few years. They have to be willing to commit to curbing their spending to reach their monthly saving target. But in doing so, they’re adding twigs to the fire so in three to five years, when there is a hot bed of coals and strong flames, they’ll be ready to throw in that log and achieve their goal—home ownership.
Making sure your fire doesn’t burn out
So how do you figure out what the twigs are in your life? What are those small goals you need to set to move toward your ideal life?
One way to approach it is to describe your ideal life and think of how it’s different from your life now. Once you draw the difference, you can begin to identify the things you can do to move closer to your optimal life.
A financial life guide can help you through this process. (It’s less complicated when you have someone who’s interested in helping you get to your ideal.) We simply ask you questions that will spur the conversation to get you thinking about those practical steps you can take. Too often, people aren’t asking these questions themselves.
Questions should hit every area of your life: health, money, relationships, work, and recreation. All of these play a key role in understanding your ideal and how you’ll get to it. Once you take inventory of your current situation, you’re able to establish practical goals.
These goals should be unique to your life and your situation and help you endure for the long run.
Burnout is a big reason people fall short of their goals. There are two reasons people burnout: weariness and apathy.
The reason we encourage clients to start with small initial goals is to set them up for wins, but also to see if achieving the goals are actually enjoyable. What does it matter if you’re accomplishing things you don’t get enjoyment from? If you’re not enjoying the process and gaining confidence from the small wins, you won’t have the passion to endure. Sometimes the “idea of something” is better than the reality of it. Jumping head first into a new idea opens you up to going down a wrong path.
So test out those initial goals for a month or so and see how you feel about them. If they’re not fueling the fire or they’re not practical, it may be time to adjust.
Creating a physical goal puts you on the path to your ideal life. But before you take that path, you need to know what you’ll need for the journey. In other words, what will it cost you? We’ll explore the next step in the goal-setting process—counting the cost—in an upcoming blog post.
So now that you have a small fire going, how will you fan the flame? What physical goal can you create to add the early fuel to your ideal life?
Think of some small things you can accomplish each month that will help you build up to a bigger goal. Partner with a financial life guide to help you on this journey. A guide can ask you the right questions to get that fire going.
My team and I offer free virtual consultation for goal setting (and financial life planning). Sign up for one today.