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Picture Your Future

How many times have you made big goals for the year? How many times have you came up short?

*hand up*

We talked about understanding and defining your why, now it's time to nail down where you want to go.

I've seen two key components to those who were successful:

  • Have a Reminder of What You're Working Towards
  • Keep Track of Your Progress

One of the best ways you can tackle both as a couple is start off with a date.

Have a Dream Date

Sit down this week and set aside some time for a date. Skip talking about the bills and stresses for one night and focus on where you two want to be by the end of next year and beyond.

If you're stumped on where to start, here are some questions to discuss for the year:

  • What things do you want to cross your list finally? (run a 5k, play tennis regularly, give more time to volunteering)
  • Are there any projects you want to tackle around the home?
  • Are there any family trips you want to do?
  • Would you like to explore a new career with a side business?

It's tempting to jump into the how, but stick with your dreams first, you'll get into the process soon enough.

Create SMART Goals

As you to think about your dreams for a few days, make another date to see if you can get a big picture view of how you want to get there.

How you frame you goals makes a big difference with how likely you are to achieve it. Creating SMART goals can be wonderful.

  • Specific: Choose a specific goal. Don’t say ’save more’, but instead choose ‘put aside 5% of my paycheck into a savings account.’
  • Measurable: How do you know when you reached your goal? If you are saving an emergency fund up, consider setting aside 3-6 months of living expenses.
  • Attainable: Work on 1 or 2 goals at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Realistic: Make sure your goal is something you can do and truly believe in.
  • Time Based: By setting a deadline, you can work backwards and break down the steps into mini goals.

Write this down or make a note of your dreams as you visualize your goals.

Visualize Your Goals

Many top performing athletes have found visualization to be a powerful tool in helping them achieve their professional goals.

The typical approach is to write down your goals, but there are other ways you can keep yourself motivated as you move closer to your dreams.

Creating Your Vision Board

If you're more inclined to work with your hands, making a vision board can be useful.

Whether you create it online or with your hands, there are key pieces to creating an effective mood board.

  • Gather your inspiration
  • Organize it around themes
  • Place it where you can see it

If you need more details, Michelle from Shop My Closet Project has some awesome tips on how to create your vision board.

Switching Up Your Screens

A more tech friendly approach is changing up your phone and laptop wallpaper or screen saver with something to remind of your goal.

It doesn't have to be fancy or have an inspirational quote on it (though here are a few if you want). I created one for my January goals.

Working from home with two little ones keeps me with plenty to do. Having my wallpaper up is a way for me to stay focused and feel more comfortable saying ‘no' to more commitments.

Track Your Progress

The second component is keeping track of your progress. I want to give you a few ideas so you can use whichever one fits your personality and circumstances best.

Make a Chart

Being the nerd that I am I love charts. Whether it's a spreadsheet or poster board, updating them regularly gives me a clear idea if I'm getting closer to my goals.

Dave Ramsey has had people credit their charts as a huge motivator as they want through their Total Money Makeover. Your Money or Your Life also encourages charting your progess.

If you're more the pen and paper type, here are a few of my favorites charts to track your progress:

There's an App for That!

There are handy tools and services you can use that also track your progress. For finances, I recommend Personal Capital and Mint.

Looking to improve your health by eating smarter and exercising consistently? Apps like LoseIt and Daily Burn make it simple to keep your progress handy.

Michael Hyatt recently released a list of his favorite apps to help you achieve your goals.

Thoughts on Visualizing and Tracking Your Goals

I hope these tools help you achieve your goals. I'd love to get your thoughts.

What do you want to accomplish in the next year (and beyond)? How are you tracking your progress?

Start with Your Why

When I began writing about couples building up up finances and marriage, I used to suggest that they start with their budget.

I'd give tips on free tools to see where the money was going and give advice on how to make it easy to keep tabs on spending.

There was nothing wrong about what I was saying (I still recommend those tools), but I was missing the heart of it. Change requires both process and mindset change.

Instead of begining with the how, I found that's it's more important to start with the why.

Understand Why You Want to Simplify

Before making any transitions, it can be helpful to write down or talk about why you're doing this.

Carl Richards, Certified Financial Planner and NY Times Columnist, says one of the best ways to get to what you really want with financial plan is to ask, Why is money important to us?

If you can clearly answer why you want to do something, you can:

  • gain a better idea of what changes you need to make
  • stay motivated when it gets tough

Don't believe me? Let me give you an example with finances since so many want to improve theirs (get out of debt, save more), but keep failing.

When you ask, most people will say they want to get out of debt. Ask them why and you might hear, ‘I want financial freedom' or ‘We need some security if we lose our jobs'.

Those are good reasons, but why do they want to be financially free?

Getting out of debt is a milestone for sure, but it isn't a destination.

What do you want to do once you're out of debt?

For some it can mean having some breathing room in their budget so they can switch to a more satifying job. Others may want to stay at home with the kids, either full time or part-time.

Your reasons reflect your values, so don't be suprised if what you come up with is different from your friends.

Clarity with Decisions

Let's say you're determined to paying down debt so you've been cutting back on expenses so you can knock it out faster. You have some vacation time coming up and you're making plans on where you want to go and what you want to do.

Reviewing your why, you can decide on what is a better fit for your long term goals.

Another scenario – you are deciding on whether on or to keep your date nights going as you're working on the credit cards.

Why are you getting out of debt annd improving your finances?

If you're doing it so can you have more time for another, then you'll keep the date night. You might however, try to find more frugal ways to do it. Again, your why will be different than others so your choices will be different.

Motivation to Move Forward

Set backs and hurdles are part of life. Even with the best plans and intentions, we can struggle with our goals.

Let's say you've been building up an emergency fund. It's been hard, but you have $1,500 in the bank. Then just as you were about to work on paying down your credit cards, your car breaks down. And the repairs pretty much wipe out your savings.

Understandably you're frustrated, but if you've defined your why you can get back to business (once you've vented).

Another instance when we need motivation is when there is a temptation to veer off your path. I'm not talking about adjustmnets, which I think is a necessity, I'm refering to discouragment.

Things are going pretty well, but brown bagging lunch is a bit tired or you're frustrated with how your current car is running. Your friend calls, excited that they got a new car. Or maybe your co-worker has been inviting you to go out with them for lunch.

What do you do?

Since you understand the bigger picture of why you're trimming your spending, it's easier (not easy mind you) to come up with a solution that works for the situation. You put off getting a car, but you might agree to a once a month meetup with a co-worker.

Again, your why will be yours and your solutions will be your own.

Creating a Map

I hope you're fired up and have articluated the why behind your change.Once you've nailed down your why ,though, where do you go from here? What's your next step?