Wise Goals Start with Whys
“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your Vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your Ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil. The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.” – As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Why “why” goals?
Since a young age, we’ve all been taught to establish goals – earning good grades, making the high school band or sport’s team, pursuing education/skills for a good paying job, etc. – however, it’s often the case that we measure our “success” on the expectations, progress, or lives of others and we forego defining meaningful goals for ourselves. When approached in this manner, traditional goals (such as buying a first home or saving for retirement) or even “noble” goals (like charitable work or giving back) can feel somewhat empty, lacking a passionate pursuit we typically associate with these ventures.
It can be easy to overlook the principles of goal setting framework as items once checked off the list of “to-dos” can be seemingly not critical to success.
So if we get what we focus on, what is worth our focus?
At Yeske Buie, our firm, our culture, and our Client relationships are built around our talent for thinking creatively to help our Clients recognize their unique goals through an engaging discovery process. Once identified, we memorialize a Client’s goals in their Live Big Map and create policies to help the Client use their human and material resources in ways that support a full, abundant life.
“Why” is your foundation, “why” is the journey, and “why” is the destination and pursuing your goals on any other foundation risks pursuing a vision that is not authentic to your future ideal self.
“Why” is Your Foundation
Deliberate introspection helps identify meaningful goals and establish commitment to the journey. How many times have we wanted to learn an instrument or language that we just never got around to? What about advancing in an area of interest only to find that it falls off because other priorities and obligations get the majority of our attention? While there can be value in broadening horizons and exploring areas of interest, it is beneficial to know, before embarking down the path of pledging time and energy to an endeavor, whether you are committed or just interested.
Ongoing discovery with your financial planner works as an effective sounding board, holding the space to openly talk through ideas in a non-judgmental atmosphere. This is beneficial for three reasons:
- Honest prioritization of personal dreams – the only person who can decide what is right for you is you. There are several scientific studies that link priming an individual to think of hedonic motivation (triggering the emotional system), prior to decision making tasks, with increased preference consistency. Additionally, when tying future goals to experiences and lessons that made you who you are today, the future becomes much more real and personal – it is easier to own the fact that the joy and pain your future self feels will be just as real as the emotions you feel today.
- We respond to situations differently when money is introduced. Behavioral psychologists and economists have been researching the implications of studies which indicate individuals change their preferences from social norms to market norms simply by injecting financial incentives into the decision making process. For example, the participation rate of lawyers who offer their skills for pro-bono efforts drops significantly when they were offered a wage that was well below their regular pay rate for the same exact effort. Money turned volunteering into work, and work is not fulfilling for less than what we are worth. These findings are important because anchoring our actions to our “why” (not our checking account) can help us from closing doors that are, at a foundational level, in alignment with what our ideal self sees as being worth the effort.
- Your Financial Planner will be able to offer recommendations that you KNOW are in alignment with your lofty dreams, helping to clear the path for you to pursue your best self.
The application of these studies are important because it offers insights into the value of having your heart at the core of your financial plan. Further, a plan built on any other foundation would not be yours.
“Why” is the Journey and the Destination
“Why”s to be Resilient
With all the effort that is required to begin the journey of accomplishing your dreams, it is important to establish safety measures to ensure not all progress is lost in the event that outside circumstances impact your trajectory. Prioritizing good Financial Hygiene establishes security around your goals that will reduce the bandwidth tax on your brain cause by fear of uncertainty. This “certainty” will allow 100% of you to pursue the beneficially “uncertain” aspects inherent in your life’s journey, including the pursuit of significance, connection/love, growth, and contribution. For some, these may entail finding a fulfilling career, traveling to enhance life experiences and perspectives, developing and investing in meaningful relationships, or maybe as noteworthy as exploring one’s purpose. The key to a disciplined pursuit of one’s goals is the ability to weather life’s storms in a way that allows only a little extra water in the boat instead of being submerged by the whims of the uncontrollable.
Giving goals meaning and identity creates a unique bond because visualizing a future ideal-self reinforces an optimistic outlook for what could be. Growing fond of that potential reality encourages individuals to consciously work backwards to identify the actions necessary for attainment. Implementation, the most difficult part of the process, is valuable in that repeated actions establish habits. In turn, these habits reduce the mental effort to maintain trajectory which snowballs into more bandwidth for other goals and objectives.
It is inevitable that we will struggle with prioritizing objectives, but it is critical to ensure that we do not fall into a mindset of assuming that they must compete with each other. It can be helpful to approach this dilemma by addressing it in terms of one’s resourcefulness instead of one’s resources. Resources are limited and thus, scarcity mentality inhibits our ability to accomplish goals. However, resourcefulness is unlimited and engaging because we have not relinquished control of the outcome – this is the mindset of abundance.
To live from a place of abundance, it is helpful to explore some of the following approaches:
- Become imperturbable by creating guardrails for your journey through Financial Hygiene goals.
- Prioritize goals based upon difficulty. Beginning with the easiest or quickest goals can help establish momentum and a sense of control. Similar to the snowball effect, you will have fewer things on your mind and will be more effective with your efforts.
- Establish timelines for completion based upon the mental capacity required by the goal. If goals are truly “why” goals, there should be more synergy than competition as it is unlikely that you hold such contrasting worldviews. In these cases, consider the overall impact on your bandwidth and whether certain efforts can be reorganized to reduce stress. This can help avoid regret associated with completely discounting a goal as unachievable.
There is no secret recipe to accomplishing every goal and there is no guarantee of positive outcomes; however, it is important to reflect on what is being left to chance by not anchoring goals to your unique passions and talents. What is special about you that was meant for this world at this time?
Now, consider both extremes of the “achievement spectrum” when your life has been “why”-centric. You are the most blessed person on earth and no external events significantly impact your trajectory – all the seeds you planted yield unimaginable realities for your future self and those you care about. Alternatively, events have not played out in your favor and all is stripped away – you are still the embodiment of your “why”, you have become your ideal and best self. While nobody claims to know what the future holds or where we will be in years to come, it is necessary to be mindful of the future we create for ourselves because we may just find ourselves there.