Ready, Set, Goal!

A How-To Guide to Achieving Your Wildest Dreams

Whether you want to get a promotion at work, start investing, create a mindfulness practice or take that big trip – it's all within your reach.  To get there, it starts with goal setting and creating a plan.  As they say, "Plan your work and work your plan."  Use this guide to build your plan to achieve your wildest dreams.  

Begin with the end in mind.

Start with where you want to end up and work your way backward.  Think about what you want to accomplish in the new year and what the end of the year will look like for you.  Get specific by visualizing your accomplishments.  Ask yourself, "How will I feel?  What will I have when I achieve this? Where will I be?" The more detail you can paint for yourself the more likely you are to stick to your goals. This is important as you outline the steps to get to the finish line.  

PRO TIP:  Most people find three goals to be the magic number and the key to success.  Any more than that and you could become overwhelmed.  

List the first goal you want to accomplish by December 31st. Be specific.
List the second goal you want to accomplish by December 31st. Be specific.
List the third goal you want to accomplish by December 31st. Be specific.

Break it down.

Now that you've identified your three goals for the new year, it's time to break them down into milestones. Initially, it's helpful to think about all the things you need to do to help you accomplish your goals.  Don't stress about getting them in chronological order.  This step is about identifying the gaps between where you are and where you want to go.  

Here's an example.  Let's say one of your goals is to end the year with $10,000 in an investment account.   Ask yourself what needs to happen over the course of the next 12 months to achieve this?  Perhaps you need to set up an investment account or add an automatic draft from your checking account into your brokerage account.  List out the action steps you'll need to take.  

PRO TIP:  Don't get bogged down in the little details during this phase.  The goal here is to think of these steps as steppingstones.  

Create a list of things you'll need to do for the first goal.
Create a list of things you'll need to do for the second goal.
Create a list of things you'll need to do for the third goal.

calendar it.

During this phase of goal setting, take your list of action steps – those things you need to do to get you from where you are to where you want to be – and group them by each quarter.  To put your actions steps in chronological order, think through what you must accomplish first so that you can move on to the next action step.  Repeat until you've gotten through all your action steps. 

Sticking with the investing example above, here's how this phase of the process looks.  First quarter (January-March): Research types of investment accounts and set up account.  Second quarter (April-June): Set up automatic draft for the remainder of the year and research mutual funds.  Third quarter (July-September): Put cash in the investment account into a mutual fund and adjust automatic draft amount, if necessary.  Fourth quarter (October-December): Evaluate account balance and adjust automatic draft amount, if necessary.  

PRO TIP:  It's perfectly normal to adjust your action steps as you progress through the year.  You may find you've accomplished your action steps sooner than anticipated or in working the plan you discover some steps you didn't foresee needing to do.  Part of working the plan is adjusting it as you go.

For goal one, list your quarterly action steps.
For goal two, list your quarterly action steps.
For goal three, list your quarterly action steps.

Move the needle.

The final step in the goal setting process is on-going.  This is where you get into the little details and start to act.  In this final phase you break down your quarterly action steps into a to-do list that you execute on every month.  Ask yourself, "What do I need to do this month to move this action step forward for this quarter?"

Referring to the investment example above, here's what it looks like during this phase.  January: Conduct a Google search on types of investment accounts, survey friends and mentors about financial resources, and listen to two Fierce Lab podcasts – Taking Control of Your Finances with Nicholle Overkamp as well as Money and Your Financial Building Blocks with Ashley Kilroy. February: Reach out to a financial advisor or banker to start the new account setup process as well as determine how much money to set aside monthly.  March: Set up new investment account with initial deposit.  

PRO TIP: Set aside time at the beginning of each month to review your to-do list here in the app.  As you accomplish your to-dos, add an "X" to denote you've completed an item on the list.  And don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments, big and small, as you progress throughout the year.  

January To-Dos
February To-Dos
March To-Dos
April To-Dos
May To-Dos
June To-Dos
July To-Dos
August To-Dos
September To-Dos
October To-Dos
November To-Dos
December To-Dos

"A goal without a plan is just a wish," said French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  Congratulations.  By writing down your goals, establishing the steps needed to accomplish them and reviewing them monthly, you're doing more than wishing for your dreams; you're actively working to make them happen.  Way to go!