5 step plan to achieve your dream

Call them resolutions, call it growth, call it whatever you'd like but setting goals is a very important part of becoming a more complete person. The majority of people are great at setting goals.

-This year is the year I'm going to reach my ideal weight
-I'm going to read a book every week
-I'm going to get out of debt and stop overspending

Here is the thing, a goal without a plan is just a dream. The plan is what will make your dream come true.

Making a Plan

Making a plan is the "how" part of a goal. If your goal is to lose weight maybe the plan is to map out a realistic exercise routine. Start working on a meal plan that works with your lifestyle to make sure you can keep it up. Give yourself a boost by doing a cleanse so you can start seeing results quickly and ride that momentum. As a personal finance writer, my goals tend to be more focused on saving more or spending smarter.

Getting rid of debt is a fantastic goal to have, finding financial freedom will make every other aspect of your life better. Just like a weight loss goal, it is important to have a plan though. The first thing to look at as part of your plan to get rid of debt is the actions that got you there in the first place. This isn't a time for judgement, this is a time for change. Sit down at a computer or put pen to paper and make a budget. A balanced budget including debt repayment is the only sure way to knock out debt. And even if you are setting a goal for next year – you can start making your plan today. This is another tricky part of achieving your goals – taking the first step.

We are all guilty of it, myself included. We love to live in this wonderful world of tomorrow where everything we want and need to do gets done. So why can't we bring ourselves to get it done today?

The Reason

The reason we end up pushing things off until tomorrow is one of my favorite words – motivation. It is super important to have a specific motivation to reach the goals you've set for yourself. Which of these two reasons for getting out of debt will serve as a better motivation?

"I want to have more money, so I want to have less debt"

"I want to buy a house in the next 5 years and being debt-free will make that possible for me"

If you are anything like me – option #1 might last until the end of January before a more powerful motivation comes along "These speakers are on sale and the price is going up tomorrow, so I need to buy them right now!". If your goal was to buy a sweet set of speakers next year – this would be a great motivation to get it done. If you wanted to get out of debt, you may have just lost sight of your goal.

What Does Success Look Like?

Another very important part of your plan is to figure out what you need to achieve to consider yourself successful. You might set a goal to walk 300 miles next year. If you manage to walk 200 miles you made amazing progress and you should be proud of that achievement. You may not have reached your goal but you made a step in the right direction and have set yourself up for a wish come true the following year. If you look at reaching 200 miles as a failure instead of a success, you start to put up barriers to your goal. Looking at 200 miles as a success lets you evaluate where you can get better, refocus your motivation and check up on your actions to make sure they line up with your goal.

It is also helpful to break up your goal into mini-goals. Track them weekly, monthly or quarterly to keep yourself in check. This keeps you accountable to yourself, if you need to refocus you can do so right away instead of waiting until the year is almost over and then telling yourself there is always next year.

Most Importantly...Be Proud of Yourself

One of the biggest things to acknowledge is that you are making a conscious effort to improve your situation and that makes you a winner. It is incredibly easy to sulk about where we are, make excuses on how we got there or worse – why we can't possibly get out. Good luck plays a role in a success, bad luck in failure – but your results are primarily based on your actions. So....act! Stop thinking about it and start working on a plan today. I won't even be upset if you don't finish reading, I'm almost done any way!

To summarize the 5 Steps to Achieve Your Dream:

-Set a goal
-Make a plan on how to reach that goal
-Figure out your motivation for reaching that goal
-Acknowledge that progress does not mean perfection
-Be proud that you are making this happen for yourself

I wish that made a good acronym so it would be easier to remember, but you have better things to think about than acronyms – you have a goal to reach!

All the best!

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"The Personal Finance Planner. This is the perfect gift for the planner in your life. It goes way beyond traditional calendar planning and provides a system to organize your monthly budget, weekly meal plan, grocery shopping, debt payments, cash envelopes, and goals — all in one place." -Hope + Cents

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