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Achieving Goals

To Reach Your Goals, Take Them One Step at a Time

Build momentum by creating healthy, sustainable habits.

September 29, 2016 • 3 minute read
BrightPlan Blog

After getting inspired to tackle your big goals, it is easy to become overwhelmed and distracted when you start to take action. Inspiration can quickly turn into desperation for a variety of reasons, these are some of common ones we hear:

  • “Work just got crazy… I don’t have the time or energy to pursue my goals.”
  • “I’ve got bills, bills, and more bills—how can  I start to save towards my goals before I get them under control?
  • “That retirement calculator says I need 3 million dollars!”

The key to making progress towards your big goals is to reframe them as a journey instead of a destination. Psychologists make a helpful distinction between outcome (destination) and process (journey) goals. Outcome goals focus on the big picture and the end results, such as finishing first in a 5K, losing 15 pounds, or getting a 12% return on your investments.

Don't Focus on the Finish Line

The problem with outcome goals is that the results are often beyond your control. The runner in the lane next to you catches a second wind and beats you to the finish line. An injury prevents you from working out for six weeks and you gain back some of the weight you lost.

The stock market crashes and your investments falter with it. There are myriad ways that outcome goals can be thwarted even when you do everything right, and that is where process goals come into play.

What is The Next Small Step You Can Take?

Unlike outcome goals, process goals are empowering because they are completely under your control. These goals are the small steps you take on your way to reaching outcome goals. While outcome goals focus on what, process goals focus on how. Examples of process goals include running three days per week, eating 1,800 or fewer calories per day, or spending two hours per week drafting your business plan.

Process goals are fantastic because they focus on forming the habits necessary to reach your desired outcome goals. By achieving process goals daily and weekly, you begin to notice measurable progress. This traction can motivate you further, encouraging you to put your head down and accelerate into the finish line.

Nailing your process goals creates sustainable habits, and we believe these habits are the key to creating an effective life plan. Trying to hit a giant savings goal? Cut costs by creating and sticking to a monthly spending plan. Looking to retire? Pay yourself first. Set up an automated transfer of a portion of every paycheck to your 401k or IRA. Tired of the dead end job? Craft a resume and apply to five companies per week.

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. A journey to an outcome goal starts with a relevant set of process goals. Or, as we like to say it, reaching your financial goals tomorrow starts with creating healthy financial habits today.

Now it's your turn. What is one habit you can start (or improve) today to help you reach your long-term goals?

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