Archive for the ‘Goal-Setting’ Category

The Beginning of The End: 6 steps to making the most of the rest of 2009

After today we will be in the month of October. OCTOBER . . .  2009!?!

I’m literally taking a moment to digest how nine whole months have flown by . . . . . OK! Moment Over.

With about 90 days (92 days to be exact) left in 2009, I want to mention 6 steps using the Achievers Focusing System (click image below to enlarge) from Success Principles to make the latter part of 2009 your best yet.


Step 1 – FOCUS AREA: In what aspect of your life do you want to make the most impact?

The Achievers Focusing System has divided areas of life into seven

  • Finance & Wealth
  • Career
  • Free Time
  • Health and Appearance
  • Relationship
  • Personal Development
  • Community & Charity

When the year began, you probably thought about making a change in 1 or more of these categories and somewhere along the way that got lost in translation (9 months wheezing by can do that). No matter, a lot can still be done in 90 days by making minute and incremental changes.

By the yard it’s hard, but inch by inch anything’s a cinch – Brian Tracy

Instead of trying to cover all these areas at once, start by selecting the most important area where you want change and then select the next most important area and so on.  Consequently, you will be creating a ranking system for the next three months.

Step 2 – GOALS: What are your goals for the rest of the year?

Write down one goal in the area(s) that you have chosen previously. Using the document, this can be written in the boxes provided.


This is where problems arise. In defining goals, they have to be measurable i.e. there has to be some sort of finish-line related to  an accomplishment and/or  time frame. The lack of a time frame usually results in complacency. The lack of defined accomplishments usually results in a loss of interest and boredom. Using goal #1 above, I will have to pay off $1,000 in the next 3 months. With this, I have defined the accomplishment and the time-frame. How can you measure the goal you want to attain? Is it a series of accomplishments or is it one you can measure with time?

Step 3 – ACTIVITIES: What steps need to be taken to accomplish this goal?

Outline the necessary steps to completing this goal. This can be done using the time-frame or accomplishments as a guide. The point of doing this is breaking down the goal into manageable chunks. By so doing, the viability of the goal is maintained and it would seem neither large nor looming.


For my goal, here’s what I’m thinking:

Time frame based

Accomplishment based

  • October 31st: Have paid $334
  • November 31st: Have paid $667
  • December 31st:  Have paid $1000
  • Pay off first credit card ($173)
  • Pay off half of second credit card ($413.5)
  • Pay off half of second credit card ($413.5)

In addition, list some non-activities as well i.e. activities you shouldn’t engage in which will also help with accomplishing your goals.

  • Leave credit cards at home ALWAYS
  • Pay for purchases using checking account

Using the Achievers Focusing System, these activities are then spread out over 12 weeks. This allows for looking at the overall picture while keeping track of the activities spread out over the 90 days.

Step 4 – SMALL VICTORIES: What happens when you complete an activity?

Sometime ago I mentioned how celebrating small victories are essential to boosting morale. As you slowly advance towards your goal week by week, remember to take a moment to digest how far you have come. This moment of reflection can be used:

  • to further fine-tune future activities
  • to ensure that the pace is still being kept
  • to rest before going on to the next task

Once each activity is completed, take a breath and congratulate yourself on making it this far. For me I will take great joy in seeing Balance: $0.00 and I will also update my account at NetworthIQ at the end of every month because seeing that bump provides additional motivation. Then keep pressing on knowing that you are closer than when you first started.

Step 5 – ACCOUNTABILITY: Should I involve others in my goal?

The Achievers Focusing System includes a section for an Accountability Partner. This is the person who you have shared your goals with and you know will be a willing motivator in your cause to improve. Sometimes goals are like a new toy: you play with it for a few days excitedly; then over time, the excitement fades and the toy starts to collect dust. This is when your partner(s) can help to dust off some of that dust and remind you of what you set out to do.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw everything that hinders . . . . and let us run with perseverance the race set out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Your accountability partner serves as that witness to your commitment to yourself in that area of your life.

Step 6 – FINISH LINE: When does my goal end?

As mentioned in the beginning, this goal(s) should be tailored to cover the remaining 3 months/12 weeks/92 days of the year. Therefore while striving to complete each activity always keep in mind your finish line by:

  • Tick off the days on the calendar
  • Cross out your to-do list each week
  • Little steps will yield great results

By so doing, you are constantly reminded of where you are trying to go


Image courtesy of Mr. Mystery


The Spending Pyramid: Personal Values and Financial Planning (Part II)

In yesterday’s article, we were able to explore the structure of a spending pyramid a la Robert Pagliarini.


Based on Dan Pink’s lecture on motivation (which I embedded in another article), there are three human motivating factors.

  • Autonomy – The urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery – The desire to be better at something that matters
  • Purpose – The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

As you begin to think about what motivates you in general, you will be able to rearrange the middle portion of the pyramid (in between basic expenses and miscellaneous expenses) to conjure up a picture that aligns with your own values.

Autonomy: Your Money and Yourself

SPPyramid2_1 Image courtesy of Flickr

If directing your life is what motivates you then debt reduction, financial independence and personal improvement will rank high in your pyramid. The most important thing to you is being in control of what happens in your life and blazing your own path. Therefore, neither owing money to credit card companies nor retiring while being financial dependent sit well with you. As such, most of your spending will be directed at your money going mostly into your pocket prior to anything else.

Purpose: Your Money and Others

SPPyramid2_2Image courtesy of Flickr

For some, being financially fit is the means while the end is the ability to serve others and the community. If the realization that there’s more to life than your own needs, then donations to church and charity will rank high on your list. Those who attend church have a set value at 10% (tithing) and will also donate in others ways. Even if you don’t attend a church, you find that donating towards a cause brings about a certain kind of satisfaction. In addition, these donations can also be used for tax deductions.

Another area not reflected in the pyramid is provision for family (both immediate and extended). I told a story of how my father laid the foundation for my siblings and me to go to college. That couldn’t have happened if he didn’t believe that part of his purpose was leaving a legacy to his children.

Mastery: Your Money, Yourself and Others

SPPyramid2_3Image courtesy of Flickr

Sometimes, motivation lies in being better at something for the sake of just being better (epitome of kaizen). Two of the most popular New Year Resolutions in the U.S.A. are managing debt and saving money. Hence it would appear that most people would fall under this category as most believe that finances matter. This belief combined with the desire to understand finance could be a motivating factor for another set of people. Therefore, Goals and Emergency Reserve would rank higher in your pyramid. Goals motivate towards reaching a pinnacle while mastering personal finances starts with being prepared for emergencies. Personal Improvement would also fall under this category as mastering finances would include studying financial matters and learning from others.

Most of the time, personal motivation will come from a combination of two or all three factors and therefore you will find that your values overlap. In the end, the final picture is letting the things that motivate you in life also motivate shaping your finances. Create your own picture and it will lead to spending habits that are aligned with what you think is important.

First of the Month: Whatever happened to those New Year Resolutions?


It’s the first of September today and as with the beginning of a new day, new month or a new year we are often inclined to set new goals/resolutions. I think it’s like having a clean slate, so like kids in a candy store we excited to just get home and start writing on the slate.  I’m excited about the new month too, so I decided to look back at the goals I set at the beginning of the year and see how far I have come.

When 2009 began, I made 10 resolutions and I sent them to my girlfriend to look over to hold me accountable to them. This is exactly what I sent:

  1. Eliminate 1.5 credit cards (Completed and Retooled)
  2. Save $1000 and put in a mutual fund or CD (Completed and Retooled)
  3. Write two papers (On-going)
  4. Cardio (Run or Bike) 3 times a week (Retooled)
  5. Don’t drink soda (On-going)
  6. Lift twice a week (Retooled)
  7. Sleep 6 hours (On-going)
  8. Read 1 book per month (4 non-fiction books read so far)
  9. Listen to 1 motivational tape per month (5 series completed)
  10. Graduate or at least be close to it i.e. proposal done and defended, comprehensive exam passed, experiments completed and in the process of writing dissertation at the minimum (Retooled)

This email was dated January 9th 2009, and I’m not even sure she remembers the contents of this email. It was the first time I had made resolutions and actually documented them and sent them to someone and not just chucked it away in my head.  All the books and tapes I have read and listened to always stress the importance of attaching activities to your goals essentially breaking down these goals to manageable chunks. Fortunately, I stumbled on resources from Success Principles (a book by Jack Canfield co-author of the Chicken Soup Series), specifically the Achievers Focusing System (Quarterly Breakdown) and Daily Success Focus Journal (Daily Breakdown). I also created a weekly sheet for myself too (Download here). Now I know that’s a lot of writing and a lot of paper, but at the time I wasn’t sure what method worked the best for me. Should I break down activities on a daily basis? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Biennially? It was all so confusing and I decided to try as many as I could and see what worked best for me. Currently, my system has been boiled down to a Quarterly Tracking and a spiral notebook for the daily to-do list. I especially like the Achievers Focusing System I mentioned above because it splits down goals into 7 areas (same concept I used in the weekly system):

  • Financial & Wealth
  • Career
  • Free Time
  • Health & Appearance
  • Relationship
  • Personal Development
  • Community & Charity

These resources aren’t anything fancy, but they have helped to keep me on my toes and aware of my progress.

9 months have passed since those resolutions were made. It’s a new month (new school year for some),  and there’s no need to wait for 2010 to renew this commitment and neither should you. Hopefully these resources here are useful or just type “goal organizer” (or something) into Google and I am sure there’s something out there.

As long as those goals are written somewhere, you have a reminder to check back on. As Tony Horton (of P90X fame) always says “Write it down. How can you know what to do if you don’t know what you did?”

If you’re wondering how I am doing on my resolutions, I have details on my Goal Report and yea . . . there’s a lot left to be done.

Picture courtesy of

Embody your goals

I find myself continually chasing my dad’s achievements. I look at all he has done and it drives me to be him and one day one-up his accomplishments. He has single-handedly made it possible for me to get educated here in the states and is doing the same for my sisters. He has sown the seed that every parent wants to sow for their children: opportunity to make their way in life and I am yet to meet someone that I think works harder than he does.

If you got a chance to ask Tiger Woods what his goal, he would tell you, “To win more majors than Jack [Nicklaus].” If you were to ask a Christian what their goal was, they would (or should) tell you, “To be like Jesus.” Benjamin Franklin said “Imitate Jesus and Socrates” What do all these 3 statements have in common? Each individual’s goal is embodied by someone. Not just anyone successful person, but someone who has been successful in the area they have chosen to conquer.

When we set out to achieve, it’s very easy to think that we are reinventing the wheel and doing something that no one has ever done before. We make statements like “That happened to them, but with me it’s going to be different” or “These aren’t the olden days, it’s 2009 and things are different.” Is that really the case though? Yes there are new niches that crop up here and there e.g. Mark Zuckerberg’s success with Facebook, but even he is doing what Bill Gates did decades ago with Windows. There’s not much happening today that someone didn’t already blaze a trail.

Have you ever seen that graphic of a cat looking in a mirror and seeing a lion? It’s a future picture of where you want to go that keeps you on that path. Sometimes it can be hard to see or visualize where you want to go, but when you look at someone else who has “been there and done that” it makes the goal real and keeps motivation alive and burning.

Embodying goals not only provides motivation from the accomplishments of that role model, but we are able to see and learn from their mistakes. This is another reason why history books are still relevant today. We get to see what got Nelson Mandela through those nights he spent in prison. We get to study the actions and regrets of Abraham Lincoln and how this led him to be continually considered one of the best Presidents the United States has ever had. We get to see how hard Thomas Edison worked and lived the principle that “Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.”


Sometimes our embodied super-heroes don’t even have to be people entrenched in history. It could be a parent, family member , teacher, guardian. These are tangible pacesetters who we have actually interacted with and been touched by in one way or another.

Even better, you can be your own competition. Just this past week, Usain Bolt broke records in the 100m and 200m. If you have ever seen him race, you will notice that he is consistently watching the sidelines to see if he has broken the record in the race. He doesn’t even concern himself with the people he is running against, but rather with breaking his own times because at the end of the day that will ensure a win.

In life just as in sports, records were made to be broken. In the end, knowing your goals get you started on the path to continual improvement, but your hero provides a tangible mark to pursue. So Superman That Goal and then pursue it.

Disclaimer: I don’t endorse Souljah Boy

Somebody’s got to do it

The ultimate folly is to think that something crucial to your welfare is being taken care of for you – Robert Brault

Picture this scenario: The alarm wakes you up in the morning. You shower, dress, grab a quick bite, maybe watch some TV if you have time and  if not; you rush out to begin the day with classes, meetings and other appointments.

Picture another scenario: The previous night before going to bed you wrote down two things you wanted to do and placed them under your pillow. The alarm awakens you. You reach under your pillow to remind yourself of those two things. You shower, dress and go on with your day.

Which of these two days do you think will most likely be more productive and focused?

The quote that began this post can be summed up in one word: Responsibility. Hopes and wishes will only be translated into possibilities and actions when a conscious effort is made to personally work towards them. We have all come into contact with people who blame their current states on their environment and their personality and other outside factors. Responsibility tells us that the things that happen in our lives are dependent on us and our ability to act knowing that actions translate into results. Sometimes people get lucky, but the vast majority of those who succeed take matters into their hands and actively work towards getting there.

Let’s return to the two scenarios mentioned previously. It is possible that the first scenario will be productive as well, but it’s easier and clearer to forge ahead in a direction when you remind yourself of what that direction is. It’s like a painter drawing a portrait. He will look at the object and draw a little and then look at the object again for further inspiration and draw a little more until the final result is obtained. Imagine this same painter drawing this same portrait without something to remind him of the final picture. He could still end up with a great picture, but it would take significantly longer. Brian Tracy often says “By the yard it’s hard, but inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” How can you assure yourself that you are inching closer towards where you would like to go if you don’t remind yourself of the end?

It’s probably not the first time you have heard about written goals, but the methods definitely work. Until you actually write down some of the things you would like to get down with your day, week, month etc, it’s just an idea in your head. Think about it: how many ideas have you had in your head in the past week? How many of these ideas actually translated into actions? I once had a friend who typed out his goals at the beginning of each school term and then taped them to the ceiling above his pillow. Every time I went to his room the goals were there in all their glory. I started copying that strategy as well, but I took it one step further. I started writing my goals almost every day.  I got this insight from Brian Tracy where he mentions that

less than 3% of people adults have written goals and plans that they work on every single day. When you sit down and write out your goals, you move yourself into the top 3% of people in our society and this will translate into results.

Truth be told, this was the way I figured I would know if my actions where getting me closer to my goals or taking me farther away from them.

No one cares more about your goals than you do. Even if there were people who did, no one is going to work harder than you because in the end you are the one who wants and needs it the most. Take a moment today to remind yourself of what you want to do with your life and think about how you will get there.