Motivation and achieving your goals

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Motivation 5A slight departure from finance and money matters, but understanding this is vital to your long term success, whether it be achieving financial or other goals.

Motivation.  Anything you will ever achieve is because you have been motivated to achieve your goals, ambitions and desires.  But what is it that motivates us?  What gets us out of bed every morning and helps us strive for our goals and bring us closer to achieving the things we really want.

For some it may be as simple as not wanting to get sacked and a pile of bills that need paying that motivates them to get out of bed and off to a job.  But in reality, what motivates people is as diverse as there are people in the world as no two people will be motivated by the same things.

In order for you to be motivated, the goal you want to achieve has to resonate with you to your absolute highest values and desires.  Simply put, you have to really want this goal very badly.  It’s for this reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail.  It’s also the reason that writing down all your goals, saying affirmations, putting it out to the universe and other esoteric things, generally fail, unless, once again you really wanted this goal.

Having said that, people who write down their goals are quite often more successful than those who don’t, as discovered by the Harvard Business School Goal Study. What’s interesting to note in this study though, is that not only did the successful students have a goal, they also had a plan to achieve these goals.  That, perhaps, is the difference between just having a nebulous goal and actually being motivated to achieve it.

But most people should not feel bad because of the ten New Year’s resolutions they made, they were only able to achieve one or two of them.  They didn’t fail, their other goals just didn’t resonate with them, move them and motivate them enough.

So, let’s be clear here, in order to obtain your goals, you firstly need to be clear about what your goals are.  They need to be something that you really want, that are one of your core desires, that you can visualise, one that will give you tangible results, so you can say “When I achieve X, I will have, or be able to do Y”, that you think about every day, that are constantly in your thoughts from when you wake up in the morning to when you go to sleep at night.  It helps if your goals are SMART.  I’ve adapted a few definitions I’ve seen on the SMART acronym and this is my take on what this means:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable/Motivational
  • A – Achievable/Accountable
  • R – Realistic/relevant
  • T – Tangible and has a Timeframe.

And they don’t always have to be written down or have affirmations said in order to be achieved.  For example, the goal of pretty much every teenager is to obtain their driver’s license and gain that magical independence.  They usually want it badly, they’re prepared to sacrifice a lot in order to achieve this, several years before they are even old enough to obtain a learner’s permit, they start to think about it and talk about it and are envious when older friends achieve this milestone.  I’m pretty sure there are very few teenagers who had needed to write down, say affirmations, or stick notes to their mirrors to motivate them to achieve this goal, although I’m sure some of them had very creative ideas on how to raise money to pay for driving lessons and to purchase their first car.

Secondly, you need a plan on how to achieve this goal.  It’s been said that once you know the why, the how becomes easy.  This is demonstrated so beautifully here.  Your why is a very powerful motivator and can be anything from providing for your family to just being fed up with the current status quo and wanting a complete change.  When you have the end goal clear in your mind, you can now break it down into smaller, manageable chunks on how you plan to achieve your goal.

And than thirdly, lastly but most importantly, you have to take ACTION toward that goal.  Once you are clear on what you want and how you’re going to achieve it, you will now need to actually take the steps and be motivated to achieve this.  This can sometimes be the hardest step for some people, and the easiest step for others.  Some people over analyse and suffer from analysis paralysis and for some, it was just getting the goals that needed to be clarified and now that they know, the way is clear.

Let’s go through a few examples.  Let’s say you make a New Year’s resolution that this year you think you’d like to lose weight and get fit.  You start by going on a diet and you join a gym.  You start off really well, you’re eating good food, watching your intake, you attend the gym, if not regularly, then at least once or twice a week (even if it’s just to see if that hottie that you noticed doing weights a few times will be in today).  January passes and you’re starting to lose a few kilos, and you notice your muscles tightening.  So far so good.

February begins and you vow to continue with what you’re doing so far and decide to take part in the no drinks in February challenge.  You start off well, but then get invited to a birthday party and have a few drinks as well as two pieces of birthday cake.  You catch the bug that was going around the office and missed two weeks at the gym.  You get to March and have regained the weight and lost the motivation so give up and tell yourself you’ve failed this resolution and it was a dumb idea anyway.

Now compare that scenario to this one.  It starts off the same, you make a New Year’s resolution that this year you want to lose weight and get fit.  But this time you really and truly want this and are determined and committed to seeing it through.  You are sick and tired of having to buy new clothes in the next size up and this time you are determined to reach your goal no matter what.  Firstly decide on what your ideal weight would be.  Let’s say you’d like to lose 15 kilos.  Now you have a specific goal.  Then you decide by which date you’d like to reach this goal.  Let’s say you give yourself 6 months or by 30 June to reach your goal weight.  Now you have a time by which to achieve this goal.  This will give you a monthly or weekly target of weight to lose if you break it down.  This equates to 2.5 kilos per month or just over half a kilo a week.  Is this achievable?  Absolutely!  Realistic?  Definitely!  Relevant?  Yes, you have a few extra kilos you need to shift.  This goal is now much more likely to be achieved and you would likely be motivated to achieve it.  Can you picture yourself at this weight.  Certainly, and more likely if you have a previous photo of yourself at this weight.  Even if you are invited to birthday parties and dinners and miss weeks at the gym, you always have the end goal in mind to be able to overcome these minor setbacks, particularly if you’ve been ahead of schedule.

Now, let’s put this into a financial context with another goal.  You’d like to go on an overseas holiday and you’d rather not put it all on the credit card just before you leave and then spend years paying it and all the holiday spending off with interest.  Once again, if this is a goal or achievement you really want (as opposed to it would be nice to have, but if you don’t go you won’t be too concerned), then you will suffer any suffer any short or long term pain to achieve this goal.  If you’re sick and tired of having credit card debt and paying dead money in interest and going on this holiday has a high core value, you’ll be motivated to stick to your savings plan for your holiday.

Firstly, pick a specific date and make sure it’s a realistic goal, or you’ll likely lose your motivation.  Let’s say a friend of yours just came home from skiing in Japan and it’s fired your imagination and you can see yourself skiing the slopes there next year.  This gives you a year or more to plan and save for this.  Let’s say you visit your travel agent and find out your costs will be a total of $5,000 to cover your airfares, accommodation, ski and clothing hire, lift passes, etc.  You might also like to have about $1,000 of spending money, which gives you a total of $6,000.  That’s a lot of money, you might be thinking.

But let’s break it down a bit and make it achievable so you become and stay motivated.  Breakdown the $6,000 into manageable chunks so you aren’t overwhelmed, you eat that elephant one bite at a time.  $6,000 over a year is $500 per calendar month, $231 per fortnight, or $116 per week.

So, let’s check the criteria.  Is this specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and relevant, tangible and has a definite timeframe?  Of course this depends on each person and their circumstances.  Maybe not everyone can save that amount.  For many people however, this is very achievable.  Or you might need to save for a year and a half, or maybe even two years to achieve this.  Remember, if you put the funds into a high interest, separate savings account as well, you’ll benefit from receiving extra cash (don’t forget to allow for tax).  The point I’m making is if you really want something and you can see yourself with this something, you have a plan in place and you take action to achieve this, you will likely be successful.

It’s now time to apply this across all your finances and investments.

Some interesting articles you might like to read by clicking on the links below:

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Your Money Personality



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