“I have a dream.” That’s become a powerful statement for a lot of different people. While I certainly in no way intend to detract from it’s most famous speaker, we have to admit that almost all of us have dreams that we want to see to fruition. Some are large, some not so large (but not necessarily any less important). Most of those dreams end up involving money or credit at some point in time.
Here at the Center for Financial Resources, we are beginning a new series of blogs titled the “Dream Series”. These are designed to help people reach for and accomplish any dreams that they may have or find. Each post will build on this idea.
So for this inaugural week’s post, the question is – “What exactly is your dream?”
You may want your life to go somewhere, but if you aren’t clear about where “Somewhere” is, it’s going to be a little rough for you. I just did a search in Google Maps for “Somewhere” and I might have actually broken their system. “Somewhere” just doesn’t exist apparently. So if your goal is to start your own town, then there’s the name for it and you would absolutely make my day.
So where exactly is your “Somewhere”? What do you really want to accomplish?
When I ask about people’s dreams, a common answer I get is that they “want to be comfortable”.
So what does that mean?
Have a good recliner? Be able to afford your bills month to month? Be debt free? Be able to travel the world for months at a time with no worries over the checking account? What does “comfortable” really mean to you?
Goals are pretty huge for us in the credit counseling world. We don’t tell our clients what to do, but rather ask them where they want to end up and help them formulate a plan to accomplish those goals.
In fact, we often go to the intensity of encouraging SMART goals. You may have been taught SMART goals before, and many who have end up rolling their eyes when I bring it up. If you found yourself rolling your eyes at the very mention, let me ask this – so how are your goals coming along?
Yes, it can sound a little overwhelming at first. But the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. And the better your goals are written, the more likely you are to accomplish them. Not only have you specifically defined what those goals are, but you have already invested time and effort in those goals. That initial investment can often foster a greater drive in seeing things through to the end.
So here we do go with the SMART goals.
Specific – What exactly do you want to accomplish? Not just “save some money”. That could mean that you are just going to shop less or go without cable. While those things may play into it, you probably mean that you want more money in savings. Well, then say that.
Measurable – How much do you want in savings? In order to know if you have been successful, you have to know exactly what you are aiming for. $5? $500? $5,000? You have to know at what point you can reward yourself for a job well done, and making it measurable allows you to do that.
Attainable – Most of us could probably manage adding another $5 to our savings over the next few months. But really? Woo hoo (said with all of the monotone excitement of Ben Stien’s teacher charater in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”). Go ahead and stretch yourself. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we set our minds to it. But don’t set yourself up for failure either. Another $100,000 in savings in the next few weeks? If you can pull that off, I want to be your friend. For most of us, that’s just going to be frustration that can quickly derail us from our other goals.
Relative – What else do you have going on in life? Planning a 3 month trip backpacking through southeast Asia? Awesome. I’d love to be able to go with you. At the same time, are you scheduled to get married sometime in the middle of that trip at your fiancé’s home church in Timbuktu, South Dakota? Yeah, good luck with all of that. You should probably just plan to stay in southeast Asia for the rest of your life lest she actually hunt you down. Make sure that your goals and life situation don’t conflict, but rather enhance each other.
Timely – By when exactly do you want to have all of that extra money in your savings account? I like deadlines. They motivate me and provide structure to my plan of getting things done. Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate to the point of eternal incompleteness. Set a deadline and get it done. Deadlines will also help you fit multiple goals together when they build on each other. For example, get married and THEN go on the backpacking trip through southeast Asia.
And there you have it. The very first step to accomplishing your dreams. You just have to know exactly what those dreams are. Once you have that figured out, it becomes much easier to plan their accomplishment.
We’ll talk about the next step in accomplishing your dreams in our next post, so keep an eye out for that.
If you would like some more specific help in defining your financial goals, the counselors at the Center for Financial Resources can help. We help people define goals every day. You can schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 605-330-2700.
On your own or with some help, just make sure you know where you want to head.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net