Blueberry Scone wrote:
It doesn't help me one bit to have a goal like "pay off mortgage." It helps if I break it up into smaller mini goals that help me get there - "refinance the mortgage," for instance, or maybe "look for a second job."
Goals need to be specific and achievable to be effective motivators whether personal, in education, or in business.
"Climb Mt Everest" is not a very good expression of a goal for anyone because it has no time deadline and may not be achievable. "Climb Mt. Everest in 2012" would be a perfectly good goal for someone that has the ability to achieve it.
It is also best to keep goals in the near term. I have financial goals that are farther out (retire when I am 55, only 10 years out) but I don't really think of that as a goal. My goals are much more specific for this year...and they are written down. I have goals that are out to about 10 years but generally I don't think they have much value if they are more than 5 years away. People just have too hard of a time focusing on something that far in the future and lives are too dynamic to plan that far. I think of thos kind of long term goals more as direction setting.
I think it is also important that they be somewhat challenging. When I was about 27 I came up with a plan to be able to retire by the time I was in my early 40s. By about 35 I had paid off the mortgage and saved enough so that it was just possible to retire IF I taught about half time (I had also gotten myself certified to teach at a community college and had done it for a couple of years). But what I found was that my goal had actually not been very challenging. Having achieved it I felt like I coud relax a bit, took a couple of years off work, and generally was not highly motivated. I didn't do anything to screw up my life, and I had fun, but I was not fulfilling my potential. Now, 10 years later, I have a similar goal to retire early (and have no doubt I'll be able to) but I also have some fairly challenging goals I have set for myself in terms of life experiences and accomplishments as well as achieving certain net worth targets at specific times. Some of those cost money so I know I have to keep working and saving.