Revisiting your 2022 goals, yes already

Most of us recognise the importance of setting goals, but what happens when we break promises to ourselves and a goal suddenly looks unachievable?

So, a goal didn’t work (or won’t work). What now?

What is the first thing to do when we fall ‘off’ our goals and they suddenly appear unrealistic?

With goals related to money, it’s essential to do a little self-examination to stop any negative patterns taking hold that might lead to financial stress. Patterns such as compulsive spending as a coping strategy.

Firstly, it’s important try not to abandon a goal just because it didn’t work out perfectly, or even if it seemed to fail entirely.

The reason for having that goal is may still be sound.

It sounds obvious, but don’t give up! Regret over failure is far harder to deal with than the failure itself.

Really, falling off a goal creates a valuable opportunity to learn and grow – new skills and the resilience to cope with future setbacks.

This is incredibly important.

How to get something out of a failure: get curious

Giving up on goals could set you back months or even years on achieving important milestones in your life.

‘The first thing to do is to get really curious about what didn’t work and why,’ says money behavioural coach Lea Clothier.

Use this information to help you reset your strategy. i.e. if the goal was too big – can you break it down into mini goals or milestones?

If you didn’t have enough motivation, can you explore why you wanted to do it in the first place? Was it really something you wanted?

Was it really a priority when placed in the context of your whole life?

Did you have enough support? Trying to achieve ambitious goals without sufficient support can be a recipe for failure.

Think about what other support you need to make the goal happen – is there a person or people who can help?

Do you need to make yourself accountable to someone else, or publicly?

Use your failings as learnings to help you create a new strategy!

Taking stock of what didn’t work

It’s worth taking a step back right back for a few hours, or even days – back from the emotions that may accompany unmet goals and a sense of failure – to look at why our goals don’t work.

Detachment is a useful tool in this situation.

While you’re bound to have some feelings about your failure – that’s healthy and normal – it may not be productive to sink into deep emotions for days, that can lead to unhelpful negative thinking.

You do need to return to your motivation for setting this goal. Do you still have that motivation? If not, why not? Is it still factually relevant to have this goal?

‘This is probably the major point to make about returning to our goals.’ Ms Clothier says. ‘They have to be a big enough priority to maintain daily commitment motivation and willpower.’

If your objective is not really that important then it becomes easy to give in or give up.

Analyse your goals again

Did you use the suggested and successful tools to analyse your goals? Did you use a SWOT analysis? Is your goal SMART?

A SMART analysis involved asking if a goal is:

    • Specific;
    • Measurable;
    • Achievable;
    • Relevant; and
    • Time-bound.

SWOT means asking:

    • What are the strengths of our plan?
    • What are the weaknesses?
    • What are the opportunities?
    • What places it under threat?

Even if you did use these tools, run your goal through them again now.

See where the weak points are. Is your motivation strong enough to sustain the tasks you need to perform? Acknowledge them, note them and look for solutions.

Many people give up on goals, rather than realise that with just a few changes they could actually achieve the goals they set.

Very often that change is just breaking a major goal into achievable smaller goals or getting an accountability partner to help you stay on track.

Were we just too ambitious?

The reality of progress in all fields of life and also business is that it seldom happens without bumps in the road, a step back before we take two steps forward again.

Sometimes even a sideways step is better than a backwards step.

That’s because we learn from mistakes, stebacks and barriers.

‘One of the most useful things I’ve heard about the science of goal setting is for us to build in room for us to slip or plateau in our progress,’ says Ms Clothier.

Allowing for the reality of imperfect progress – or even failures along the way – makes goals realistic and means that we may not be as tempted to give up.

If we have a strategy for how to deal with these slip-ups or a slowing in momentum, we are more likely to get back on track and not just give up entirely.

Visual goal-setting tools

Visual representations of our progress help enormously – because they help us maintain perspective and see our overall progress even when we had a bad day or bad week.

They can show how much further ahead you are compared to the same time last year, even if you didn’t keep up with your milestone targets.

There are some complex visual goal achievement charts out there, but like anything, often simplest is best. Complex charts can end up complicating progress and being hard to follow.

Examples include:

    • Action plan template – essential as an over-arching planner to keep referring to for monitoring overall progress against targets and dates;
    • Kanban boards – these allow you to see work in progress as it’s happening by stages in a process. They use columns to represent important stages such as: ‘to do’, ‘in progress’, ‘in review’, ‘needs attention’ and ‘completed’. A Kanban board enables you to optimise your workflow and promote focus, task visibility and productivity;
    • Daily planner that allow space for you to tick off small tasks – such as a phone call to discuss a course/qualification, or to make an appointment with an advisor – these mini tasks are the daily nuts and bolts of achieving goals;
    • Old fashioned weekly planners stuck somewhere you will see it every day – such as the fridge. They allow you to highlight the little wins and milestones; and
    • Thermometer-style charts – these are good for goals that require dozens of or even hundreds of repetitions of the same action and over time they show clear progress towards one big goal. They work well with things like fundraising.

There are many great goal achievement charts that can capture your journey towards achieving your goals. Just go online and look at the many examples to find one that suits your goal.

These tools can help us to stay focused and connects us to our bigger goal or purpose. It also helps when we’re feeling a bit flat or negative as visually we can focus on our progress and this can help us keep on track.

Financial Mindfulness also has a goal setting feature in our app

The hidden secret of successful goals

Did you know that typically we are more inspired to make successful changes when we create emotional and not financial goals?

Why? Because more often than not it’s not actually the goal we are chasing, it’s the feeling.

When we set goals, it’s important to understand why we want to achieve them. We can do this by asking ourselves, how will it make me feel when I achieve this goal?

We might be chasing feelings of hope, happiness, pride, joy, love, happiness or security.

At the core of all our goals is a desire to feel good. When we can identify what feeling good means to us, and set goals that lead us to feeling this way more often we’ll work harder to hit those goals!

By getting clear on how we want to feel in our lives, and then setting our goals based on these feelings. We can aim to do more things in our life on a daily basis that will create more of the feelings we’re chasing.

How to monitor progress so we don’t fall off our goals

Have a plan to start off with. Break down the steps you need to take to achieve the goals. Tick them off as you progress towards them. Check in with others to get feedback and support.

The visual accountability charts mentioned above will help.

Monitoring progress or daily and weekly actions is how goals are met. There’s no easy way to do this.

If we automatically achieved everything we wanted or that was good for us we wouldn’t need to set goals.

We have to set goals because the wants and needs within them are difficult to obtain and achieve. So, no, unfortunately the process of following through on goals to meet tough objectives will not be easy.

Six simple steps to help us achieve our money goals:

    1. Make sure it’s your own goal: While we may share common goals, we need to make them more personal than this. This is where it pays to work out the feelings we will have when we achieve these goals;
    2. Automate: By automating aspects of our finances, we increase the chances of success. For example, if our goal is to save more – set up a direct debit to a new savings account as soon as we get paid, or transfer the savings to an account where you can’t easily access it. If it’s to pay off more debt, try setting up a direct debit payment of regular but small amounts;
    3. Set mini-goals: Breaking down goals to smaller steps makes it seem more achievable and less daunting;
    4. Track progress: Tracking our progress toward a goal can be motivational as we see ourselves getting closer to our goal. It also keeps us focused on how far we’ve come rather than just how far we have to go;
    5. Create accountability: Particularly with money goals it’s important to have somebody encourage us and hold us accountable. We could also make our intentions public i.e. to our friends or social network, which can create additional accountability; and
    6. Allow room for slip-ups: We need to allow for these minor slip-ups and setbacks, and not use them as an excuse for giving up.

And remember, it doesn’t matter how slowly we move towards our goals, as long as we’re progressing.

Achieving our goals is as much about the journey, as it is the destination.

Being mindful and focusing on the moment can bring us more joy, and we can concentrate on how far we’ve come, instead of how far we have to go.

Financial Mindfulness

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