How to Have a Perfect Life

A few years ago, my wife and I were discussing life improvement, the options in front of us, and our future goals. She said she felt trapped by the scope of our goals and didn’t know where to start. That led to a discussion on

goal

goal (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

achieving our goals, which led to this.

Examine your life. Take stock of every aspect of your life. What pleases you? What upsets you? What do you do that adds no value to your life?  Or worse, removes value?  What do you do that adds the most value? What would you like to change? Eliminate? Improve? Count the small things. Nothing is insignificant. Write it all down and be specific.

Analyze your list. Are there any obvious patterns? Is there a single thread that is making you miserable or affecting multiple other items? Would eliminating 1 factor improve 90% of the rest? Is there a bad job or a toxic relationship ruining your happiness? Be honest and be critical.

What are your dreams? Where would you like to be in six months? A year? 5? 10? How would you like to retire? When? Write it all down. This is now your life plan.

Set goals. Set concrete, definable goals. Set goals that have an obvious success point. When you reach your goal, you want to be able to point it out. “Lose weight” is not a goal. “Lose 50 pounds in the next year” is a measurable, definable, concrete goal. Set incremental goals to reach your larger goals and, more importantly, your dreams.

Here’s an example:

Dream: Retire at 50.

  • Incremental Goal: Get a 10% raise within 6 months
  • Incremental Goal: Eliminate debt within 3 years
  • Incremental Goal: Max out 401k contribution
  • Incremental goal: Save 150,000 within 10 years
  • Incremental Goal: Save 45k each year after that.
  • Retire

When you are setting up your goal plan, make sure to include the analyzed items mentioned earlier. These are the things that will make today happier for you.

Now, you have examined your life. You have analyzed the results. You’ve gathered your dreams and compiled a goal plan based on your hopes, dreams, goals and desires. What’s next?

We’re going to take a page from David Allen. It’s time to Get Things Done. What do you have to do next to reach your goals? What is the next step? Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the scope of the entire list. Select one single item from your plan and look for the one single next step to make on the path to that goal.

Going back to the retirement goal plan, the next step towards a 10% raise could be researching salaries for your job description in your area to give you ammunition in the meeting with your boss. It could be updating your resume to hunt for a better paying job, or even just studying up on some resume tips.

If you want to run a marathon next year, the next step is to start walking every day to train your body.

If you want to improve communication with your spouse, the next step is probably to let her know.

If you want to eliminate debt, the next step may be setting up a budget or canceling unnecessary services like cable.

Every goal has a path leading to it. If that’s not true, you haven’t defined a concrete measurable goal.

Examine your life. Analyze your situation. Know WHAT you want. Know what you want to change. Set goals to get there, one step at a time. Take a single step towards your goals.

Then take another.

What are you doing to reach your goals and improve your life?

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Living the High Life

This post is part of the Yakezie Blog swap. I have swapped this week with Eric at Narrow Bridge Finance. This is a post from Eric discussing the theme: What Motivates You to be Financially Responsible?  Please take a moment to read my post, Monsters, at Eric’s site.

High Life

High Life

Unlike my blogger buddy Jason here at LiveRealNow, I have no family. Quite the opposite in fact, I am loving the single guy life. I don’t have much debt. I love going to the bars and partying on the weekends. I have a good job. I have relatively low expenses. Things are good.

So what is my motivation to be financially responsible? It is two-fold. First, I want to be able to keep doing whatever I want whenever I want without worrying about money. Second, I do want to settle down someday in the not too distant future and make sure I have a good foundation to start the next chapter of my life.

I Want to Do Whatever I Want Whenever I Want

Is that selfish? Probably. But who cares? I don’t have kids, I don’t have a wife. I don’t even have a girlfriend at the moment. I do make an effort to donate to local organizations I believe in and I am happy to have friends over for a pre-game and buy a round of drinks, but that is as far as my obligation to others goes.

Doing whatever I want is not always cheap. I like going to concerts. I enjoy nightclubs. I love traveling and exploring new places. $80 tickets, a $15 cover plus drinks, and a $500 trip are fairly common occurrences in my life.

As you know, money doesn’t grow on trees. I have to work hard to pay for the things I want and the experiences I have. I am totally okay with that. But I have to plan now to be able to do what I want later.

I live in a modest and inexpensive apartment. I try to keep my food budget low. I bought a small car that would be reliable, low maintenance, and fuel efficient.

By cutting out wasteful spending and thinking before I spend, I am able to do pretty much whatever I want. If you have the same goal, dive into the depths of your budget. Dig in deep and see where you are spending money. Not to be cliché, but the ‘latte factor’ is a big deal. Those stops at Starbucks, afternoon snacks, energy drinks, cable bills, and other cash drains might not be worth it. If you don’t really, really enjoy it and get pleasure from it, why would you spend money on it?

My Future – Family, Travel, and Early Retirement

I am 26. I am at that point where I am going on a lot of dates. I am meeting a lot of great girls. One of these days, probably when I least expect it, I will fall madly in love and get married. You know the story.

My short term dream is a life of travel and urban living. My long term dream is to get married to a hot Jewish girl (I am Jewish, so it makes sense to “keep it in the tribe”) and have two or three kids. Once kids are in the picture, we move out from the urban fun areas and settle down in the burbs.

But just because I will give up the party life does not mean I have to give up my passions. I want to show my kids the world, give them amazing life experiences, and help them grow to hopefully be even more awesome than me, which is a hard bar to beat.

To do all of that and reach financial freedom, I have to set my goals and work to achieve them. (In case you were wondering, Jason recently wrote a great post on financial goal setting. If you have not read it yet, you really should.)

To get there, I am already working on saving and investing. I am contributing over 10% of my gross income at work to my retirement plans. I am working hard to pay down my student loans and save up a down payment fund. I am planning ahead and saving for my future goals.

How to Reach Your Goals

You probably have financial and life goals too. What are you doing to get there?

We can always tell people about our dreams. However, unlike when you are two years old and dream of being an astronaut police officer that lives in a toy store with an ice cream machine and a McDonald’s in it, your dreams today can be a reality.

With few exceptions, every person can reach their goals. Do you want to retire at 40? Take steps to save and create residual income streams. Do you want to travel in space? Save up to buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic. Do you not have enough money? Diversify your income streams and make more. Do you feel chained down by your traditional desk job that you hate? Start a business and transition to self employment.

Yes, it is easier said than done. But you will never reach your goals unless you take solid steps to get there. Don’t just dream it, live it.

Please take a moment to head over to Eric’s site, Narrow Bridge Finance.   While you’re there, be sure to subscribe.  You don’t want to miss his posts.

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