Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP® Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension
At the beginning of each new year, people often make resolutions to lose weight, get organized, save money, spend more time with family, quit smoking, get more exercise, and do better in general. A few weeks later, many great intentions begin to fall apart. Why not make 2007 different by trying the following six-step approach to tackling your life goals? First, write down what you want to accomplish and by when. For example, if your goal is to save $1,000 during the first five months of the year, write “I will save $1,000 by May 31, 2007.” Then this goal is measurable, with a target date and dollar cost, and you can easily measure your progress. Second, develop an action plan. Ask yourself: What steps do I need to take to accomplish this goal? What needs to happen? What must I do? For example, if you plan to save $200 a month for the next five months, you might reduce certain household expenses and/or sign up for automatic savings opportunities through a credit union or direct deposit. Next, identify obstacles that might prevent you from reaching your goal. Write them down on a sheet of paper. Beside each obstacle you list, write down two or three ways that you could overcome the obstacle. If your goal is to save more money, some obstacles could be lack of an automated savings plan and/or family members who encourage you to spend instead of save. Then identify resources to help you accomplish your goal. Are there books you could read that might help? Could you join a group of people who are working toward the same goal? Are there professionals in the community you could contact who could assist you in some way? Are there opportunities for automatic savings at your place of employment? Plan to give yourself small rewards along the way. As you reach milestones toward accomplishing your goal, think of ways to give yourself encouragement and support. Do something you like, give yourself a special treat, and/or spend time with people you enjoy. Finally, evaluate and adjust as you go along. If you don’t reach one of your milestones, re-group, but don’t give up. See what is working and what is not and adjust your plans. Look carefully at how you spend your time, energy, and money. Are you moving toward your goals? If not, make some necessary adjustments. Remember that small steps taken toward reaching all types of life improvement goals matter. If you want to save $1,000 this year, pay attention to where nickels and dimes go each day. Decisions that you make daily determine the successful achievement of your goals. For further information about health and financial goal-setting and success strategies, visit Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ Web site at njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw.