By Chantal King for Dollar Stretcher
"Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach." - Tony Robbins
I want you to make a list of your dreams. What do you really want? You might think this is pointless, yet it is an important step in getting your finances in order. Until you know what you want, how can you hope to achieve it? These steps will help you reach your goals.
Write it down! Really. If you put your resolutions in writing, you are much more likely to succeed. Many people, especially creative types, respond better to the written word.
Be specific in your list. "Making more money" is very vague. Instead, say, "I want to increase my income by $10,000 next year.” This may seem like an impossible amount, but there are many ways it would be possible for almost everyone. Another goal may be to pay off your mortgage in 10 years.
Set your goal. Be as specific as possible. The more focused you are, the better you can apply yourself to reach it. Then break your goal down into detailed steps. In order to increase your income, you could either make more money or spend less of what you are currently making. Decide which path you will take, or if you will do a little of both.
Break your major goals into smaller, doable tasks. "I will become a millionaire this year" is an admirable ambition, but it may become overwhelming and cause you to quit.
What specific steps will you have to take to reach your goals? Will you increase your worth by furthering your education or learning a specialized skill? Will you increase your hours to bring home more pay? How much will it take to pay off your mortgage early?
Instead, make a timetable with detailed “mini-goals.” You can break it into daily, weekly or monthly strategies that you know you can accomplish. Whatever works best for you and fits into your schedule is the ideal map for success.
Imagine what your life will be like when you accomplish your goals. Without a mortgage payment, you will have the extra money to pursue other dreams, like traveling around the world or building a summer home.
Picture the reward. When you begin a diet or exercise regimen, you have a goal or incentive in mind. For some, it may be fitting into that slinky red dress, losing a beer belly, or simply gaining a healthier, stronger body.
With monetary goals, you are striving for a healthier financial future. What if you are afraid your dreams are out of reach? Maybe you are stuck in a minimum-wage job with overwhelming debt and no relief in sight. Then you have to start taking the steps to make those dreams realistic.
Don't be afraid to aim high, but keep one foot hovering somewhere near Earth. Usually it takes hard work, practice and persistence. Most important, it takes a continuing desire to accomplish your dreams.
Things are starting to look up! You have met some of your initial goals and are on the way to accomplishing more. Take a moment to savor your success.
Reap the rewards. When you meet a goal, no matter how humble, reward yourself. Really! It may not be a brand-new Mercedes, but maybe you can treat yourself to an extra-decadent cappuccino or a dinner out with a loved one. Buying a small present for yourself reminds you, "I did it! I met my goals this month."
Uh oh! A glitch showed up in your careful plans. Maybe an unexpected bill arrived, or your water heater started leaking. This is not the time to throw in the towel, although you might be able to use it for the water heater. Seriously, though, stick to your plan.
Be flexible. Once you've defined your intentions and worked out a plan of attack, stick to it. You might have to adjust your plans as you go, but just formulate a new strategy. Diets often fail because of one little slip from a too-rigid plan, and the person feels like a failure. Being flexible will make it easier to meet your objective.
Tell someone about your goals. That way you will not be tempted to simply give up when the going gets a little sticky. Make yourself accountable. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or loved one to spur you on and keep working toward your ultimate goal. They can be your dollar-stretching partner, your cheering section, or give gentle reminders when you are losing momentum. Telling someone makes it much harder to give up.
Defining your goals will speed you on the road to success. You can achieve your dreams. All it takes is a firm resolution, a doable plan and the desire to make this the year of your greatest financial achievements.
Chantal King is a regular contributor to The Dollar Stretcher, a site dedicated to helping you "live better...for less". You can follow The Dollar Stretcher on Twitter for more tools to help control your finances.
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