We set goals all the time. Whether you want to lose weight, get better at returning missed calls, or get out of debt, goal setting is a part of our lives. But why is it that we are so bad at accomplishing them? This week on the Pete the Planner Radio Show I talked to CJ McClanahan of ThriveMap about building goals and how in the world we are supposed to actually accomplish them.
With the New Year nearly upon us you’ve probably begun to think about setting New Year’s resolutions. I’ve probably said it before, but New Year’s Resolutions are a joke. Now I finally have proof of that after talking to CJ McClanahan who helps people set and accomplish goals for a living. Statistically speaking (or not) no one follows through with the goals they set. Why not? What is it in our brains or hearts or lives that isn’t letting us follow through?
CJ makes a strong case for it being because we generally do not have any sort of emotional attachment to our goals. When that is the case, any obstacle we encounter is enough to push us over into abandoning the goal. A great example of this that CJ provided is about saving for your kids’ college education. Most parents will set a goal of saving for college, but it rarely becomes a priority when so many other things in the budget are more present needs. But imagine in 18 years that your kid comes to you with excellent news, all his hard work has paid off and he got accepted into an Ivy League school. As his parents you will have to tell him he can’t go because you never accomplished the goal of saving for a college fund. After you’ve verbalized that scenario with your spouse and you start to become emotional (fear, sadness, anger) you will then become motivated to accomplish the goal. And whenever an obstacle arises you will act from the emotional place and press forward toward accomplishing your goal.
But CJ made another good point, what if you can’t get emotionally attached to your goals? Then let them go. If you can’t muster up even an ounce of emotion about the goal you are trying to reach then it will never get accomplished anyway so it’s easier to abandon ship now. Think of your goals on a scale from 1-10. One being you don’t care at all and ten being you would do anything to accomplish the task. If your goal lands anywhere five and under, let it go. One of the most common goals you hear people in the work place talk about is their email. It’s backed up, cluttered, and unorganized, but chances are most people just don’t care that it’s backed and no amount of goal setting will change that. But if your goal registers above a five, chances are you can form an emotional attachment to it and move forward toward accomplishing the goal.
Personally, I like to set a trap for myself to help me accomplish a goal. For example, when I’ve decided to write a book, I tell everyone, that way I’ve trapped myself into actually writing it. CJ agreed with me and said traps are good because they play on our ego. Your ego won’t let you abandon that goal because you’ve already told all your friends that this month you are going to actually respond to emails within 7 days.
These principles work well when setting financial goals. Financial stress and conversely, financial wellness are very emotional states of being. Use that to your advantage and set goals that you are able to accomplish.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.