On Goal-Setting

It is the new year. It’s the time of the year when we set our “new year’s resolutions” if only to keep it going for a week or two then forget about it until next year.

For me, I haven’t set up new year’s resolutions in the past, because I find the whole idea kind of silly. If there is something I want to accomplish, I should work toward it whether it’s the new year or not. What you are is an accumulation of what you have done day in and day out. The best students study daily, not just before the test. The best engineers learn daily, not just before a job interview or when their task at work requires them to. The best artists and athletes practice daily, not just for a big concert or a game.

But if you are setting goals whether it’s the new year’s or not, here’s a helpful mindset to actually get you somewhere:

Set up a goal that is about the present, and gets to the core of what it is that you want.

Here are some examples of ineffective goals:

“I will pay off my debt.”
“I will lose 20 lbs.”
“I will get a better-paying job.”

These goals all have one thing in common, which is that they are results-oriented and not specific to guide your daily actions, starting with today.

Yes, the idea of being debt free is wonderful and I totally agree, if you or anyone you know have any outstanding debts, then absolutely, they should pay it off. It’s not so much the end result here that’s problematic, but it’s the way the goal is set.

The hidden notion under such an outcome-oriented goal is that you are unhappy with your current life, and you will be only when you reach the end. It is kind of depressing living life while constantly thinking that something is missing or not right. Such an attitude can actually pull you further away from your goal.

A goal should be much more process-oriented, and something that you can achieve every single day. What is it that you really want? If you want to pay off your debt, my guess is that what you really want is along the lines of financial literacy, responsibility, and freedom or maybe you just want to feel good about yourself. If that’s so, how about a goal like “I will increase the loan payments. Instead of paying the minimum required, I will allocate 10% of every paycheck.”

We’ve shifted the goal into something you can accomplish frequently (everytime you get a paycheck) instead of an all-encompassing thing at the very end (pay off my debt). You can even automate the process with your bank, and not even think about it, freeing your mind to focus on perhaps another goal. You’ll feel great that you’ve made the change because it focuses on the “now”, not the future and you are accomplishing it every day. Once you are feeling good about your present situation, let your optimism be the fuel to get you even closer to your goal to take the next step, whatever it may be. When it comes to personal finance, there are so many great resources from people like Dave Ramsey and Ramit Sethi. So always be educating yourself, and act on the informaton you obtain. Your life will be so much more fun when you start to enjoy the journey, not just the final outcome.

So that was just one example, but you can apply to the same principle to any goal. With that, I wish you a happy new year. Let your 2018 be filled with fun challenges.

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Shin Adachi

I am a pianist and composer based in Los Angeles.

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