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The Pitfalls and Stress of Goal Setting/ Planning by Graeme Fowler

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

How many times have you been told you need to set goals and plan for your future?

One of the most common methods of goal-setting is the SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based, i.e. the goals are to be achieved in a certain time-frame. Brian Tracy was another one that had all these specific ways and methods he would teach that would help people achieve their goals.

For me, I used to be very focused on goals, working hard to achieve them, and then setting new goals. One overseas seminar I did over 10 years ago was 3 days just on goal-setting and cost over $10,000 to attend. During the next year or two I did achieve the goals I had set at the time, however I started thinking – why wasn’t I happy when I achieved a goal, or if I was – why was it so short-lived? The answer I thought was to either set a new bigger goal or do it in a faster time. I remember being at the course and one of the goals was to own a red Ferrari 355 and also a midnight blue Porsche 911 turbo within the next 12 months. That would make me very happy I thought as I’d always loved fast cars, especially the fast European ones. Within 3 months I had already bought both of these cars, and while I loved the process of buying them and putting them in my garage at home, something was still missing. A Lamborghini I thought? I always wanted one of them as well, so set a new goal to buy a yellow Lamborghini Murceilago and another few months later I owned one of them as well. I was very excited picking it up and driving back to Havelock North however although I was happy initially within a day or so I was my normal self and really started to wonder about this whole goal setting trap.

It wasn’t until maybe a couple of years later that I was listening to a CD and it was saying ‘you can’t arrive happily at your destination by travelling an unhappy journey.’ In other words, if you are striving, struggling, working hard to achieve all these goals, there will be no satisfaction at all when you reach them. The answer people think is to set bigger goals, but instead the actual answer is to enjoy the ‘now’ or the ‘process’ on the way to your goals. Once I understood that, it all started to make sense.

So, in the last few years of ‘allowing’ goals rather than ‘achieving’ them, it’s almost the opposite of what I used to do and what most others tend to do.

Think of it in this way: - if you are looking at a stream or a river and you put a canoe in the water, it will naturally go downstream at the speed of the river. If you try to row upstream it is very hard work, and unnatural. This is how traditional goal setting very often is. A goal is set which you think may or may not be achievable, and if it is to be achieved, you will have to work very hard for it. Also a time is set by when you want to have the goal achieved by. It’s like rowing upstream in a river, with the current wanting to take you down-stream. For example if you say ‘my goal is to earn another $100,000 within the next two months by investing in property.’ This is an upstream thought (unless you are making that much already) and does not make you feel good because there is unnecessary pressure put upon yourself - to achieve it in a given time-frame. On the other hand, if you were to say ‘I would like to earn an additional $100,000 and it will come to me in its own good time. Or ‘wouldn't it be nice if I had an extra $100,000 cash in my bank account, and it doesn't have to arrive all once, although it can, and it will come to me in its own time’, these are all downstream thoughts. There is no struggle or striving to achieve them, they are very easy, effortless and relaxed.

Just recently I remembered something I had written down along these lines in 2009 which I read each day for a few months at that time, and then totally forgot about it. It went like this: -

The heading was “Property Trading, Equity in New properties, Renovations” and then underneath that it said – “It would be nice to earn $2 million by using all of these money making streams above. I know it will happen, and it will happen in its own good time. Money flows effortlessly to me in so many different ways, and it is nice to see that every day the $2 million is getting that much closer to me. I'm in full alignment with allowing the $2 million to come to me in its own time, in its own way, and through all the various ways that money flows to me. Every day I enjoy what I'm doing, I love what I'm doing, and this too helps me get closer and closer to allowing all of the $2 million to come to me”

I realised a couple of months ago that just in this year (2014) what I was doing with a new property investing strategy, it was already done!

It’s almost like having a knowing that it’s already done when you put it out there - what you actually want, and then carry on with life. Another way of saying it is if you are watching say the All Blacks play Australia live in a rugby test match and it is a close game, there will be highs and lows during the 80 minutes of the game. You may not know the actual result until the full 80 minutes is up so it can be very tense watching the game. But if you knew the result and were watching it on replay, now the emotions, the worry, the frustrations don’t come into it - as you know how it ends up. It’s the same with goals, having the knowing that it all works out well in the end. You don’t worry when things that don’t work out as you think they should along the way, because you know how it ends. Watching a movie for the 2nd or 3rd time is the same, you don’t have all the highs and lows wondering how it all turns out, because you know how it finishes.

So, rather than forcing yourself to go look at properties because you think you need to do this in order to achieve your goals, do it only when you feel the inspiration to do so. Not because you think you have to, or you will fail or look bad to others if you don’t do it. People often say procrastination is a bad thing, but I don’t think it is bad at all. If you are not inspired to get off the couch and go look at properties, or go to the bank to ask for finance etc, then just wait until you have the inspiration to do so. It will be a far more enjoyable process. The answer is to have a happy journey on the way to what you want, enjoying the process. Then when you get there you will also be happy with the end result/goal. The other important thing too is that, over time your goals may change to something else, and some you may either decide not to do, or not go for what you originally wanted. By enjoying the process on the way, you will be a lot happier - no matter what the eventual outcome is.

This is about as specific as I would get now on setting any goals:

Write down this about what you want:-

*When – 0% (achieved by when)

*What - 8% (specifics of income, # of properties, cashflow etc)

*How - 2% (how you are going to do it)

*Why - 90% (why you want it)

I have rated what I think the importance of each of these 4 things are.

As you can see I don’t rate a time (the When) to achieve goals as of any importance at all, the ‘How’ is also very low in importance. The ‘What’ you want is more important, but the most important in all of this is your ‘Why’.

Without a big enough ‘Why’, the chances of getting what you want are very slim. This is another big key to it all, and without a big ‘Why’ you will find excuses and reasons along the way that will keep you exactly where you are.

For me, my big ‘Why’ back when I started was that I didn’t want to work for someone for 40 years or more, and end up with nothing at age 65.

I wanted to learn about finance and investing so I didn’t end up broke at the end of my life. The freedom to do what I wanted to and go on holiday when I felt like it was a big part of my ‘Why’ as well, not having to answer to a boss or ask permission to take time off for just a few weeks each year.

Graeme Fowler

Disclaimer: Nothing is this article is meant to constitute financial advice of any kind, and is the opinion of the author only. Seek professional advice before making any financial decision.

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