I love setting goals! Just wanted to get that off my chest, thanks.
But seriously, I set a lot of goals. For myself, for my family, for my department at work, and for my individual employees (with their help and buy-in, of course). Having goals can help us to increase our performance and get the most out of ourselves. They can keep us focused, especially when the process of reaching a goal will take some time.
Goals, according to management experts, need to be SMART:
- [T]ime Bound
This goal-setting criteria has been very beneficial for me, both in helping myself and my employees have proper priorities and set clear expectations for our work. (If you’d like to read more about SMART Goal-Setting, there’s a Wikipedia page about it.)
I especially enjoy the [M]easurable piece, since I love data tracking, metrics, analytics, etc. I enjoy seeing the graph move when I pay down the mortgage a little bit. I enjoy seeing the budget numbers creep up (but hopefully not too much!) as the month rolls on. I enjoy sitting down with my wife and talking through our financial progress.
I don’t think anyone would dispute that goals are beneficial in many ways, but lately I’ve been seeing how they can sometimes be restrictive. If you create goals for yourself (or worse, for someone else) that don’t allow for changing circumstances, you risk creating a lot of unnecessary disappointment (or worse, frustration). I’m the type of person who loves to take on a challenge. I like to “fix things”, to reach the finish line, to focus on a problem until it doesn’t exist anymore. So what happens when change threatens to impact the goals that I’ve set? I don’t respond particularly well to it.
Change Is The Only Constant
Think of all the changes in our global environment that have taken place over the last 5 years. Here in the USA there has been major political change and crushing (then rebounding) economic change. In the middle east there has been extreme government change. Change is happening all around us.
Think of those in your social circles, and the changes you’ve seen over the last 5 years. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, careers, religious views, lifestyle choices. People are changing all the time, and the people around us heavily influence our ability to accomplish goals. Our views on money are often a direct result of how those in our close circles of friends handle themselves and their finances.
Think of all the ways that you’ve changed over the last 5 years. Things you’ve learned or discovered, things that have happened to you that have changed your perspective on life. We are always learning something new, and our views on who we are and who we wish to be can change quickly (and often)!
Changes In My Life
I was reflecting on the changes that have taken place in my life over the last 5 years, and it’s an amazing list for me to step back and look at. I bought a large house, had my first child (a daughter), and accepted a major promotion at work. My wife stopped working, we sold the large house and bought a smaller one, I became a Deacon at my local church, and we had a second child (a son). Obamacare was passed (so as an IT Manager for an insurance company I took on some major projects because of it), and this year I started blogging. That’s quite a bit of change for one person!
But those changes are all “external” in nature. Sure, they affect me and my family in a lot of different ways, but none of them affect my beliefs or my priorities. None of them change who I am.
However, a couple of changes did take place in my life over the last 5 years that drastically changed the way I look at things. The first was that I read the book “Your Money Or Your Life”. I’ve talked about the book elsewhere on this blog, and have a link to it on the “Books You Should Read” page, but that book single-handedly began a process that turned my views on money upside down.
The other major change was a result of becoming a father. Now, that’s not the same as “having a child”, in the way I view things. Becoming a father gave me perspective on life and priorities that I’d never considered before. I won’t go into the details of that right now, but suffice it to say that what I value in this world is markedly different than it was 4 1/2 years ago.
Giving Our Goals Some Breathing Room
About 5 years ago I created some specific financial goals. They were very reasonable, they were measurable, they were even relevant. Unfortunately for us they were time-bound as well. After about a year of pursuing those goals we weren’t doing so bad. After another year, things were tight. So many changes had taken place in our lives that our goals were no longer enjoyable. They created tension in our home over some of the most insignificant decisions. My wife and I had a meeting (in an Arby’s, no less! Very official!) to discuss what needed to be changed about our goals and priorities in order for us to thrive.
Our goals over the last 2 years or so have not been as “measurable” as the ones during the years before that, but you know what? They’ve been more enjoyable. We worry less over the small milestones not being met, and enjoy the big victories much more. We’ve learned that our goals are there to serve us, and not the other way around.
So my encouragement to you is to be realistic with your goals. Not just today, but until the goal is completed. Things are always changing, and building some understanding of that into your goal-setting will allow you to roll with the punches and enjoy the journey.