MMS075: How To Set Realistic And Achievable Goals

MMS075: How To Set Realistic And Achievable Goals

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Executive Summary

Did you give up on your New Year resolutions ages ago?

That doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road for you. You can set realistic and achievable goals any time of the year.

Don’t get bogged down by excessive expectations, and don’t assume that you can’t start over again. Forget about the idea of only setting goals at the beginning of the year. We talk about how you can always be achieving your next money milestone and creating goals to help you get closer to the life you want.




Click to read full transcript


ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Money Mastermind Show. Let’s Talk Money.

[0:00:04] GC: Welcome to the Money Mastermind Show. How many of you out there set resolutions? Okay now, how many of you keep those resolutions and how long? Odds are they probably drop pretty quick but that’s okay because we’re here to help you. Here’s the Money Mastermind Show and these are the folks that we’re going to discuss and help you out.

We have Kyle Prevost of, Miranda Marquit of Planting Money Seeds, Peter Anderson of Bible Money Matters, Tom Drake of the Canadian Finance Blog and I am Glen Craig of Free from Broke. So resolutions, people love to make resolutions and goals, setting all sorts of different things and we always hear about all these different list, what they want to do but you don’t always hear about the success rate on them. I think there’s a reason, so what’s going on with these resolutions?

[0:01:01] PA: Well let’s start out here. Let’s look at the actual numbers here. I have a survey from the San Diego Reader and they found that people that set resolutions or goals at the beginning of the year after a halfhearted attempt, 88% of resolutions were never achieved. So that’s a pretty large number 88% and I guess maybe the question is, why are they not achieving those goals? Is it because they’re bad goals or they had set too many goals or they focused goals?

[0:01:34] GC: You know I think a big part of it is people jump in around New Year’s and they somehow feel like everybody else is setting goals, they have to set goals or they see these commercials on TV, “Set this goals, do this, join the gym, open up an account, do this, do that.” And then they jump in on this big band wagon and maybe their heart is not even on it or they’re just doing it and they’re just bound to fail.

[0:01:58] MM: Right, I think part of it too is you talked about making a list earlier. I think a lot of people just sit down and they think making goals, making resolutions is all about just writing a list of things you want to do and that’s not really planning. That’s not really setting goals. That’s not a true attempt at it. That is just sitting down and writing a laundry list of things you wish you did. That’s not the same thing as setting real goals and making a real plan.

[0:02:27] GC: I mean it’s a start though.

[0:02:29] KP: There is college basketball coach, a pretty famous guy, coach Knight and he said, “Lots of people have the will to win, it’s those who have the will to prepare to win.” And every January, when you walk into a gym, you can see why most people don’t meet their goals because they don’t prepare, right?

That gym though is empty in December, a stocked full of people now and they dive right in. They’re doing crazy stuff, they’re not even using the machines right, they’re too embarrassed to talk to someone and ask how to do it and they’re trying to bench press like maybe what they did back in high school or they’re going to jump right into marathon training. It doesn’t always, but let’s say a large percent of time it ends badly. So you’ve got to set yourself up for success a little bit better than that.

[0:03:08] MM: Well, yeah. I can tell you January is my least favorite time to go to the gym. I go swimming and I hate going in January because it’s full. Everybody is there. I usually take the month of January off. I come back in February when everybody’s quit.

[0:03:25] KP: Gyms must love January though. I mean you can pump those 12 month passes all the time I bet, if you think about it.

[0:03:33] GC: Let’s do comment on this goal setting that people do. I mean Peter said 88% fail, how much of it is not even genuine like, “You know what? Yes, new year, I see a little pudge, what am I going to do about it?” Or I see a commercial and it’s always something else that drives it but not really their own intrinsic need to do something.

[0:03:56] TD: Well that’s the problem with doing it at New Year’s too though, it’s this feeling of a fresh start and really figure that goal that you set up when you’re ready to set it up. Maybe you’re not actually ready to tackle something until June or November or whatever.

[0:04:09] GC: Right, let’s go back to the gym thing, people join the gym in January, they quit by February and then at some point in June, you start seeing the beach commercials. “Go back to the gym and get beach ready in two weeks,” and all sorts of that. So all of a sudden, the goals come out again and it won’t last much longer either.

[0:04:29] MM: I thought you’re going to say in June, you finally see the people realizing that they’re auto pay has been going out to the gym membership they’re not using and now, they’re going to finally cancel it.

[0:04:37] GC: Now, that might be the case too. We talked briefly about why maybe these goals are failing. People maybe are just following a band wagon. They’re just making list. What else is it that’s failing them? You always hear these experts saying they set goals so there’s something about goals that really does work but why isn’t is working for most people?

[0:05:01] MM: Well, I think part of it too is going along with the whole laundry list idea as well. You also have this vague idea of what you wish would happen. “Oh, I wish I’d saved more.” Okay? “Oh, I wish I’d have less debt.” Okay? That doesn’t have any sort of direction you can go. It’s just a vague wish that you’re putting out there and maybe the universe will help you achieve that wish, who knows?

[0:05:34] KP: I think it’s a bit of a momentum thing too. If in the past you’ve set super ambitious goals and maybe for the right reasons, maybe for the wrong reasons and you fail to meet them. You now have no goal stamina or goal endurance. You don’t know what meeting goals and getting small wins can do for you.

I think that’s why we see these super successful people, they’re willing to put in whether it’s a 14 hour a day or whether it’s a discipline of a savings fund or running if you’re going to do marathon, they know what those results will be and the juice is worth the squeeze but if you’ve never reached that finish line or it’s been a long time since you’ve reached that finish line, it’s hard to create that positive momentum.

[0:06:13] GC: Yeah, that’s a good point.

[0:06:17] PA: I was going to say that as far as talking about people who are successful and why they’re able to achieve their goals, Thomas Stanley of the Millionaire Next Door talks about that. He talks about how millionaires are able to focus on a specific goal. Too often, people start goal settings. They have a whole bunch of different goals out here and all over the place.

They’re just kind of an amorphous bunch of goals that they’re working towards. He said what millionaires do though is that they are able to focus on a specific goal and they actually set about achieving that goal so that the focus, laser like focus on a specific goal that they can actually achieve is something that’s really important.

[0:06:59] MM: Yeah. I think back when I was setting goals for New Year’s, I used to narrow it down to one big money goal, one big personal growth goal, one big writing goal and say, ”Well, this is what I’m going to work on the whole year. This is the most important and this is what I’m going to focus on.” And then once you have that one big goal, you can break it down into smaller goals, like Kyle was talking about as well, where you have these little small wins along the way that help you keep motivated toward your bigger goal.

[0:07:35] GC: Yeah, I think that’s a big problem too. People make this big grandiose goals besides the fact that is kind of wishy-washy maybe at times but it’s something that it’s going to take a lot to achieve. So you’ll say, “I’m going to lose a lot of weight”. Okay but what does it mean and when does it become successful? “I’m going save money.” When does that become an achievable goal?

There’s no real milestone there for people to say, “Okay, yeah. I’m doing it.” There’s no small wins and I think people get really frustrated when they can’t somehow get it or they don’t see themselves getting to their goal.

[0:08:16] TD: The yearlong goal not only is kind of vague and you don’t get those wins but if you just have this one big goal for the year, it leaves a lot of room for procrastination. So you’re in mid-December and you still haven’t actually done anything about it where if you have weekly or monthly goals, you’re making the small steps and you progress up throughout the year.

[0:08:38] MM: I guess when I’m talking about the big goal, I guess that’s kind of what you’re talking about. You break it down so that you’re working all yearlong in little steps with milestones I guess.

[0:08:50] KP: I think the other thing that folks got to realize is when they set these goals especially at New Year’s when everyone is setting them is just admit to yourself that these are hard things. There is a huge marketing, a massive marketing that is rebuilt up around the idea that saving to become a millionaire is easy.

That working out and becoming this model that all they do is workout, that’s easy and we’re going to do Beach Body. We had an episode there where we talked about different multi-level marketing Beach Body’s filling out my feed right now and I think if people admit to themselves, “Okay, I’m making this goal. I am doing all the good goal, setting things, setting little milestones,” it’s still really hard.

Those are really hard things. It is not easy to fire up your metabolism if you’ve been doing the couch thing for a while and so give yourself a little bit of breathing room there. At the same time, hold yourself to the goal but just understand, that’s going to be a massive life change for a lot of people.

[0:09:49] GC: It could be also a lot of people set goal and then they set themselves up to a standard that’s unrealistic. They don’t realize the reality of what that standard is supposed to be. Like, “Oh, my neighbor next door goes on big vacations. So he must be saving and doing really well. So if I’m not saving a lot to do that, I’m a failure.” Or, “If I’m going to the gym for a month and then all of a sudden I’ve got ripped abs, I must be a failure.” We don’t really know what we’re supposed to expect with our goals.

[0:10:21] KP: Yeah, that’s what it really comes down to is before you start setting goals, you really just need to sit down and identify what your life values are, what’s the important things in your life. Maybe having a high level fitness isn’t that really important to you but having more free time with your kids is. You really need to sit down and figure those things out and realize what’s important to you not what people are telling you is important.

[0:10:48] GC: Let’s turn around, what’s been successful for you guys in setting goals? What has worked? What should people out there who are listening aim for if they want to set a successful goal?

[0:11:03] MM: I’d say start with “Peter and S.M.A.R.T goals”. That’s Peter’s thing.

[0:11:09] GC: Let’s talk about S.M.A.R.T goals without mentioning that people can be specific, it has to be manageable, achievable, realistic, time bound, these are things that we’ve just been talking about and I think that’s why maybe smart goals are so useful. S.M.A.R.T, each one of them is a different word there because a lot of people’s goals and resolutions are lacking those pieces.

[0:11:37] KP: Yeah, I have a method that’s maybe not the most healthy, it’s not as cool as S.M.A.R.T goals, it’s not as business techy. If you’re a former athlete, I don’t think I can safely call myself an athlete anymore but if you’re a former athlete, I’m all about competition. If I can get into a competition with my brother, a friend, like friendly — I’m not trash talking this guy but if you can somehow make it into a little hold yourself accountable through competition a little bit. Again, I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so I’m not saying it will work for everyone or even if its health, sort of mentally healthy or emotionally healthy but it works in my case.

[0:12:12] GC: Yes, somebody to edge your lawn or sometimes just a support group have somebody in there with you since you know what your goals is doing and you go, “Hey, you’re doing this. Well I can get up to there too”.

[0:12:24] KP: Yeah, even if it’s not competition. You can still have your goals and share it to somebody to keep you accountable. Maybe you’re talking to somebody at work, “Hey, you know I’m working out and losing weight. Maybe I can tell you about that to help me stay accountable with that while I’m in work here,” or whatever. Just find that buddy you can buddy up with and just talk about it even if you’re not competing against each other.

[0:12:49] GC: That accountability is a big thing too right? You’ve got to be on the line for it for some reason. You have somebody that’s going to say, “Hey, where are you with that? Here’s where I am, what are you doing?” I don’t want to have it as a shame factor but it’s certainly the competition could play into that like, “You’ve done this, oh wow I’ve got to catch up on that. I’m going to do this also.” What else works?

[0:13:18] TD: Similar to that accountability, something I found is even if you’re not telling anybody about your goal, write it down and put it somewhere where you’ll see it. If it’s important enough to you, if it’s a work goal put it by your desk. If it’s about eating, put it by the fridge because then you’re going to get those reminders to just remind you when you really need it about what your goal really was.

[0:13:40] GC: Yeah.

[0:13:41] PA: You just said exactly what I was going to say Tom, write the goal down otherwise it will disappear.

[0:13:46] GC: But I mean we did talk about how writing these things down would be wishy-washy is not enough but I do think that first step, that intention like, “This is what I want to do,” and that you put it somewhere, it kind of sets your mind up and there is something with the neurons in there that says, “This is where we’re going to head.” Maybe every time you’re going to open that fridge, that message is there and maybe we shouldn’t be reaching for this or whatever that’s in there.

[0:14:14] MM: Well for me, a lot of the time what helps is breaking it down. A few years ago when I decided I wanted to max out my Roth IRA contributions each year, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to all of a sudden in January flip the switch and be able to max it out and so breaking it down and saying, “Okay, what if I just start putting $50 extra dollars a month and add that $50 extra dollars a month to my contributions, get comfortable with that and while I’m doing that, I can look for other ways to either earn more money or cut back in non-essentials that I don’t care about.”

After a couple of months, I can add another $50 to that so now, I’m up to a $100 extra dollars and spend the whole year just working toward and building up to that point where now I finally every year I max out my Roth IRA and I do it without having to worry about it because I built up slowly. But, especially with money goals, a lot of the time you’re like, “Oh, I want to max this up,” or, “I want to pay down all these debt.” And you’re like, “Well, in order to reach my debt pay down goal, I need to put $200 a month toward paying off my deb.t”

Most of us can’t just one morning wake up the next day and say, “Oh, well this month is going to be the month,” and if you start out by saying, “I’m going to step it up, I’m going to start out with $50 a month and then I’ll step it up another $20 a month after I’m comfortable with that.” And just move forward, to me that progression is what helps keep me going. It’s when I can say it’s a progression and it works the same with fitness goals.

Most of us aren’t going to, like what Kyle is talking about like, “Oh, I am fired up now,” and you run into the gym and you’re like, “I’m going to work out for an hour,” and yeah, right? You’re going to kill yourself if you try and workout for an hour and you’re not going to be able to sustain that every day if that’s what you started with but if you start with saying, “Hey, I’m going to workout for 15 minutes every day this week and then next week, I’m going to workout for 20 minutes every day and then the week after that, I’ll work out for 30 minutes every day.” You start building up to it and it starts becoming more manageable.

[0:16:24] GC: It almost sounded like for a second there that it wasn’t so much goals that you’re trying to do but just build up new habit.

[0:16:32] MM: Yeah and really for me, that’s what it is. I guess maybe pinpointing that is, “Hey, what habit do I want this year?” And then I’m going to spend the whole year working on building up to it rather than saying I’ve got to have this specific goal.

[0:16:46] GC: Right, like if you’re doing something and now it just becomes this natural part of what you’re doing, it’s no longer this goal. If you’re goal is to make sure that you max out your 401(k) that you’re putting so much away, you build that habit where maybe like you said, you don’t put $500 away for a month. You can’t do that, but if I can just put $5 a week away and the next becomes normal. You will have that automatic transfer and then that’s your habit. It’s always going to happen and then your next goal is to build another habit there.

[0:17:15] MM: Right, yeah and that’s the thing. Once you’re used it, it becomes part of your daily routine then you’ve got to step it up and take it up to the next level and make it so it’s a little bit bigger because one of the problems you have especially when you start automating and especially when you’re talking about retirement stuff, is you have it automated and you keep doing it, and doing it.

Pretty soon, you’ve got extra income, you’ve had a couple of raises, you’ve had some bonuses but you haven’t put any of that toward your retirement because you’re just used to it. So part of what I do is I have to remind myself. I set little reminders so that every few months, I go back and say, “Oh, well can I step it up now?” Because it’s really important to keep moving forward.

[0:18:01] GC: Yeah. Go ahead.

[0:18:03] PA: Go ahead, finish your thought.

[0:18:05] GC: Oh, I was going to say like Kyle mentioned, the small wins. Right? And that it’s hard but you can’t just do everything at once and sometimes, being realistic and going, “You know what? I’m not a person who saves money. I’ve been bad at it so I’m not going to magically just put $2,000 in the bank. That’s not going to happen,” right? And maybe I’m bad at that and this is probably the reason why people say they want to save more.

But it might be okay to just say, “I’m just going to save five bucks. I’m going to do something that’s not going to kill me but I know I can do it and I’m going to achieve it. And then once I have that and I’ve done it, I can get to the next step.” If you have a 401(k) people go, “Oh, I can’t afford to put 12% into it.” Well who could just dump that type of money? But click it on to 1%, is that really going to make a big difference in your paycheck?

It may not be as big as a dent as you think and if you could do that and live with that, after a couple of months, you’ll go, “Okay, let me try 2% now,” and I’m just saying if you put nothing, you have to start with something that is really manageable and then you could see, you know what? It doesn’t take so much effort to do.

[0:19:11] KP: Yeah.

[0:19:11] PA: Along those same lines, I think I was thinking the same thing. I like to be more successful, I like to set different goals for different time periods. So I’ll have immediate goals, things that I can do right away, starting the next day. I’ll have short term goals bringing out a month away or a couple of weeks away and I have long term goals as well.

With those immediate goals, you can have some quick wins right away. If you’re trying to lose weight or something, you would say, “My immediate goal is tomorrow morning.” You get up 6 AM and workout. It’s not going to be a quick win every single day and kinda helps build confidence. There are many short term goals like, “I want to be able to run 10 minutes without stopping by a month from now,” or something.

I’ll set different levels of goals within the same overall large goal and that helps you to have some success overtime and be more successful over the long term.

[0:20:06] KP: I think looking at your goal, thinking about your goal, thinking a little bit outside of the box about how you want to get there sometimes can help too. If your goal is to build yourself a retirement savings account or a down payment on a home, perhaps you haven’t been successful at saving. Okay, we can try and get there.

Perhaps you’re more of the entrepreneurial type, so see if you can launch something on the side. See if you can work a few more hours at your job or maybe get a promotion and then that’s built in because you already know your lifestyle. You can make do with what you already have. That is a different roundabout way of getting to that goal.

Or maybe if working out isn’t your thing, you’re going to slowly build that up but you’re great of prepping food ahead of time. So you’re eating more salads and stuff, whatever the case maybe right? There is always multiple ways and if you try and do everything, it probably will come down around you but there are different paths. You can play with your strengths a little bit more that way.

[0:21:04] GC: Yeah, it’s like I mean I look at my eating habits now and if I hadn’t thought about doing what I do now eating wise, 20 years ago even, I would’ve laughed at myself but I have done all sorts of little things like, “Okay, you know what? I’m going to cut out the Fruit Loops and see if I can have Corn Flakes”, you know? Jus so I don’t have as much sugar. Maybe I just won’t have as much soda.

But each one piece by piece, I never did anything all together and I don’t mean to say I am super healthy but it’s little things that once you do it, it becomes natural and then you could go on to the next thing.

[0:21:42] MM: Yeah and I think that’s a really good point, to try and do one thing at a time because too often, we look at our laundry list of everything that we want to do and that we wish we could change. And we just look at that and say, “Okay, we’re going to go with all of it now,” and like Kyle said, most of the time it’s going to come falling right down around you. Then you’ll be super upset that it didn’t work out and then you’ll feel like you can’t do anything and whatever.

[0:22:07] GC: Isn’t that funny too? Also where like a lot of times your goal ends up rebounding badly. Like I’m going to go on a diet and then you just say, “Forget it,” and then you just eat a quart of ice cream and you’re done, you know? Or you’re trying to save money and you’re like, “Oh I can’t do this anymore,” and all of a sudden, you’re next credit card bill is off the charts because you can’t handle it anymore. It’s that part too and then you go, “Goals, they never work,” and you never do it again.

[0:22:36] MM: That’s one of the big problems with goals that involve deprivation, right? If you have a goal that involves deprivation that’s the worst. Whether it’s, “I’m not going to spend money on this anymore. I’m going to stop eating this thing anymore.” And that’s my big problem with food. I get to the point where I’m like, “I don’t care anymore. Weekend binge.”

So to combat that now, I’m like, “Okay, I’ve got my dark chocolate and then I can have a couple of squares. I can have a square of dark chocolate after lunch and then I can have a little treat after dinner,” and that keeps me able to say, “Okay, it means I’m probably not losing weight as fast as I’d like but it keeps me from binging,” and that’s what matters.

[0:23:21] GC: But it doesn’t have to be super-fast either. You say maybe not as fast as you like but you can still get there by still eating little pieces where you’re maybe giving yourself support, right?

[0:23:34] MM: Right.

[0:23:35] GC: You said deprivation, maybe I can’t always try to live like a Spartan or a monk and not ever spend money like, “Okay you know what? If I could do this here, then I get to do this.” You build in that little reward system into what you’re doing.

[0:23:54] KP: I’m just picturing Glen like kicking some guy into a pit right now as a Spartan.

[0:24:00] MM: Glen could probably do that. He does martial arts you know?

[0:24:03] GC: “I’m buying an LED TV. I’ve had enough.” What else about goals? What can we tell people out there as far as what they need to do?

[0:24:19] PA: A good thing to do is to review your goals at regular intervals. Don’t just set goals, write them down and then put them in your drawer. Sit down and actually think about where you are in achieving those goals throughout the year. It can be easy to let the goals slide away as the year goes on and then just forget about them.

But make a note to yourself to actually sit down once a month or however often you do it and actually look at your goals and look at where you are in achieving them and take a look again at where you want to be.

[0:24:53] GC: I really like that because I think it’s okay to adjust your goals too or go, “You know what? I’m going to let this one go and move to something else. It’s okay, it’s not working maybe this isn’t really where I want to go with this,” without feeling like you’re a failure or you could readjust it. That’s okay.

[0:25:11] MM: Yeah and along with that, you can always start again. There is no reason to sit here and say, “Oh well, I messed up today. It looks like I’m done for the whole year.” There’s no reason to do that. You can start again tomorrow.

[0:25:33] GC: Yeah no, I just wait for my birthday and then start over and then a month later, “I’m done for the year,” you know? That is usually the other time when you start making all these life decisions. If you hit that other age and you go, “Okay now I have to do this”. So let’s wrap up and sum up what we’re talking about for goals. So Tom, what’s your final word on goals and resolutions?

[0:26:02] TD: We talked a lot about sort of how not to screw up on your goals but really, if you do it don’t beat yourself up too much because if you made some progress, it’s still better than still not trying. Like if you stop smoking for a month or if you saved up money for two months, it’s still better than just deciding, “I’m not going to even bother.” Maybe after that failure, you’ve got to look at how to reset but certainly don’t beat yourself up for trying to improve yourself.

[0:26:30] GC: Peter, what’s your final word?

[0:26:33] PA: My final word is just to make reasonable goals that you can actually achieve because I think far too often, people set these amazing grand goals that they want to lose 150 pounds this year or whatever the case may be. And they get one or two months into the year and they realize they’re never going to achieve the goal that they set and they just give up. So make sure your goals are actually reasonable. Things that you can achieve and that you can do in the time frame that you’re setting for yourself.

[0:27:00] GC: Miranda, your final word on goals and resolutions?

[0:27:02] MM: Yeah, just going along with what Peter and Tom said, I think it’s more about progress and more about baby steps and what you mentioned earlier in the episode as well about creating new habits. Figure out why you’re making your goals and then kind of move that direction and work on progress and work on building on it a little bit at a time.

[0:27:29] GC: And Kyle, what’s your final word on goals and resolutions?

[0:27:33] KP: Try really, really hard to notice even a little bit of progress that you’re making and try really hard to notice it whether it’s your significant other or your support group. Try really hard to notice even the smallest of progress especially right away in the ball game, you’re trying to meet your goals that positive reinforcement cycle is really powerful once it gets started but it can be really difficult to get going if you’re not used to it.

[0:27:55] GC: This has all been great information and then I hope that people out there that are listening and watching can really take something away from that. If you have anything to add, come to site, throw it in a comment, we definitely want to add to this. So for everybody out there thank you for watching. Thank you for listening and until next week, be good with your money.

ANNOUNCER: Thanks for joining us on the Money Mastermind Show, get more information at Don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes and YouTube and follow us on Google Plus.



Important issues discussed in this episode:

  • Do you have to limit your goal-setting to certain times of the year?
  • How can you set realistic and achievable goals?
  • Strategies for figuring out which goals are the right ones for you.
  • Tips for chunking your goals so they are more manageable.
  • Our favorite strategies for setting and achieving goals.

Panelists In This Episode:

For a quick bio of each of our show participants, head on over to our panelists page.

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