It’s a rarity to have a goal achieved 100% according to the plan. Things don’t always go as planned, and changes along the way are often required. Our journey often begins with a known direction, seeking something important. As time passes, you may be forced to zig and zag through life events, including short term setbacks, in an effort to edge closer to your goals.
Creating a plan that tracks your progress and direction makes a huge difference. Reflecting on what’s important allows ideas and priorities to begin to take shape as they create the outline of your goals. These goals often have a timeline associated with them, both short and long term. Not all goals need to be long term and deep into the future. It’s important to have short term wins to build confidence and reinforce good habits throughout your journey. Building a system of positive habits increases your probability of success in achieving your goals.
There is value in setting goals beyond just the financial priorities. Creating a fitness or wellness plan, a plan around where you choose to spend your time, a plan for your education and personal development that also includes hobbies you enjoy are equally important. Often your goals may be influenced by a significant other or family members who hold a vested interest in your success.
Cash flow, of course, plays a role and is the economic engine that drives your financial decisions each day. This begins when you graduate from college and continues throughout your career and well through retirement. There may be periods of time when you temporarily run low on cash and need to adjust your course. Equally so, you might be able to accelerate your goals by making sacrifices now for a win over the long haul. Sometimes you may feel your goals are simply too big to achieve only to be surprised by how close you are to making them a reality.
So, what’s the purpose of planning if we recognize, in advance, that life is messy and we won’t necessarily achieve our goals via a straight line? Change is constant and coming to terms with the epic levels of the unexpected, in all aspects of our lives today, is a start. Regardless of the level of change we encounter, having a plan is paramount to achieving success over the long haul. Realizing that things will happen, and will require adjustments is a known part of the plan. We can’t control what curveballs life may throw at us, but we can control how we react. Referring back to our plan is what keeps us on-track towards the end goal. What other variables may be capitalized on for better planning results?
- Recognize time is finite. We are not going to live forever, and we often value our time more as we age. My research shows clients get really serious with what they want to accomplish at the age of 50. Something about turning 50 grabs their attention and creates purposeful urgency in getting after their priorities. They are driving themselves in pursuit of what’s important and willing to do what it takes with what time they have before retirement. A majority of times they have been investing and saving for years only to gain clarity at 50 when compared to their 30s and 40s. Hitting your peak earnings equates to strong cash flow that may be assigned to getting it done. It’s a shame this urgency can’t be implemented at an early age such as your 30s or 40s. Those carefree years often slip by more quickly then you imagine. There are exceptions and those under age 50 with a plan (and an experienced planner) have a significant advantage. The luxury of more time is a great influencer in accomplishing more.
- Focus on what matters and tune out the noise. Noise is everywhere today. If you’re not careful you may find yourself reacting to everything and everyone around you. The ability to focus and sit still in reactive times, like those we have experienced in the past year, greatly increases your chances of reaching your goals.
- Create a time and financial buffer. This acts much like a shock absorber which provides the ability to cushion your ride when the unexpected bump in the road occurs. Surprises, opportunities, and mistakes all happen when you least expect it. Having the ability to set time aside and think leads to better long-term outcomes and decisions. Proactively making room for both time and money allow you to get the most out of your planning and avoid reacting.